Welcoming an Infant Who Is to Die

Interview With a Mom Whose Child Died Shortly After Birth

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PARIS, MARCH 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- What happens when a mother knows that the child she is bearing is sick and, in all probability, will die shortly after birth?

Isabelle de Mézerac, a mother of four other children, answers this question in a book entitled «Un Enfant pour l’Éternité» (A Child for Eternity), published by Éditions du Rocher.

The inside cover of the book says: «Our Emmanuel was born at 11:18 a.m. His heart stopped beating at 12:30 p.m. How much emotion filled such a short life! What intensity was lived in those minutes that had eternal value!»

Q: Why did you decide to publish a book on your experience?

De Mézerac: I agreed to write the story of our little son Emmanuel at the request of the doctors of the University Hospital of Lille, where I received care. But for their insistence, I would never have thought of telling this story outside our family circle.

Together with Dr. Jean-Philippe Lucot, who took care of me during the pregnancy and contributed to the book, we wished to show that there is an alternative to abortion in cases of diagnosed mortal illness in an unborn baby, and that alternative is the choice to accompany this little life to its natural end.

In the context of terminal illness, it is certainly a painful choice, but it can be lived serenely by taking time to love the little one and build memories together.

Q: Have you known cases like yours, in which mothers decided in favor of their child’s birth?

De Mézerac: Since the book’s publication, I have met with numerous mothers who made, or are making, the same choice. They all confirmed that they have had the same feelings as those described in the book, regardless of their age or personal situation.

We don’t agree with those who believe we made this choice because we are Catholics. It is simply the expression of our maternal love for the little ones.

In fact, I have met with atheist mothers who did not have the possibility to make this choice and would have liked to have done so, to be able to decide to live this companionship until the end.

For me it was a test of faith, as I lived in my own flesh the confrontation with death, with the hereafter, with eternity. What do these words mean? What is faith?

Q: Why do you think this child came so late, as you were 45, and have had four children and two miscarriages?

De Mézerac: I don’t know how to answer that question. Emmanuel’s arrival, just before it would have been too late for me, continues to be something incomprehensible, even mysterious. We waited a long time for this fifth child. It has taught me not ever to say «never.»

Q: Did you decide on the name Emmanuel — «God with us» — before he was born?

De Mézerac: The name Emmanuel was chosen some months before his birth, after we learned of the terrible sickness that afflicted him. Several members of the family had the same intuition for this name.

For me, it didn’t mean «God with us,» but represented the littlest man among the little, the poorest among the poor, as was my unborn baby’s case, given that he was ill and was going to die. Then I thought of Emmanuel, born 2,000 years ago in a stable, among the poorest.

Q: What testimony did little Emmanuel leave all of you?

De Mézerac: In making me live an extraordinary experience of love, Emmanuel taught me the beauty of life and the possibility it represents.

He taught me the power of this gratuitous love, wholeheartedly given without asking anything in return. It has enabled me to discover fullness, and this has made me profoundly happy, despite the fact that still today I grieve over his absence.

Thanks to him, I have discovered the limits of our world, my frailty and our immense need. Life is relationship with others; we are responsible for this relationship, above all when the other is nearing death.

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