ARTICLE: BE NOT AFRAID
Compelled by the Gospel, PPL equips Presbyterians to champion human life at every stage.
Life takes shocking turns: Micah Vickery and his wife Blair came to the ultra-sound with smiles and high expectations to find out whether they were having a girl or boy. The doctor told them that this precious third child (a son) had a condition that he characterized as “incompatible with life.” They were asked if they wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Blair let out a cry of devastation over the news and the horrific thought of killing their beloved baby. The shock and grief were over-whelming.
The Vickerys named their son Luke Lathan, and began to accept the reality that Luke’s life may be short. Their plan was to cherish whatever time they were given with Luke and so they marveled at every movement and saved every ultrasound image. Whereas the offer to end Luke’s life was swift, the Vickery’s realized he was a child with a life-limiting disability…deserving of all the same consideration before birth that would be offered to a disabled newborn after birth.
“He became our delight all through the pregnancy,” explains Micah, who was finishing up his last year of seminary studies.
The Vickerys were also connected to a service which supports parents carrying to term after a prenatal diagnosis called Be Not Afraid (BNA). BNA is a parent-centered case management service offering parents bereavement support, birth planning assistance, referrals, and peer ministry from diagnosis to birth and for a year following the birth whether the prenatally diagnosed baby lives or dies.
“We help parents develop a plan for the likeliest outcome which for a baby like Luke was a funeral,” explains BNA Parent Care Coordinator Judy Townsend, “But we also make a plan for life for every baby because no doctor can really predict whether a frail baby with live or die before birth.”
“We received great practical and emotional support from BNA,” adds Micah, “They were a great comfort to us and were instrumental in setting us up for success at the birth.”
Luke was born with bright blonde hair…although imperfect, he was beautiful to his mother and father and to Judy, who helped welcome him at his birth. His big sisters marveled at how special their brother was, and together the family shared twenty-five minutes of life outside the womb with sweet Luke Lathan. Those twenty-five minutes gave witness to the truth that all life is sacred no matter how frail or how brief.
They also had a deep impact on Micah both personally and in his life as a pastor. In light of his experience, he offers these insights for other ministers supporting parents experiencing a prenatal diagnosis:
1) Don’t focus on the possibility of misdiagnosis. It is very unlikely that there will be one. Instead value every child no matter their disability. Remember that no one is so broken that they do not have a place in God’s salvific plan, for even the baby who will die at birth is a blessing.
2) Don’t be afraid to stand in uncertainty with the parents. No one knows what to say in times like this. Be a comfort by simply remaining present, and rather than offering cliché answers, simply cry out to God with the bereaved (consider the many Psalms of Lament: ex. Psalm 6:2-6).
3) Don’t seek to minimize grief or rush the process. We are often tempted to offer the bereaved teaching or encouragement. While what we say may be true, it is likely that the grieving individual will not be ready to hear it. Instead, be like Jesus who entered into grief with his friends.
For information and resources regarding prenatal diagnosis of birth anomalies and to find support for parents carrying to term, visit www.benotafraid.net