For Right to Life
North Carolina dad counts his blessings after ignoring abortion advice.
Twenty-one weeks into their pregnancy, Dennis and Roseli Stafford learned their preborn baby had holoprosencephaly — more than 50 percent of her brain tissue had not developed, causing the skull to fill with spinal fluid. Doctors said the baby also had an encephacele, which is an opening in the skull that causes a small sack of spinal fluid to protrude from the head. Doctors were unsure if the child could live outside of the womb and recommended abortion instead.
The Staffords, of North Carolina, ignored the advice of medical professionals and put their trust in the Lord.
Weighing more than 12 pounds, Kristen Grace Stafford was born in April 2001 and underwent seven neurosurgeries before she turned 3, including insertion of a shunt to drain the spinal fluid. But God’s first miracle of many in Kristen’s life was that the opening in her skull was completely closed when she was born.
As the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches, Dennis Stafford talked to CitizenLink about the joys and trials of raising a special-needs child.
1. How did you and your wife respond when you received Kristen’s diagnosis?
We were in a state of shock, but we held on to our faith, and the verse that came to mind as we were writing our birth plan was Psalm 139:13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
We had also discussed ahead of time — in fact, before the doctor had given us her diagnosis — that if the diagnosis had anything to do with terminating this pregnancy, we were not interested.
2. Kristen has had numerous seizures. She may never talk, walk or run and play. She may always wear diapers. Her life expectancy is only 16 to 17 years. How have you made it through such tough circumstances?
God gives you strength. There’s a lot of sadness and sorrow, but it’s bittersweet. I have regret for Kristen that she wasn’t able to have a fully functioning body but that was a whole lot better than ending her life. It’s a good example of how every life counts. And, won’t it be great when we see her in heaven where she’ll see and talk and walk?
With a child like this, you put a lot of effort and love into them without expecting anything in return. But that’s where God steps in again. We’ve gotten so much back from this experience, so much about count your blessings, pick up your cross daily and deny yourself.
3. You have four other children, ranging in age from 3 to 12. How have they responded to Kristen?
It’s been a great blessing to engage them in caring for her. There’s a lot of opportunity to teach patience. We consider it a privilege that God blessed us with Kristen, and we’ve learned a lot about denying yourself. We’re working continually with our kids to try to teach them to be thankful that they can walk, talk, see and hear.
4. What would you say to a couple who have been given a similar diagnosis and are being advised to abort their baby?
I would say to them, first of all, get a second opinion. And, I would be skeptical because their diagnosis doesn’t leave room for God to work. And you know what, doctor? You’re not God. And some things, only God can do.
People so much today, I think, tend to look at things as a zero-sum game. Well, it’s not a zero-sum game with God. Maybe God has a blessing for you if you will step out in faith and accept this responsibility and give this person a life.
I am very, very sure that God had a hand in Kristen’s coming to be. With special-needs children, when you’re given this kind of information from the medical people, you’re a candidate for a miracle. Why eliminate that opportunity?
5. How is Kristen doing today?
She’s just doing great. She’s learned to feed herself with her cup. She’s learned to sit up. She’s learned to stand up. For the longest time, we never expected to have the return of affection from her, but one of things she’s learned to do this year is to hug. And she’s learned to smile.
The human brain is 3 pounds of the most complex matter in the universe, and I think we need to appreciate that God still does miracles.
Contact: Devon Williams
Monday, January 14, 2008
Pro-Life Hero Dennis Stafford