2017 marked a turning point in the lives of Lauren and Jeffrey Huang. Three uneventful pregnancies and one early miscarriage had led Lauren to expect neither more nor less than business as usual with her childbearing. Learning that she was pregnant for a fourth time was exciting. At first there was talk of remodeling their house to include one bedroom per child. The boys, however, immediately began vying with each other (on the assumption that the baby would be a boy) to have the newest addition share his room.
Lauren had always opted for genetic testing during her pregnancies, and this time was no exception. What was exceptional was that the test results showed a 62% chance that the child she was carrying would have Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards’ Syndrome. Only about 50% of Trisomy 18 babies are born alive. Of those, only around 10% live beyond their first year. Those few affected individuals who reach adulthood require full-time caregiving due to their medical and developmental issues necessitate full-time caregiving.
At Lauren’s next sonogram, the markers in her baby indicated a 90% chance that it would exhibit the syndrome. Lauren clung to the last small percentage of possibility that the prognosis could be wrong but, as even more markers for Trisomy 18 were identified at each visit, her doctor finally forced the issue. Kindly, unjudgmentally, he made clear to herthat she had one of two choices: abort her child or face the certainty that it would be afflicted with Trisomy 18.
The midwife who had delivered Lauren’s previous children felt unequipped to handle this kind of delivery. She recommended that Lauren consult the Tepeyac doctors. From her first visit, where she saw Dr. Anderson, Lauren felt hope that all would be well with her pregnancy and birth.
The task of preparing the family to say hello and goodbye to their youngest sibling fell to both Lauren and Jeffrey. Their eldest son was silent and thoughtful after hearing the news. The second-born was excited and full of questions. Baby brother, then only six years old, was a little too young for a full understanding of what was in store. With painstaking care and in a variety of ways, the elder Huangs began crafting their son’s legacy for his family.
Placenta previa complicated Matthias’ birth, but the Huangs responded by putting everything in the hands of God (“He gave Matthias to us; He’ll take care of us all”). After his delivery by Drs. Anderson and Cvetkovich working as a team, Matthias’ parents had a little more than an hour with him (“One golden hour,” Lauren remarked), during which he was baptized, then cuddled by each of his brothers and by grandparents and other relatives. Handprints and footprints were taken for the family to keep.
The hospital moved Lauren to a private room, permitted Matthias’ body to remain with his family overnight before being released to be prepared for burial, and helped her find a place for the baby’s viewing to be held. Someone donated a pretty gown for Matthias to wear for his burial. Lauren likened the ministrations of those empathetic folk to white cells clustering around a wound, helping to stave off the worst effects of an infection.
Together with Divine Grace, these human “white cells” did their job. We asked Lauren about the biggest help she felt she had received in dealing with this experience. Unhesitatingly, she cited the conviction that “God would help us through the storm–and it would be OK.”
Little more than a year later, the Huang family makes no claim to having completed its period of mourning for Matthias. At the same time, it cherishes the legacy of memories and mementos left to them from his brief time on earth. At Tepeyac OB/GYN and at Divine Mercy Care, we particularly cherish Lauren for the breathtakingly gracious, courageous and faith-filled attitude that have characterized our every meeting with her, both during and after her pregnancy.