Twenty weeks into their pregnancy, Jill and Zac Moon waited excitedly to learn their baby’s sex. Comfortably established in their careers – Jill a math teacher at Flint Powers High School and Zac a scientist for a medical laboratory – they were delighted to be starting their family. With grandparents-to-be, co-workers and much of the Powers Catholic family waiting for their news, Jill and Zac peered attentively at the ultrasound images before them.
Zac remembers, “When she got to the head, the nurse had Jill move around so she could get images from other angles. After saving a bunch of pictures she told us there was fluid on the baby’s brain. Our hearts sank. “After the ultrasound, we waited nervously to speak with our doctor. I held Jill’s hand and said a quick prayer asking for this to be a minor thing. You know it’s not good when the first words out of the doctor’s mouth are ‘I’ve got bad news.’ “I tried to be optimistic, but he shook his head and wrote down holoprosencephaly. ‘You have a lot on your plate and it’s not necessary to go over it all today. But if you choose, you can look this up. The next step is to schedule an appointment with a perinatologist to go over your situation and options. They will probably get you in quick.’ “I really appreciated our doctor’s honesty, his professionalism and that he understood we probably couldn’t handle much more. Before we left his office, Jill told him he had a really tough job. He replied, ‘I have a lot of really good days. I’m very sorry that today is not one of them.’ Jill and I could not contain our tears as we walked out.”
Jill recalls, “Right from the start I knew what I wanted to do. We learned that the baby had a genetic condition called Trisomy 13 where there is an extra chromosome. In our case, it had prevented our baby’s brain from dividing into two lobes as normal brains do. The doctors kept being very clear the diagnosis was no mistake. This wasn’t going to have a happy ending where we would have a healthy baby.
“They gave us options but never pressured us on a solution. The neonatologist and other doctors [at Hurley Medical Center] wanted us to have all the facts. They talked with us about faith, but I think they had the impression we didn’t understand the severity. They were also aware of our timeline – at 24 weeks abortion becomes illegal in Michigan.” Zac continues, “Right from the start Jill was like: ‘This is what we’re gonna do.’ But I was more: ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ I had two people to think about – my child and my wife. There are so many ‘what-ifs,’ and it’s a slippery slope when you let your brain travel down those paths. What if technology was God’s way of offering us a way out? What if our baby had to be hooked up to machines forever? What if the baby died before it was born, and Jill had complications? I didn’t want anyone to suffer. “Jill suggested we talk with Father Dan Kogut, who was chaplain at Powers Catholic. He listened and then he said ‘In my experience, we’re not always very good at judging other people’s suffering. And in all the scriptures I’ve read, God’s plan is to continue on.’ “After we met with him, I could finally agree with Jill that we were going to ride this pregnancy out. We would love our baby, Hope, for as long as God gave us with her. “Father Dan came to our home and gave Jill, me and Hope the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Later we went to Mass at Holy Family [Grand Blanc] our home parish, and I felt like the service was meant for us. The Gospel reading was Luke 11:1-13 where Jesus says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ Father Gary Koenigsknecht ended his sermon saying, ‘I challenge you to try to annoy God with me by asking that we trust his plans and remain confident that he will provide what we need. Maybe we can all knock together and be so annoying we break God’s door.’
“When school started in the fall, I was obviously pregnant,” Jill recalls. “My students and colleagues were excited, so I told them about Hope’s condition and what we could expect. They prayed with us and supported us throughout.
“A little over a month later, Hope came into the world. She was born at 32 weeks and lived for about 40 minutes. We had priests on call, who came to baptize, confirm and give her the Last Rites. We were also joined by Molly Noe, a photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit that helps families document the birth of babies who die at or shortly after birth. Molly captured so many precious moments and memories of our time with Hope. “The day of Hope’s funeral, Powers Catholic closed its doors so students and staff could attend. My students and their friends formed a receiving line, so we were able to talk to each one. People say ‘The Powers Family.’ Boy I really felt it going through this! “We wrote Hope a letter that kind of sums up the good we experienced through her. We read it at her funeral.
THE GREATEST OF THESE
Looking back on her journey with Hope, Jill says, “I’m very grateful for how things happened. I think we got to be good examples for my students. They got to see how good can come from difficult things – not bad, but difficult.
“People tell me my faith inspires them. I still have a lot of work to do, but God knows so much more than we know! When I trust that God has our best interest at heart, it makes it easier to accept. “Hope has been the reason our faith has strengthened. We talk to her in prayer like she’s our little angel, asking her to look out for us and to watch over her little sister.” A few months after Hope’s birth, Jill became pregnant again. “When I told my students I was pregnant again, they stood and cheered.” “I was always praying the development would be okay,” Zac confides. “Even after the genetic testing came back normal, I was nervous. When we had her first ultrasound I was anxious about everything. There was a spot Jill and I could both see. A big black hole in the middle of the screen. I steeled myself, and just then the nurse said, ‘And here’s her stomach.’ I think Jill and I both exhaled for the first time!” Jill says, “My pregnancy continued and on Nov. 19, 2017 we welcomed Haidynn into the world. Her delivery was hard, but she was a perfect 8 pounds 3 ounces. And she’s growing and developing exactly as she should.” Zac smiles as he cradles Haidynn in his arms. “We’ve heard people complain about parenting duties, and we think ‘No. We get to change a diaper in the middle of the night!’ I know Hope made me a better Dad and a better husband. And if our story can help others and bring even more people closer to God, I think Hope likes that too.”
Your life on earth was short but the impact you have on us will continue forever. In these past 7 months, you have truly been an inspiration to us. You have given us the ability to be more compassionate to others so that we are able to relate better to those going through difficult times and provide support. You have brought us closer to our families and friends by allowing us to show the love we have for one another. You have strengthened your mom and dad's marriage by letting us know we can be each other's rock. You have taught us to appreciate what we have and not dwell on what we don't. The short time we had with you were the best 40 minutes of our lives. We finally got to feel the love a parent has for their child the moment we laid eyes on you. Most importantly, you have been our little light guiding us to God.
Hope, you have touched the lives of many people and words cannot describe how much we love you. We promise that we are going to continue working on our relationship with God so that we can always have the hope to see you again someday in heaven.
Love, Mom and Dad
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