Krista walked into the OB/GYN office for her 10-week appointment alone. It was just a routine checkup, and though she had two miscarriages previous to this pregnancy, she already had three healthy children. No need for her husband to accompany her. As the ultrasound tech began doing her regular exploration of the abdomen and Krista looked expectantly at the screen, the tech’s face fell. Concerned, she left the room seeking another opinion.
When the two clinic workers came back into the room, their news was grim. Krista’s baby had anencephaly, a neural tube defect that prevents the brain from developing normally and means the skull doesn’t fully form over the brain, leaving the brain open and vulnerable. The doctors assured her not only would the baby not survive if it lived to term but could potentially die at any time while in the womb. No guarantees, no timeline and no comfort.
As quickly as her baby was diagnosed, the doctors told her they could arrange for an abortion that very afternoon, seeing as the baby had no possibility of life. Shocked with the news but firm in her heart, she told the doctors she would not be getting an abortion that day or any day and left the office.
As she drove home with the heavy news, she stopped at a familiar stop sign, feelings sweeping through her with thoughts of the unborn child she was carrying. She remembered a dream she had a few months ago. In the dream, she had given birth to a baby that was whisked away before she could even see it. The nurses told her the baby wouldn’t live, but her overwhelming feeling was that she wanted to see the baby. She wanted the baby. At the time she had the dream, she thought it may be about her previous miscarriages, but now she knew the baby she wanted was this one.
“Well, do you believe it or not?” the Spirit whispered as she sat in her stopped car. Did she really believe in the Plan of Salvation, eternal families and life after death? Was it all really true? Did this really apply to her? Was she really prepared to be pregnant for potentially 30 more weeks with all the nausea, swelling and discomfort for a baby that surely would not survive? Was she prepared to lose another baby?
Somehow, she felt that in this watershed moment her decision would not only impact her but would ripple outwards to affect her husband, children, family and friends. Though all of these thoughts and feelings weighed on her mind, her heart felt a familiar power coursing within—faith that God had a plan for her, her family and this baby. This baby was her family and would be forever. “I believe this,” she said resolutely, as she drove on.
Soon after, Krista heard a knock on the door and was surprised to find the man who lived next door on her porch. Though their kids played outside together and they would chat across their yards, he had never come so deliberately.
He had heard from his kids that Krista was pregnant and her baby had a condition that meant it wouldn’t live more than a few minutes or hours after birth, if at all. “I’m so sorry to hear this, but I just don’t understand.” He was not a member of the Church and was perplexed that with the option to abort rather than carry the baby to term why Krista was choosing to keep a baby with such an impossible fate. Wouldn’t aborting the baby be so much easier?
Krista felt this moment was pivotal for her neighbor, though she didn’t know why, as she silently prayed to know what to say to him. Unbeknownst to her, his wife had just found out about a surprise, unwanted pregnancy, and they had scheduled an abortion for the following week. Krista’s conversation with her neighbor was short, but she told him that she believed in the sanctity of life—that it wasn’t her choice when Heavenly Father would take the baby back home, but it was her job to give the baby life as long as she could.
Krista knew how to plan for a baby to come—she already had three children and was an experienced mother—but she did not know how to plan for a baby she knew she would have to bury soon after birth. Instead of a 6-week checkup, purchasing newborn diapers, and inviting family to church for the baby blessing, she was making a burial dress, talking to funeral homes, and trying to help her children to understand who this special baby was that would come and go so quickly.
No matter how much she planned for every detail of the birth and funeral, so much remained unknown. She wasn’t even sure if it was appropriate to take her young children on this journey, worrying it could be traumatic for them to see a baby sibling born and die within hours. One thing the Spirit assured her of by the time she was about three months pregnant was that her baby girl would survive to term and be born alive.
“I had the gift of a larger vision…I immediately saw that this was going to be our child forever—for the eternities—and this was her opportunity to receive a mortal body,” Krista said.
On February 13, 2007, the day before her due date, Krista and her husband Jon went in for an induction. Knowing this special spirit only had hours on the earth, Krista invited their entire extended family to come be in the waiting room so their little baby girl could meet as many family members as possible during her short sojourn on the earth. This wasn’t just a baby with an anomaly being born but an eternal member of the family.
