With the many joys of motherhood come the heartaches. The minute your child is conceived, you can really do only so much to keep your baby safe.
Knowing that you have no total control is not easy, and that is where faith comes in, when you realize that you will have to let your child go, sometimes sooner than you think.
The Bible is full of examples of mothers who showed great faith in the Lord. Mary endured the mystery of her Immaculate Conception and her son’s mind-boggling Passion and Death on the Cross. Sarah and Elizabeth trusted God to give them children in their old age. Moses’ mother lifted her fears up to God that He would take care of her boy even as she had to put him in a basket on a river.
Sometimes, we may feel that we are being given more than we can bear, and it’s difficult to see a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But it is in how we survive through these trying times that we are able to have something to latch on to, find peace and even gratitude.
These mothers’ stories of faith show profound grace despite challenging trials.
Tan and Mikha
When Tan Pellicer Atendido’s daughter Mikhaela was almost 4 months old, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver and bile ducts in infants.
At 11 months old, Mikha had a liver transplant. Just when her parents thought she was out of the woods, when Mikha turned 4 years old, she developed a form of cancer specific to transplant patients called Post-transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease (PTLD).
Tan recalled: “I was at a loss. I couldn’t fully grasp what was going on and why it was happening to her, to us. It was a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Sadness, depression, anger…
“At first I questioned and got angry at the Lord for allowing us to go through all that, especially at a very young age. The fact that we had to leave the Philippines, leave our families behind, and move to the US by ourselves made me even angrier. In the end, though, there was really nothing and no one else to cling to but God, so I continued to pray. Good thing our parents were also part of a Catholic charismatic group, the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), so we constantly had people bombarding the heavens with prayers for Mikhaela’s healing.
“Eventually, when things were calmer for us, we also joined a community in the States, Couples for Christ, to give back in whatever way for the miracles and blessings we received,” she said.
Tan and her family have since returned to the Philippines and now belong to the BCBP as well. She and her husband Bobbit have two other children, Lucas and Matteo.
“Mikha is now 17. April 17, marked the 17th anniversary of her liver transplant. A week later, she will turn 18 years old. Such a blessing, considering we were once told that she might not even live to see her first birthday,” said Tan.
Mina and Andres
Carmina Mendoza was on her second month of pregnancy when her OB saw something not quite normal in her baby’s ultrasound.
“There was a lump growing behind my little one’s neck,” she recounted. “The OB said it was a condition called Cystic Hygroma. I knew nothing about it so I had to research, and as I read about it, my heart sank. It was an abnormal growth that can be found on a baby’s neck or head.
“She told me, too, that my baby either won’t reach full term or, if he does, he might be born with down syndrome. I just burst into tears and cried so loudly, with the scary thought that my dream of having a baby might not even come true.”
After the initial shock wore off, Mina refocused her feelings. “I felt a bit optimistic knowing that two of my doctor’s five patients’ babies came out normal after being diagnosed with the same condition. From then on, I knew that I had no option but to leave it to God. My faith became my source of strength,” she said.
Mina lost track of all the prenatal tests administered just to make sure little Andres was fine inside her.
“I had countless check-ups, five emergency room visits and one hospital confinement. But my faith never failed me. Prayers, novenas and a devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help all helped me become resilient through the remaining months of my pregnancy. Every Wednesday, we would hear the Novena Mass in Baclaran and our weekly trips ended up being pilgrimages to different churches around Manila,” she said.
“God was really good to us. At my fifth month ultrasound, my doctor said that the cyst was slowly getting smaller and as we reached the seventh month, it was almost nonexistent,” said Mina.
Andres Lo was born full term via C-section, healthy and strong. “He is perfect in every single way, and whenever I look at him now, I know that he has become God’s symbol of grace and pure love to me and my hubby,” Mina said.
“Now, Andres is 18 months old and has proven to be one happy, smart and sweet little boy. He is active as can be, always trying to learn new things, and has been the most adventurous and silly person I know. Motherhood has definitely deepened my faith in God, and He continues to be the center of our relationship and family,” said Mina.
Tin and Kalel
Tin Aquino Mallari’s fourth child Kalel was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia when he was born.
“Diaphragmatic hernia is a condition in which the diaphragm (the muscle which separates our organs—liver, colon, etc.—from our lungs) has a hole. Because of this, the organs go through the hole upward and compress the lungs. He also had Inguinal Hernia. The doctor advised surgery to correct the hernias, but he was too small, born at only four pounds. So when he became a bit heavier, 10 pounds at 2 months old, he underwent surgery to correct the inguinal hernia and thoracotomy to correct the diaphragmatic hernia,” explained Tin.
The surgery for the inguinal hernia went well. “We thought the surgery for the diaphragmatic hernia was also a success, but instead of getting better, he became much worse,” said Tin.
