August 26, 2011

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

A brief lesson in life from our precious grandchild

Debra TomaselliTiny Abigail Therese was perfectly formed—with delicate facial features, little fingernails and toenails, kneecaps and calves, elbows and earlobes.

She just looked like a lanky newborn.

Our precious grandchild, delivered 24 weeks into the pregnancy, was stillborn.

Days earlier, when the midwife couldn’t detect a heartbeat and tests confirmed that the baby had died in the womb, our daughter, Lynn, was admitted to the hospital and labor was induced. Everyone knew the outcome of this birth before it began.

Driving to the hospital, I wondered if I would get to see the baby. What would a fetus look like? Would the baby be partially formed? Would our grandchild resemble a baby? Was I ready for this?

Our son-in-law, Justin, met me in the hallway.

“The baby’s in the room with us,” he told me. Our eyes met in one grief-stricken look. “It’s up to you whether you want to come in or not.”

“OK,” I said, squaring my shoulders. “I’m in.”

I followed Justin down the hallway to a room where Lynn was sitting in the hospital bed holding little Abigail Therese. My daughter offered a sad smile, and we hugged. Then we turned our gaze toward the baby.

Much to my surprise, Abigail Therese looked like any other newborn. She wore a pink knit cap, and every detail of her little body was there—fingernails, toenails, lips, tongue, ears, kneecaps. She was perfectly formed. She was so real!

A fetus is a hard concept to grasp. And when this pregnancy was delivered prematurely, I didn’t know what to expect. What was I thinking?

Instead, I gazed at perfection. Lynn stroked her daughter’s delicate fingers and caressed her small shoulder. She was totally formed, and was a beautiful baby!

In that moment, a passion arose within me.

For me, abortion has never been an issue. I never knew anyone who experienced a crisis pregnancy. So while I agree that it’s wrong, the concept has always been distant—until now.

Now I understand how mistaken we can be. It is a child in that womb—a perfect child of God. If we think it is OK to eliminate a life because we can’t see it, if we think the mother’s choice trumps an unborn fetus, then we have no faith.

Faith, after all, is the conviction of things not seen.

Abigail Therese, you passed through this world for a brief moment, but we are forever changed. We grieve for the days that we will never have with you—the wind blowing in your face, the giggles and the laughs—but you have left your mark.

You have revitalized our battle against abortion. You have enhanced our passion for life. Our grief will be turned to joy. Perhaps you will save a life. Perhaps you will rescue a soul.

Perhaps someone reading this will grasp what I did in that hospital room—the tiny hand of life within the womb.

May you rest in peace, little one.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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