Parents of a special-needs child, Mathew M Illickan recalls the ordeal from a medical fraternity bent on aborting baby Joseph – the special gift from God.

I was a member of the Jesus Youth fraternity, Delhi, from 1996 onwards. I am a software professional. My wife, Shiji, worked as a computer science teacher prior to working in our software firm.

God blessed us with three kids, Abraham in 2001, Rose in 2002 and Abel in 2004. During that time, we used to pray a lot, attended retreats, had prayer sessions and did our best to lead a Jesus-centric life. We used to participate in the Holy Mass every day, spent time before the Blessed Sacrament, attended counselling sessions by our spiritual fathers. The Lord allowed us to cooperate with a lot of evangelical initiatives in Delhi through the movement.

He was preparing us to receive his Special Gift … JOSEPH.

In March 2009 we came to know that God was blessing us with a fourth baby. We were so happy to receive him.

Like a bolt from the blue, the ultrasound diagnosis turned out to be a very negative report which caused a lot of pain, turmoil, helplessness and anxiety in the family. The baby was diagnosed with severe damage in the right lobe of the brain. The right lobe was diagnosed as empty. The radiologist advised terminating the pregnancy as he was sure of the complications. But we were convinced about the word of God in Psalm 127:3, Children are a heritage from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is his reward.

The Bible also says in Jeremiah 1:5, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart.

Psalm 139:13-15 says, You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am wonderfully made; awesome are your works, as I know very well. My body was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, you saw me in the womb.

We believe that no one has right to take away the life of a baby growing in a mother’s womb. The Lord is the giver of life. We went to meet Fr. Mathew Elavumkal VC, who was the director of the Divine Retreat Centre, Faridabad1 at that time. As a family we used to attend retreats there. Fr. Mathew told us, ‘The Lord who has blessed you with three intelligent and smart kids, is giving you a baby with special needs. He wants you to accept the baby with a grateful heart. Our Lord can do miracles.’ We continued to pray while preparing ourselves to obey his will.

Our gynecologist, Dr. Shanti Jayaseelan of the Holy Family Hospital, Delhi was a real support to us. Even after seeing the complicated ultrasound report, she did not advise us to go for an abortion. One day when we went for a regular checkup, she had with her a report from a journal which said that 80% of the antenatal ultrasounds, which had complications or congenital anomalies were proved wrong at birth, but most of the parents went for abortion, seeing the report. She gave us courage and offered her prayerful support too.

On November 9, 2009, our fourth baby was born – Joseph.

Even though we were parents to three children, we did not realise that he was unable to hold his head upright even at six months. He used to cry a lot. Finally, we decided to consult a neurologist, Dr. Sabbharwal, of the Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi. The MRI report and the EEGs showed that the right lobe of the brain was indeed missing.

We started with the treatments. We tried Ayurvedic massages, Homeo medicines and all that he could bear. We attended several retreats and continued to pray that God would heal him.

Almost all doctors were of the opinion that we should not have allowed him to be born (suffering, unimaginable pain in distress, etc.), that we should have terminated the life immediately on identification of the fetus anomaly. A few doctors went on to suggest a natural death by not taking care of his illnesses. They advised us to take care of his healthy siblings rather than waste our precious time and energy to look after a disabled child, a ‘non-rewarding act’.

But we were simply against all advice contrary to life. We were convinced to support in whatever way we could, so that a life God entrusted to our family would not be abandoned or ignored. Instead, we took pleasure in providing the support of love, care and fullness of life. My wife convinced the doctor that if our babies, born healthy, later on had a fall, a serious injury, or an incurable disease, wouldn’t we treat them and ensure all medical assistance. In the same way, a child conceived in a mother’s womb, no matter what disability, has every right to be born.

On many occasions the Lord used us as witnesses for life, to tell others how we had decided to accept and receive Joseph from the Almighty. He is now 12-years-old. He continues to be our baby, the same 6-month-old baby for the past twelve years. He is the darling little brother of his siblings. He is always a happy child. He cries only out of pain. We have received grace from the Almighty to take care of him with great patience and love. Our sleep may be disturbed, we have to be careful when he gets seizures. If the seizures go unnoticed, he has to be hospitalised. Even in deep sleep, we are able to recognise any such disturbance. Our personal and social interests and preferences may take a back foot, but we are happy to accept and proclaim the will of God in our family.

His siblings are always there to pamper him. They find time to come and lie down with him. He loves to be pampered by them. He looks at each one of them with his loving bright eyes. They are ready to take care of him, feed him. He can recognise our voices. He can see us. We are grateful to the Lord for this and that he can understand our loving care. He is the strong bond that binds all of us together as a family.

We have been told that when the Lord had a baby with special needs in his hands, he searched for a family who could take care of him. God has given him to our family. We are proud to be the parents chosen by the Lord. Whenever we pray for Joseph, we remember all families blessed with children of special needs.

1 Faridabad is a city in North India.

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