The year was 2015. Karol was eighteen, pregnant, unmarried, frightened, and without support from those older kinfolk who might have lent her encouragement and assistance. One relative in particular pressured her relentlessly to have an abortion and, eventually, Karol did. No sooner was the procedure completed than she felt deepgoing grief and remorse. Under no circumstances, she vowed, would she ever again do anything remotely comparable.
In late October 2017, Karol reported to the local pregnancy center A Woman’s Choice with certain symptoms–and was found to be pregnant again. This time, her personal situation was almost entirely different than before. The baby’s father was entirely supportive of her and of the idea that a child might result from their time together. Still, she needed financial assistance for her prenatal care. With a counselor from A Woman’s Choice, Karol went to her first-ever Tepeyac appointment. Two weeks later, her heart skipping a beat, she saw the ultrasound image of her baby. Despite early bouts of nausea so severe at times that they felt like hemorrhaging, by twelve or thirteen weeks’ gestation Karol began to feel “as though it all seemed to be coming together.”
Suddenly, at fourteen weeks, her water broke and cramps began. The Tepeyac on-call doctor sent her to the ER. An ultrasound revealed only a little amniotic fluid left around her baby. Warning that she would probably miscarry, the ER doctor sent her home to wait for nature to take its course.
Karol scheduled an early next-day appointment with Tepeyac’s Dr. Fisk, who promptly started her on a course of antibiotics. He was frank about the low survival rate for babies in this kind of situation, but “Your child has a strong heartbeat,” he reassured her. “While there’s a heartbeat, there’s hope.” Dr. Fisk placed her on a strict schedule of semi-weekly appointments. At each, the baby’s situation was closely monitored via ultrasound.
Eager for more reassurance, Karol sought out a specialist. The woman she found gave her only a worst-case scenario (a 1% possible survival rate) and offered termination as the only option. After her first visit, Karol didn’t return to that doctor. Tepeyac referred Karol to Dr. McLaren, a high-risk obstetrician who works closely with Tepeyac patients as necessary. Despite multiple scares involving ER visits, she maintained her pregnancy until 23 weeks. At that point, the doctors confined her to modified bedrest at Fairfax Hospital. At 27 weeks she went into labor and gave birth to a son.
“Sebastian Gabriel,” she replied without hesitation when hospital personnel asked for his name. It was the patron saint of soldiers, along with God’s angelic messenger, whose names had been chosen for Karol’s brave little battler for life. Minutes after his birth, Sebastian was whisked away from his mother and installed as an extreme micropreemie in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
In the months between his delivery date and his July 2018 due date, Karol visited Sebastian daily in the NICU, all the while maintaining attendance at a demanding schedule of college classes. He progressed beautifully, responding to her presence and attention. After arriving home on 15 July free of the need for continued oxygen apparatus or artificial feeding, he grew quickly, soon reaching a quite-decent weight of 8 lbs. 6 ounces.
Karol is quick to point out that her strength for maintaining her pregnancy might have failed without the Tepeyac doctors—the only professional caregivers she saw who were willing to give her hope. To women facing situations like hers, she has this to say: “Don’t be afraid, or let anyone bully you into terminating your pregnancy, because of risk factors. Give your baby a chance! Sebastian has been stronger than I. ‘Where there’s a heartbeat, there’s hope,’ Dr. Fisk told me—and he was right!”