As Krista labored to bring her baby girl into the world, her pregnant next-door neighbor also began feeling pre-term labor pains. Though she was not due for another two months, the frantic neighbors came to the hospital for monitoring. Just down the hall from each other, the women labored simultaneously, one for a baby doctors counseled to be aborted and the other for a baby whose abortion had been canceled because of Krista’s simple testimony given on her porch.
Contraction followed contraction as the waiting room buzzed with emotion awaiting baby Candace, a name Krista and Jon picked for their baby girl because it means “flowing white; pure”. As Candace neared birth, family members in the waiting room passed a blanket around that Krista had made, each adding final stitches in the blanket that would become Candace’s burial blanket and adding their love to what would encircle her when she was finally born. Each stitch marked another person who wanted to celebrate and be a part of Candace’s short yet impactful life.
Doctors told Krista and Jon that with anencephaly often came cleft pallet, club feet, an inability to breathe, and many other anomalies, but when Candace finally came into the world, she had perfect little toes, blew bubbles, sucked, and even smiled. Notwithstanding her skull not fully forming over her brain, she was a perfect little girl—born alive, miraculous.
Meanwhile, down the hall, Krista’s next-door neighbor’s labor pains had gotten under control and the doctors gave her the go ahead to leave. Having heard Krista would be induced that day, the pregnant neighbor was wheeled in a wheel chair down the hall and knocked on Krista’s hospital room door. There, the neighbors found Krista and Jon and their new baby girl, alive and being passed from one family member to the next. The neighbors got a turn to hold Candace too, amazed by this little bundle who had impressed them to keep their own unborn child.
Krista and Jon held Candace briefly, but with such a short time with her, they wanted to make sure she got to meet as many of her family members as possible.
“I felt like I had been given 9 months to hold her and that this was her opportunity to experience a quick glimpse of the world and all the family and friends that loved her and that she had touched in a way. I don’t regret that at all. It was beautiful to be able to see her in the arms of so many people that loved her,” Krista said.
Krista and Jon’s three little children got to hold Candace, too. When they took off her hat to see the open membrane on the top of her head, Candace smiled her first smile and the kids called the anomaly on the top of her head her “princess crown”. It was more beautiful and bonding for her family than Krista could have ever planned or imagined.
Candace lived just over 23 hours, slipping into eternity on Valentine’s Day 2007. Though her life was short, she had just enough time to be in the arms of many people who loved her and to receive a name and a blessing from her daddy. They got to bring her body home and spend time with her in their home before bringing her to the funeral home. They cried, their hearts were broken, and yet their overwhelming feeling was faith, hope and peace.
“There are so many miracles through all of this, just not the miracle that people look for. It was not the miracle that she miraculously lived and didn’t have this anomaly. It was the miracle that lives changed throughout the process; the miracle of our hearts changing; the miracle of our families’ hearts changing.”
Krista’s faith and decision to carry Candace to term not only helped her understand the value of one life but brought about the life of another. Their neighbors’ baby was born two months later in April—a baby girl. It was a healing balm for Krista that her neighbor often dropped the baby off at her house so she could hold and love this baby girl whose life was preserved because of the simple testimony she bore on her porch.
Stopped at that stop sign at 10-weeks pregnant, Krista felt that her decision would have a ripple effect but didn’t know how significant. A year ago, on Candace’s 12th birthday, Krista received another unexpected knock on her door. There stood a woman from her ward. “Come on in,” Krista said to her visitor. The woman sat down and proceeded to tell her that she had just recently put together who Krista was and how she had deeply impacted her life forever.
She and her husband had been going through infertility struggles a few years back, and their hope was waning. She had found Krista’s blog and was so impressed with their hope despite such hardship that she decided to go to the nearest building related to Krista’s faith, which happened to be the Mesa, AZ temple. She felt like a trespasser as she walked the peaceful grounds, and when two young women walked up to her, she thought for sure they were going to kick her out. Instead, they introduced themselves as sister missionaries, and this led this woman and her husband to join the Church.
One choice—a choice to trust in Heavenly Father’s love and plan despite all that was heartbreaking and impossible to swallow. Yet through the Atonement and Christ swallowing the bitter cup, Krista and Jon moved forward joyfully, faithfully and hopefully, knowing one day they will be reunited with Candace, their decision brought about many other beautiful reunions, and may continue to ripple forth in ways they cannot see.