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Is Your Doctor Pro-Life? It Matters to the Unborn

December 13, AD2016

By the time I was pregnant with my sixth child, I was desperate to find a supportive family doctor and obstetrician. Four of my five children had been delivered by Dr. Leslie E.,  a brilliant, strong feminist.  As a mother of a growing family, I was an enigma to her as she was to me.

In her office, successful professional women waited for gynecological care and women in their late thirties or early forties were pregnant with their first child.  I felt like every eye was on me when I walked through her door for my first visit, pregnant with a toddler on my hip and by my last visit with three or four other children clustered around me. Birth control devices enshrined on this doctor’s desk, encased in glass, seemed to glare at me every time I sat across from her.
After one visit, this obstetrician said, in what I hope was a teasing tone,
“Would you quit bringing your beautiful children to my office. Someone always wants a reversal (from tubal ligation) after you leave.”

Finally, A Pro-Life Doctor

A few friends urged me to check out their family doctor who also delivered babies, Dr. Owen Hughes. At my first appointment, he naturally asked me why I was leaving my obstetrician after she had delivered four of my children.

I slumped slightly and then sighed, “I just can’t face my old obstetrician with a sixth pregnancy.”

“And who is this doctor?” he questioned.

I answered, “Actually it was Dr. E.”

Well, Dr. Hughes threw his head back and started to laugh,

“ Leslie is a good obstetrician. However,  although she owns a parrot, tropical fish, and expensive horses, she doesn’t have any kids. I can understand your problem.”

I nervously joined his laughter and from that very first visit, I no longer had to don protective armour to shield my vulnerable emotions before each obstetrical appointment. It was the beginning of a wonderful 24-year friendship with a dedicated health care provider.

Dr. Hughes is a pro-life doctor who lives out the teachings of the Church with a joyful, compassionate dedication:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.71

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.72
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depthsof the earth.73

Obviously, my husband and I practiced Natural Family Planning , NFP, but I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation. When I was astonished that I was pregnant yet again, Dr. Hughes responded,

“Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.”

I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”

High-Risk Pregnancies

It was a good thing I finally had a pro-life doctor because two of the next four pregnancies were high risk. That meant weekly ultrasounds and check-ups with the high-risk doctor at the hospital. I checked in every week after my appointment in the high-risk unit with Dr. Hughes.

He often waited after office hours to get his weekly update, explaining,

“They would love to get their hands on you. Don’t let them touch you without checking in with me first!”

For one pregnancy, I had Polyhydramnios, a condition where there is excessive amniotic fluid. One cause is fetal abnormality but Dr. Hughes refused to allow amniocentesis, a medical procedure used for a prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities. Dr. Hughes said there was no reason for AFT because abortion was out of the question for both of us. In the end, the baby was completely normal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, caredfor, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual….
It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”

I was protected from an impersonal system by a doctor who treated me as an individual and valued the life of each unborn baby in his care.

When I was pregnant with my seventh child, I was bedridden in the high-risk, neonatal wing of the maternity ward for a week while waiting for a housekeeper to come to run my home and help tend my other six children. I faced six months of bed rest but that one week gave me perspective and kept me from sinking into self-pity. The other two women in my room were desperate to keep their babies in uteri and finally become mothers. One of the two had suffered five miscarriages. She was stuck in a ward room for months, only going home after the birth of her baby.

My generosity petered out after a few weeks at home. My only outing was to a high-risk appointment every week. Church was even out of the question, so Michael brought home communion and the readings each Sunday. I remained in prone position, eating while propped up on one elbow with my food cut into small pieces. The high-risk doctors let me use a regular toilet and have a quick shower every morning. In those days, we had one large, heavy T.V. in the living room, a black dial-up phone on the hall wall, no stereo system, no computer and the bedroom window was cloudy, so I could not look outside. In frustration, I phoned my doctor one morning after my shower.

I complained to Dr. Hughes, “But I don’t feel sick. I feel fine and my kids need me!”,  I wailed.

Usually laid back and jovial, my doctor explained my situation in graphic detail,

” You have a huge clot, 4 cm thick, 6 cm, wide from the top of your womb where the placenta tore, down your entire right side. The last time this happened at the Civic was two years ago to a woman who had four kids at home. They both almost died. We had to call the archbishop in to explain to her that it was more of a sin to her remaining children if she died along with her unborn child.”

“Listen to me “, he continued, “Keep this image in your mind. Imagine there is a gun pressed to your temple, cocked waiting only for the slightest movement to set it off. Lay in bed and do not move!”

Well, that got my attention.

The end result of my confinement was a beautiful baby girl with huge eyes and black hair that stood straight up. She is now a gentle artist/ philosopher whose dark eyes sparkle with life and joy.

A Joyful Delivery

For my eighth child, Dr. Hughes warned us to come into town immediately with my first labour pains. My baby was going to come quickly.

My doctor actually met me outside the hospital, helped me out of our old bus, into a wheelchair and literally ran past admitting with a huge grin on his face yelling,

“Sorry. No time to admit her. I’ll do the paperwork for her after the delivery. See you later!”

He was still chuckling in the elevator over the shocked expression on the admitting clerk’s face. We moved slowly out of the elevator onto the obstetrical floor and Dr. Hughes peered around the corner to check the nursing station.

He sighed happily,

“Good. The head nurse is on a coffee break and no one is in the natural birthing room. Olga is going to have a fit when she sees your stats on the board and that you are in here!”

He laughed loudly this time as we darted into the softly lit room.  I was embarrassed when Michael walked in a little later, holding eighteen-month-old Katie with her sunsuit on backward, straps crossed across her chest with her nipples showing. 

