Human Dignity

Our Son, Liam

Much to my surprise, a few weeks before I turned 40, we found out that I was expecting! I was both in shock and thrilled when my doctor told me the news. This was quite astounding to us, especially after suffering through many difficult pregnancies and losses and years of struggling with infertility. 

Because of my history and my age, I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. My doctor carefully monitored me from the beginning. On a routine blood draw, we found that my progesterone levels were deficient. We immediately began supplementing with progesterone, and things seemed to be going okay. 

I felt thankful and cherished each day that I was pregnant. We had our first ultrasound, and everything was moving right along. I passed the first trimester and began to let my guard down a little. When it came time to have another ultrasound and find out if we were having a boy or a girl, I was so excited!

All eyes were on the ultrasound screen as we awaited the news. After having three boys, would we finally get a girl, or would we add another boy to Team Phillip? The tech informed us that the baby was a boy. Everyone was ecstatic! 

Everyone it seemed, except for the ultrasound tech who kept taking measurements. She measured his spine over and over. She meticulously measured and remeasured each body part. She brought in the doctor, who informed us that it looked like our son had a heart condition. But that was not all. His arms were not fully developed, and his hands seemed clenched.

They referred us to a high-risk doctor for a level 2 ultrasound and some genetic testing. My doctor said that our son likely had a chromosomal disorder. The examination painted a grim picture. We learned that our son had a two-chambered heart instead of a four-chambered heart like you and me. They thought that he might have spina bifida, which caused him to have a deformed spine. His skull was also misshapen and would not allow his brain to develop fully. His arms were not correctly formed, and his hands were backward. She also noted that there was a cyst on the umbilical cord.

Our son’s diagnosis was Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome—a chromosomal disorder on the 18th chromosome. Ninety percent of babies with Trisomy 18 don’t live more than a few hours or days. Most boys with Trisomy 18 rarely live to see their first birthday. Over 50% of babies with it never even make it to birth. 

Both the fetal maternal specialist and the genetic counselor advised us to terminate the pregnancy. This is one of the “hard cases” that made it “okay” to abort a child, they said. Many parents who receive this diagnosis for their preborn child choose to end their pregnancy. They expected us to abort him, but that was not an option for us.

Armed with the information that our son may not survive—and if he did, that there was a possibility that he would be severely mentally and physically handicapped—we didn’t change our minds. We did not waver. We knew the reality of how hard the road ahead could be because our middle son was born with club feet and suffers from a brain injury. We knew the difficulty, pain, and suffering that our family would face if we chose to continue with the pregnancy. But deciding to take our son’s life was not an option. 

We knew that our Heavenly Father is both the author and finisher of life. We began telling others that Liam was a gift from God and that God would determine his future. We knew that the Lord had a purpose and a plan for his life, no matter how long he lived. The next several weeks were draining, as we tried to plan for what might be ahead of us, yet we didn’t know what to expect. Instead of designing a nursery and planning a baby shower, we contemplated how we would spend time with our son.

A few weeks later, we discovered that Liam’s heart had stopped beating. On March 21, 2011, our precious Liam Benjamin Phillip was stillborn. We had a photographer come and take pictures for us. We held him, we loved him, and we cherished every moment that we had with him. Then we prayed over him and released him to Jesus. 

We suffered so much grief that day, but we did not grieve without hope. We know that Liam’s body is whole and that he never had to suffer the pain of this world. We know that he is waiting for us in heaven, and we can’t wait to see him again.

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About the author

Misty Phillip

Misty Phillip is the founder of Spark Media and the driving force behind its mission to equip Christian podcasters. She is currently the host of the By His Grace podcast (ranked in the top 1.5% of podcasts globally) and cohost of the Spark Influence podcast. Misty is the author of the award-winning Bible study The Struggle Is Real, But So Is God and the popular Spark Podcast Planner.