We just like any other parents were thrilled to learn that we were expecting. We took a few pregnancy tests that came back positive and finally got the confirmation from doctors that we were indeed pregnant. We could not contain our excitement and immediately shared with the world on social media that our child was set to be born in September 2016.
We carried on as usual for the first few months. We couldn’t wait to find out the gender on schedule so we went to a ultrasound specialist to reveal the details. Seeing our son up there on the screen for the first time kicking and doing backflips in Jackie’s womb was breathtaking. We then were ordered by our primary physician to take the screening test for any abnormality risks. We didn’t even think twice that anything could be wrong as I already have two children from a previous relationship.
I will never forget the day I received a call from my girlfriend in tears. The doctors had called and said our son had a 1:2 chance of having Trisomy 18. We immediately setup a visit with the high risk physicians to have further testing done. We prayed and hoped they were wrong in the weeks before we were scheduled to have this done. When that day finally arrived, we were very anxious to say the least. An ultrasound technician took us back and began looking for the markers for Trisomy 18. She was unable to find any markers for certain and the doctor was called in. He observed the images for about 10 minutes and told us that he believed our son had Trisomy 18 due to his clenched fists and slow brain devlopment. He also urged us to abort the pregnancy and stated “that there is really no use in keeping him because it is incompatible with life.” We then opted for amniocentesis and it was performed. 2 weeks after we were called in and given the unfortunate news that the test had come back positive for Trisomy 18. We had absolutely no idea what to do at this point. We had about a month before we could not abort the pregnancy so I suggested we take our time before making any rash decisions.
I told Jackie that I could only offer my opinion and that the decision was ultimately hers. I also told her that I would stand behind her 100%. This choice is indeed a complicated one. Do we give our child every chance he had to survive or do we attempt to avoid pain and suffering by early termination? At this point, Jackie had already felt him move and he had made his presence known to us. We decided to give him every chance he has to make it in the world and if he couldn’t, God would make that choice…not us.
We became very educated on the condition in the following months. We read several positive stories and several heart breaking ones as well. We decided the best thing to do was to stop worrying and carry on as everything is perfectly normal. The stress would tear us apart.
In mid June, we were advised that Jackie was carrying a lot of excess amniotic fluid due to our son’s inability to swallow and this could cause preterm delivery. On July 3, 2016, we were preparing to attend church when we realized her water had broken. We went to the nearby hospital and it was confirmed. The high risk doctors were called in to take a look at Jackie and the baby. Her water had broken, but not fully. They advised us that not delivering the baby now would put Jackie at risk for several infections and conditions. We were going to have him that day.
We spent 12 hours in labor, and at 2:53 am on July 4, 2016, Julian Wayne Silba was born. I could see his face had already turned blue when I cut his umbilical cord. I knew he was gone but we held, carried, kissed and hugged him as if he were still alive. After all, this would be the ONLY time we would get to actually be with him physically. We spent about two hours with him and shared him with his grandparents, spent our alone time with him and even had our pastor come and baptize him. Before we even came into the hospital, we had made the choice to not let the sadness of the situation consume his birth. We were there to meet him and to be with him. We could think about our own feelings later but now was a time to be unselfish and try to make this a good experience for Julian and for us.
It is indeed bittersweet to see both pinnacles of life in front of us, all within the span of few seconds. Life and death…that quick. It’s very ironic our son, with this condition, was born on Independence Day. It has a completely different meaning to us now. It means the freedom to make whatever choice is in your heart, no matter if the odds are against you. The freedom to let God let be whatever it is he has planned for us. Independence Day is now a day for Julian’s independence…and we will never forget him.
-Frank and Jackie Silba