After the first thoracotomy, the doctors (Kalel had seven of them) advised a second procedure. Two weeks after Kalel’s first thoracotomy, he had another one at 3 months old.
“It was the most difficult time, to see him in pain and I couldn’t do anything about it. Every single day in the pedia ICU, I feared if he would make it or not. He was breathing through the ventilator, and there were times when his oxygen dropped to almost zero and the doctors would rush in and try to revive him. During those times, I thought we would lose him. I would get out of the pedia ICU, run to the chapel and pray,” recalled Tin.
“I can’t help but ask why it happened to him, he’s just a baby. Marami namang ibang masasamang tao sa mundo. But the Bible says: ‘His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.’ I may never understand why it happened to us, but it is God’s will, so it shall be done. There were times I almost gave up, but I saw Kalel fighting. Nahiya ako sa anak ko. Siya ’yung nahihirapan tapos ako yung nanghihina. So I just prayed to God for strength and grace to carry this cross,” she said.
Every day, Tin’s prayer was for Kalel to get better, but he wasn’t. Said Tin: “When we finally accepted that he does not belong to us, but to our Lord, when we finally surrendered and let God take control, that was when he started to get better. It was very difficult to pray the Lord’s Prayer and utter the words, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…’ It was very difficult to say, ‘Lord, kung hindi siya para sa amin, ibabalik na namin siya sa Inyo para hindi na siya mahirapan. Pero kung para sa amin naman siya, pagalingin niyo na po siya…’ This was when he started to get better.”
Kalel was discharged on Easter Sunday, after one month in the pedia ICU. “That is why I consider Easter Sunday Kalel’s birthday,” said Tin.
“Kalel is now 3 years old and doing very well,” said Tin. “He brings our family so much joy.” He is doted on by his sisters Julianna, 12; Helena, 8; and Mikaela, 5.
Monina and Theo
“Our baby was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare congenital heart disease that is fixable only with open-heart surgery,” said first-time mom Monina Joyce Peralta-Icasas.
“He was born with an underdeveloped heart; his condition doesn’t allow him to cry for more than 10 minutes or else it could be fatal. When he is under stress or crying, his oxygen level goes down and his lips turn blue,” Monina noted.
From Theo’s birth until the day of his surgery, his parents had to lug an oxygen machine everywhere they went, so he mostly stayed home.
At 2 months old, Theo underwent open-heart surgery and was in very critical condition for a week. “We didn’t know if he could make it,” recalled Monina. “Even the doctors couldn’t give us any assurance.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions. As a first-time mom, I was over the moon to finally meet my baby. But there was also great sadness knowing I had a sick baby with a very serious heart condition. For a time, I blamed myself—what did I do or did not do that caused him to have that condition? I cried myself to sleep many nights and asked God why it had to happen to my baby. I felt that our plans and dreams for our little family cannot be fulfilled anymore because of our baby’s condition,” she said.
Theo’s recovery proved the scariest part of the entire ordeal. “Ideally, three hours after surgery, his tubes would have been removed and he should have been transferred to the pediatric ICU that same night. However, his post-op recovery was so stormy, he stayed in the recovery room for seven days! The doctors could only do so much, but during recovery, it was all up to Theo—how he would respond to the surgery, the medicines and how his body could cope with the severe trauma,” said Monina.
“We knew our greatest weapon was really prayer. We spent most of our days in the hospital chapel, praying and crying our hearts out for Theo’s stats to stabilize. His heartbeat went up to 220 beats per minute, and had it persisted, his heart could fail. What we really held on to was our faith. We are blessed to have such prayerful family and friends. We had so many prayer warriors, both people we know and strangers as well. It was very timely that Pope Francis was here during our endeavor and we were so inspired with his messages and it really kept us going. I think so many people had Theo’s prayer intention during the Pope’s visit that his condition started to improve on the day the Pope arrived. That was a Thursday, I will never forget that,” she said.
Theo’s condition improved little by little until the doctors were able to confidently say that Theo was out of danger.
“Theo was going to live! He slowly regained consciousness, then we gradually reduced his medicines, and most importantly, he was smiling again! I was given the go-signal to breastfeed him again, and I was ecstatic!” Monina beamed.
Theo is now 6 months old. His parents have been able to take him to Cebu, Davao and the United States.
“Theo is one of the happiest babies you will ever meet. He is our miracle baby!” exclaimed Monina. “Since Theo got out of the hospital, he’s been my adventure buddy. Where I go, he goes, too! Be it to the mall or to do errands or to out-of-town trips, he’s with me! His curiosity is amazing, it inspires us all the more to make him see more places and try new experiences! I haven’t fully recovered from our ordeal; I am afraid to become pregnant again, for now. But being a mom to Theo is so amazing, I’d be willing to go through anything, just to make sure he is okay.”