How Baby Jackson Saved a Life
The politics of abortion reflect an American culture that encourages women to abort their baby because she may not have perfect health or he may not possess perfect features. We live in a age when babies are seen as a burden more than a blessing; destroyers of the environment more then a blessing to the world. As my friend John Armstrong says, the solution to this problem will not be found in politics.
We need to be honest here friends. There is virtually no scenario on the horizon—and I mean for a long, long time—where the abortion situation will be altered by law. The facts are pretty clear. We will only save lives if we get deeply involved in personal ministry and compassionate action.
With this backdrop, I offer you the story of baby Jackson.
Back when we were planting a church in Orting, WA, my wife ran a MOPS program. This story was one of the “Mommy Moments” from a woman named Laurel. Baby Jackson’s story has already saved the life of one unborn child. Pass it along and maybe his story will save another life.
My name is Laurel Juergens. My husband and I have two boys – Jackson is four and Brandt is two. My mommy moment was a story I probably would have never known but my friend, Julie Brownlee, delivered an amazing message to me that I will always treasure.Last fall, Julie, who is pregnant with her second baby, came over for coffee and told me that she had a prenatal appointment that afternoon at Group Health. It happened to be with my favorite midwife from my two pregnancies – Linda. I loved all the midwives at Group Health, but Linda and I formed a wonderful relationship starting with my first pregnancy. So I told Julie she had to tell Linda “hi” from me. That night, Julie called me with the best story I’ve ever heard!
So to share a little history, at my routine 30 week appointment with my first baby, Linda dropped a bomb shell on me. I was expecting nothing more than the normal poking and prodding, but she had reviewed the ultra sound from two months earlier, and said, “So you know your baby has a cleft lip?”
“A what?!” I was shocked at the news. Apparently the ultrasound technician noticed my baby had a cleft lip at my 20 week appointment, but the message wasn’t passed on to me. Linda had no idea that this was the first time I had heard this news. It was also the first time I had come to an appointment without my husband. I knew that a cleft lip wasn’t a life threatening issue, but my tiny baby had a deformity, and I was crushed. Although Linda was very comforting, she hadn’t seen a baby with a cleft lip in many years and really didn’t know what to tell me. But her hugs, her calming voice, and her smile kept me from completely breaking down in her office (I did that later at home!)
I am now embarrassed to admit it, but one of the first thoughts that went through my head when I learned the news was now I would not have the perfect baby picture to send out to friends and family. The pictures on TV of babies in foreign countries with cleft lips kept going through my head. How did this happen to me? And how I was going to answer the questions or react to the comments? Surely this wasn’t my fault! Maybe I didn’t start taking the vitamins early enough! Maybe I inhaled paint fumes!
Through weeks of prayer and research, I began to feel more at peace with the news. Before Jackson was born, we were able to meet with specialists at the Craniofacial Clinic at Children’s Hospital in Seattle who relieved most of my fears and answered a lot of questions. Jackson’s cleft was a genetic issue. It wasn’t my fault! And Jackson would be in the hands of one of the best surgeons in the country.
Fast forward 2 ½ months. The day of Jackson’s birth, a random midwife met me at the hospital. One I had never met before. She was fine, but when she told me that Linda’s shift started at 8am, I kind of tried to hold in my baby in until she got there! 10 hours of labor later, the random midwife checked out and in walked Linda! I remember bracing myself for the first look, and wondering what all the nurses were going to say. But all those fears vanished when I saw my baby for the first time. Jackson was born a very healthy 8 ½ pound baby. He definitely had one heck of a cleft lip, and a full cleft palate to go along with it, but he was perfect to me. I said to my husband “Wow, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be!” In reality, Jackson’s lip was categorized as severe, but that meant nothing to me. He was healthy and he was gorgeous!
Jackson’s first three months were a blur of appointments. The severity of Jackson’s lip and palate qualified him to use a new technique. At two weeks they made him a mouth piece, like a retainer, designed to bring his gums and lips closer together for an easier surgery. This method required us to use rubber bands and tape across his lips and cheeks. It was a lot of work, and hard to see my baby all taped up, but that wasn’t half as hard as feeding the little guy. Because of the hole in the roof of his mouth, he had no suction, so no nursing and no normal bottles. Instead, I pumped day and night and used a bottle which basically amounted to a squirt bottle.
At three months old, Jackson’s lip was repaired. At first it was very hard to look at. It wasn’t the swollen mouth or stitches that bothered me, but rather, my problem was that Jackson looked normal! I brought home a little baby that week that looked so different than the one I had grown to know. It took a few days to get used to. Even now, when I look at his baby pictures, I still miss that funny little face!
I finally sent out a baby picture, and proudly included a before and after of Jackson’s precious little face. I also sent one to Linda. I wanted her to know that we made it through! And each year, I continue to send Linda a picture so she can see how he’s growing more beautiful!
Last fall, when I took Jackson back to Children’s for a yearly check-up. The head of the Crainofacial clinic told me that he had to admit that Jackson wasn’t the best lip repair he has seen – he’s second best! And to put this in perspective, this doctor sees about 35 cleft lip patients each year and has worked at the hospital for 15 years. So Jackson’s on the top of about 500 kids! Not to brag, but he really is beautiful!
Ok, so here’s the mommy moment in it all. I always struggled with how to share this story. It was a tough few years for us, but such an uncommon issue that I didn’t know who or how to encourage others. So when Julie called me that night, she told me that I had to hear what Linda said! When Julie met Linda that day she said, “I don’t know if you’d remember my friend – I know you had a lot of women come through here – but do you remember Laurel?” “Oh, Laurel Juergens! She was one of my favorite patients!” (she really did say that – right Julie!) Then she told Julie that she had an amazing story to share with me.
In the past two years, two women have come through Group Health pregnant with a baby with a cleft lip. One of these mothers, before seeing Linda, had already been talked out of having an abortion — only to be told at 20 weeks pregnant that she had a baby with a cleft lip, a deformity. This sent her into a tailspin and she asked if it was too late to change her mind and go ahead with the abortion. Linda was shocked! She quickly ran to her office and grabbed Jackson’s photos. She told the woman about my fears, and how nervous I was to see Jackson, and she showed her Jackson’s picture as an example of how beautiful her baby would be after surgery. After some tears, she calmed the mother’s fears and convinced her that keeping the baby was important. My little guy’s beautiful face saved that baby’s life!
So the message is this: sometimes we’ll be blessed enough to learn the secrets of how we have changed someone’s life. But most likely most of us won’t know until heaven! This story has taught me that I don’t need to join a cause, donate big bucks, or start a foundation to encourage or affect others. I just need to live my life with gratitude, love and faith, and it’s guaranteed that I’ll affect someone’s life – sometime, somewhere. Linda encouraged me with her compassion and friendship, and I in turn had encouraged her with my strength and gratitude. And with a picture of my beautiful little Jackson in her hand, she turned around and encouraged a young woman which ultimately saved a little life. And that is the best mommy moment I can imagine!
Is this boy’s life worthy of life?