By Christianna Nemec
“Incompatible with life.”
That is the label given to a baby with a diagnosis like Trisomy 18.
My husband, Charles, and I were still newlyweds, and I was approaching the third month of my pregnancy when we were told that our baby’s heart didn’t look quite right. Later tests confirmed that our baby had Trisomy 18. We learned what could be expected from such a diagnosis, the most alarming thing being life-threatening defects of vital organs. There are currently no medical interventions that could help our unborn baby, we learned. Most babies with Trisomy 18 die before birth. Of those that do survive to be born, about 10% live to see their first birthday.
Sadly, many parents who receive a diagnosis like this are directed to abort their child. Because there is no cure, abortion is seen as a way to avoid suffering, as a solution.
Did our baby need to be aborted? Would abortion heal our baby? Would abortion help us avoid our baby’s death? Would abortion heal our grief and suffering? No.
But if we couldn’t cure our baby, what were we supposed to do?
We know babies are precious to God, even from within the womb (Psalm 139:13–16).
We know that the suffering of the Christian does not rob our life of meaning (Rom. 5:3–5). In this life we each “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).
We know that, out of love, God became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary to live, die and rise again so that we would be adopted as His own (Gal. 4:4–7).
We know that God, not us, is Lord over life and death. He says, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39). While this is a great terror for God’s enemies, it is a great comfort for His flock.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. … I lay down my life for the sheep. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:14, 15, 27–28). This Good Shepherd is the same God who holds the sick and dying unborn child.
Amid our sadness and uncertainty, my husband and I knew this: God loves us, and He loves our baby. God made our baby and entrusted our baby to us.
So, what did we do? As God loved us, we loved our baby. We carried out our God-given vocations as parents, commending our little one to Him. Even though we could not provide a cure for our baby, we could still provide care.
The same blood test that revealed the Trisomy 18 diagnosis also revealed that I was carrying a baby boy. We named our son Charles Simeon Nemec. Our son inherited his first name from his father. The name Simeon recalls the beloved servant of God who saw the promised Messiah face-to-face. My prayer for our baby was the prayer of Simeon: “Lord, let your servant go in peace.” Whatever happened, I wanted our baby to be safe with our Lord.
My vocation as a mother was to be a living hospice for my son. For weeks, we prayed, we sang hymns, we grieved, and we cherished each moment with our son. We loved him. I had the great honor of sheltering and carrying our little boy, of keeping him warm, nourished and safe. This was how I was to love and care for him.
On February 18th, 2021, we learned that our dear Charles Simeon had departed in peace. At 15 weeks gestation, his heart had stopped beating.
Our son had died, but our vocation as parents had not ended. His soul had entered eternal rest, and we had been entrusted with the care of his body in anticipation of the resurrection. I delivered our son in the hospital. We held his little frame, carefully swaddled by gentle nurses. We prepared his funeral and we rested his body in his grave. We clung to the promises of Christ, who said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
Our son never needed abortion, he needed love. Many children are labeled as “incompatible with life” — their weakness is considered grounds for their murder. If the doctors can’t cure them, mothers are told, then their lives no longer have purpose. The care that a mother can provide means nothing. Instead, mothers are pressured to forsake their role of caring and nurturing, opting to end their child’s life instead.
The testimony of Scripture teaches mothers that this is a lie. No child is incompatible with love. No child is “better off” aborted. Every child needs love and care. As God has loved us, so we ought to love one another.
Our son has died, but God is not finished with him. One day, God will raise him from the dead, and us with him, perfectly restored, and we will always be with the Lord. Our son is not lost, but his life is hidden with Christ in God. He is in good hands.
God is the Lord over life and death, not us. Amid the terrors of life and death, God still holds us, and no one can snatch us out of His hand.