A nurse noticed my reaction, turned to me with one eyebrow raised and said,

“Let me guess. Daddy dressed her.”

I smiled weakly in between labour pains because the nurse barely had time to check my vital signs before Anthony was born. Michael had pulled the curtain around my bed partly closed to block Katie’s view of the labour and delivery. Since she refused the cookie bribe offered by a nurse outside at the station, Katie was still with Michael.

As soon as Anthony was born, my husband whipped the curtain open and passed Katie to a nurse so he could cut his son’s umbilical cord.

Michael turned to Dr. Hughes and me as we beamed at each other over the birth of our beautiful baby and yet another successful, humane delivery despite the hospital’s regulations.

Dr. Hughes has an old-fashioned sense of service; he mentors countless med students and residents and is always on call for his obstetrical patients. His most important characteristic is his innate compassion because he has an uncanny ability to listen and understand each patient.  He has now just delivered my sixth grandchild a few days ago. Best of all, this medical knight in shining armour celebrates each birth with incredible joy. 

Let’s pray for vocations not just to the priesthood but to medicine as well because people also need Catholic men and women who have a vocation to protect and support people in our healthcare system.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Melanie Jean Juneau serves as the Editor in Chief of Catholic Stand. She is a mother of nine children who has edited her kid's university term papers for over a decade. She blogs at  joy of nine9 and mother of nine9 . Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, a columnist at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC, author of Echoes of the Divine and Oopsy Daisy, and coauthor of Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood

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  • Caine

    Not to be a Debbie Downer here, but, how does a married Catholic, in good standing, reconcile what Pope Francis stated about two years ago that, “Some believe that–excuse the expression–to be good Catholics we must be like rabbits,” with their faith? Just curious. Thanks.

    • Melanie Jean Juneau

      Not everyone is called to mother a large family. I was raised one of two children with a deeply ingrained attitude against large families. Then one evening, when I struggled to pray because I was terrified I was pregnant with my fifth,a blanket of peace came over me, relaxing my racing thoughts and tension. I sensed that I was indeed pregnant with a girl and then heard the words, “This is your call. This is your vocation. This is your witness to the world.” My immediate reaction was incredulity,…I thought- “”What sort of witness is this?, people think we are crazy, irresponsible…”Then peace came again and the words “Trust me”. Countless confirmations came in the following years and I have simply tried to remain faithful to what many think is a dubious vocation.

    • Caine

      That’s interesting. I’m not being judgmental of you at all. I came from a slightly smaller family then your current one and my siblings all have families around the same size as yours. I’ve never thought of large families as irresponsible. When some sports figure in the news has ten kids by eight different mothers, that’s irresponsible. I guess I’m more curious about what peoples’ take was on what Pope Francis stated. I know it’s not right for Catholics to speak negatively of the Pope or priests, but, I tend to find the current Pope to be Marxist and progressively liberal. I thought the Pope’s comment about large families was incorrect and I haven’t really seen it discussed. Thanks.

    • Melanie Jean Juneau

      Apparently the Spanish language translates poorly into English because it uses metaphors which are not meant to be taken literally. I read an article which stated that it is only English speaking countries who are outraged by the Pope’s statements. In addition, the press loves to pull things out of context and sensationalize- so I tryn never to react to seemingly outrageous comments by the Pope because I believe he is truly living out the Gospels and is chosen.

    • Caine

      I don’t know. From “care for the environment” as a corporal work of mercy (I’m against pollution and such, but come on) to telling Trump (indirectly) that we should be building bridges instead of walls (from a person who lives in Rome which is surrounded by a wall) there’s something strange about this. Also, overlooking illegal immigration as a crime in and of itself. Encouraging the mass exodus of third world countries into Europe and the US, which will, unless better screening is implemented, inevitably lead to the fall of western civilization in favor of sharia law. Oh, and also authorizing contraceptives for countries affected by the Zika virus instead of abstinence?

  • Julie Machado

    Thank you Melanie, this is wonderful. We also went with an obstetrician who didn’t share our views with our firstborn. There were several ‘issues’. Now we have a pro-life doctor and things were completely different the second time around. She helped us space the pregnancies to be able to have a VBAC (which we did) by using ultrasound to confirm when I was ovulating. And after this second baby was born she said there were no medical reasons to space pregnancies after a normal, vaginally birth, that it was up to the couple. It felt incredibly liberating to hear that and all doctors had said the opposite before.

    • Melanie Jean Juneau

      Thank you for sharing your experience because this is yet another reason to try to find a pro-life doctor- a reason which never even occured to me. Both of us found liberation under the care of a caring doctor who celebrates and supports life

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  • Daniel DeLuca

    What a wonderful testament to the importance and value of a good pro-life Healthcare provider.

    My wife had some fertility challenges and when we talked to a “mainstream” OBGYN their first recommendation was to put her on birth control. As soon as we heard that we knew we needed to be somewhere else. Fortunately, living on Omaha, Nebraska we are blessed with the Pope Paul VI Institute and Dr. Thomas Hilgers. And a quick thanks to Catholic radio because without that I am not sure we would have known of the institute’s existence. Many years later we have been blessed with 3 beautiful boys and are expecting our 4th child in April: a little girl.

    I would encourage anyone who hasn’t, to read Humanae Vitae. It is one of the most amazing and prophetic encyclicals ever written. And pray for Catholic doctors to embrace the teachings and break from the culture of death that has a strong hold on modern obstetrics and gynecology. There is a better way!

    • Melanie Jean Juneau

      I am thrilled there are health clinics like the Pope Paul VI Institute in the States. It is sad, though, that you only found out about it by listening to Catholic radio because such centres should be well-known and supported in the Catholic community.