By Beth Millea
Five years ago, when I was invited to serve as a board member for Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, I had no idea how that decision would personally impact my life in the future.
During my first three years of service on the board, I helped make key decisions for this ministry and learned more and more about its mission. I continue to be amazed by the brave decisions that women make to choose LIFE in some very difficult situations.
In November 2017, my husband and I were thrilled to learn that our daughter Andrea, who had married the previous year, was pregnant with her first child. We were all so excited about this new little one who would join our family! Despite the fact that this would be our sixth grandchild, the news of a new baby to love never loses its thrill. We celebrated with great joy for the first few days.
However, we soon found out that this pregnancy had some severe complications. The baby had so many significant physical abnormalities that the pregnancy would most likely not result in a live birth, or the child would not live long after birth. The doctors told the parents that the baby would probably die within days of the diagnosis due to the severity of the abnormalities. What devastating news!
To further complicate the situation, our daughter and son-in-law lived in London, so seeing them and hugging them during this difficult time was impossible. Andrea told us that for the first 24 hours after the baby’s diagnosis, she was in a panic. Although all of us have always been pro-life, she wasn’t sure that she could carry this baby, knowing how it would end. But with the strong support of her husband, Chris, they both committed to carrying the baby to term. I cannot begin to describe how proud I am of Andrea and Chris for making such a courageous and difficult decision! They were giving their baby the gift of LIFE for as long as God would have them be expectant parents.
Over the next several months, we all worked through our emotions, spending many hours on the phone discussing pregnancy updates, delivery options and burial choices. We soon found out that this grandchild was a boy and that the name his parents chose was John Paul. How very beautiful! It helped so much to know this baby personally by knowing that he was a boy and calling him by name. How special for Saint John Paul II to be the patron saint for our little John Paul. As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Andrea’s pregnancy was going well and John Paul’s heart continued to beat strongly despite tests showing more details of the abnormalities. He began to kick and his mom and dad bonded with him by feeling his movement.
In April 2018, at 35 weeks’ gestation, our grandson was born. He lived just one hour, long enough for his parents to hold him, tell him how much they loved him, and say goodbye. Although we lost our dear John Paul, he continues to be deeply loved. He was cradled at birth and buried with grace and respect. Our daughter and her husband know they gave their first baby every moment of LIFE possible, and although they lost their son, this fact helps them heal emotionally.
Other board members, Women’s Choice Center staff, extended family and friends supported me and my family beyond measure during this difficult time. They asked about the pregnancy, they offered burial clothing and they continue to support us in our grief. What a comfort and a blessing! My husband and I have donated a stained-glass window to Women’s Choice Center in memory of John Paul. It is mounted in the entryway of our new building. The scene depicted is a magnificent waterfall, signifying the waters of LIFE. What a beautiful legacy to our grandson and to Andrea and Chris’ brave decision. I smile every time I see it.
(Beth Millea serves on the Board of Trustees for Women’s Choice Center. She is a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport and of St. Thomas Aquinas Guild. She and her husband Tim have been married for 40 years. She is the mother to five grown children and devoted grandmother to 10 —soon to be 11 —grandchildren.)