I think one of the biggest challenges I face as a mother is remembering that my children are not my own. God has entrusted my children to me to raise, but they belong to him, and their time is in his hands. I recently watched the truth of this unfold in the life of my good friend. Having mothered six children on earth and three in Heaven, Jacquelyn was no stranger to motherhood or the challenges that come with it. She is also no stranger to the dignity of every human life. She believes in this so strongly that she works in the Catholic Youth and Prolife ministry.
When Jaquelyn and her husband Andrew found that they were pregnant with their little Gemma, who was to be number seven in their family, there was no less celebrating in their household than there had been with their first. As the pregnancy continued, they found out that Gemma had a condition called Trisomy 18, a developmental disorder that would affect (in the doctors’ words) her quality of life. These parents never backed down once from defending Gemma’s life or celebrating it. Doctors told them the costly and emotional complications they would face when birthing a child with this condition, and that the best option would be pregnancy termination. Their response was to buy baby clothes and meet with surgeons and NICU doctors to be sure Gemma would have the best possible care when born. They never once complained about the emotional and financial stress but were only concerned with Gemma and making sure that their little girl was cared for properly and felt loved.
Gemma Gianna Perpetua Smith came into the world via emergency C-section on January 31st, 2020. Her parents made sure that she had physical and spiritual care by baptizing her immediately, and then having a priest come to the NICU to administer the sacraments to her. Gemma passed away two days later with her family by her side. Never once did her parents stop fighting for her. I had the honor of visiting them in the hospital the day she died and was able to hold the body of little saint Gemma. Looking at that precious little gift from God and at her saintly parents, I was reminded of the complexity of our call to motherhood to totally entrust our children to the Lord. When I look at the witness of my dear friend, I am reminded of our Blessed Mother doing her part to raise Jesus on earth, but knowing that she was to give him back to God. Both Jacquelyn and Andrew did their part here on earth, but they knew the Lord’s timing was for Gemma to be with our Lord, interceding for them there.