From the SFLA Blog

Heartbeat of Resilience: Baby Indiana’s Journey with Trisomy 18 and the Unwavering Support of Her NICU Mom-Nurse 

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Jordan Estabrook - 09 Feb 2024

Registered NICU nurse Kathryn Kerr is accustomed to caring for the most vulnerable. When her daughter was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and recommended for abortion, Kathryn embarked on the most difficult, joy-filled, and grievous journey of advocacy for her daughter, Indiana. She continues her advocacy for others as a care coordinator for Verity’s Village

Kathryn already had three beautiful teenagers when she remarried five years ago, so she never expected to have more children. When she found out she was pregnant, she and her husband were delighted, but not without Kathryn’s fear that something could be wrong. With her other children, she never had prenatal screening for genetic markers.  

Armed with her medical knowledge and doctor’s encouragement, she decided to check.  

Her fears were soon realized. At 12 weeks pregnant, she discovered her baby had Trisomy 18. Even more disheartening was the push to kill her child.  

“They were pushing for abortion at every appointment,” explained Kathryn. “If I didn’t have my education, I might have thought it was my only hope.”   

Many women are given this hopeless message regarding adverse conditions, such as Down syndrome or Trisomy 13 and 18. Kathryn was one of them, having been told numerous times Indiana was incompatible with life and void of value. Kathryn has always believed in the value of life, not merely in words but in her work as a NICU nurse. She could fight for her daughter’s life this time, and her husband felt the same.  

“I first traveled to Syracuse, New York, where a big medical center exists. I knew they would treat my pregnancy dismissively and suggest abortion,” said Kathryn. “I did so much research and found a children’s hospital in Philadelphia that would support my birth plan and preferences for delivery.”  

Kathryn made a trip from Binghamton, New York to Philadelphia every other week, with the off weeks at the hospital in Syracuse. While the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital was supportive, her home doctor gave her a chilling warning.  

“I will monitor you, but I won’t monitor you baby.” The doctor told Kathryn.  

Kathryn recalls, “He told me all he’d do for my baby was let her die. I was sad, angry, and frustrated. This is my child, and as a mother, I already love her. To hear such disregard for her life was so shocking.”  

Kathryn was not derailed from her plan in the slightest. She continued to make the back-and-forth trips, and at 29 weeks pregnant, she went to stay at the Ronald McDonald House to prepare for birth in Philadelphia. It was through her research that she also found Verity’s Village on Facebook and was connected with Beverly Jacobson. At the time, there were only a few people in the group.  

“It was great to have other women going through the same thing,” said Kathryn. “And women who went before me supported me. You’re filled with so many negatives that the support is priceless.” 

On March 4, 2021, at 36 weeks and four days, Kathryn gave birth to Indiana through a c-section. Her mother shared the moment with her, and her husband arrived from New York a few hours later.   

For six weeks of her life, she stayed in the NICU with feeding tubes until she made it from over three pounds to five and a half pounds. Her weight gain was a massive milestone for getting heart surgery. Once she had surgery, they could go home together as a family. There was no fear, just joy. 

“We were so hopeful,” said Kathryn. “She had a personality and we saw it develop. She loved to listen and watch people in the room. She loved to smile like any other baby.  

Before Indiana’s surgery, Kathryn was cradling her when she noticed something wrong.  

“I could tell by looking at her that something happened. The nurse came in and pushed the code button. There were lights, sirens, so many people in that room.” Kathryn continued. “We stepped away to let them work. I don’t remember much of the time from it happening, but they came back in to get us; they told us Indiana couldn’t fight anymore, and it was time to say goodbye.”  

Indiana passed peacefully in the safety of her mother’s arms. Though a heartbreaking end to a beautiful life, Indiana was wholly loved and cherished by her family. Kathryn explained:  

“I would’ve done the same thing for thirty seconds with her. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine joy and grief together. As much as my child is gone forever, we’re so proud of the time we spent with her. She brought joy by allowing my husband to be a father. I think no matter what, our family loved her.”  

Looking back, Kathryn wouldn’t change hardships because of the precious moments she had with Indiana, and she was so glad she never chose abortion. 

“It’s going to be hard, but every second is worth it. Pain is worth it because we have memories,” said Kathryn. “When I think back on her life and the weeks that we had, there are no negatives that ever come into my mind. I would do it a thousand times.”  

Indiana’s memory lives on with Kathryn’s newfound purpose. As a care coordinator for Verity’s Village, she counsels and supports moms with prenatal care and resources when so many doctors tell them their baby’s life has no value. They partner together to create birth plans, comfort care, and more.   

The pro-abortion media will tell a different story that abortion is the necessary and best option for a Trisomy 18 condition. President Biden plans to push the abortion narrative through Kate Cox, a woman who unsuccessfully sued Texas for not allowing her to abort her child with Trisomy 18. Stories like this assume that this is what every woman needs and should want when dealing with preborn adverse conditions. Kathryn has found that every woman she’s helped has experienced a joy that no abortion can bring.  

“In my experience counseling and supporting moms who have had a stillbirth, or their child was born and didn’t live, all they have is joy,” said Kathryn. “They got to see their features and hold physical being.” 

While both abortion and the birth of a Trisomy-18 child bring grief, only one brings joy. In Kathryn’s situation, she was blessed in Indiana for that short time.  

Indiana’s heart may have stopped beating, but her heartbeat continues through the sacrifice that Kathryn has and will continue to make in hopes that others might follow suit.  

READ NEXT: Perinatal Hospice: Babies with Life-Limiting Conditions & Their Families Deserve Love, Not Abortion 

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