This week, the New York Times published two articles on a beautiful and awe-inspiring story of a surgery performed on an unborn baby still inside of his mother’s uterus. Such a story is a sweet reminder of the mystery and miracle of life in a culture numbed by abortion.
Denise Grady, the writer of both articles, opens the October 23rd article with the following description: “The patient, still inside his mother’s womb, came into focus on flat screens in a darkened operating room. Fingers, toes, the soles of his feet — all exquisite, all perfectly formed.” Likely unknowingly, Grady echoes the psalmist in these sentences. Psalm 139:13b-14areads, “[Y]ou knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The surgery was to help repair a spinal defect on the unborn baby called spinal bifida. Although the defect itself is not fatal, surgery done on children with spinal bifida often leads to an inability to walk as well as other issues. The new practice of prenatal surgery, however, has been shown to ameliorate these negative effects. So that’s the path that Lexi and Joshuwa Royer chose when their unborn son was diagnosed with spinal bifida.
At 24 weeks and two days, the doctors performed the three-hour-long surgery. Grady describes it to some detail in her first article: “Dr. Belfort opened Mrs. Royer’s lower abdomen, but not her uterus. Instead, he eased the uterus out of her body and inserted the fetoscope, and then, through another slit, surgical tools.”
In the October 24th article, Grady again describes her view of the surgery, writing, “Mrs. Royer’s son came into view. He seemed to be kneeling inside her womb; we could see his bottom and the soles of his feet, impossibly small.”
Only weeks before, doctors had suggested and, according to Mrs. Royer, even pushed the parents to abort this tiny human, citing his likelihood of a decreased quality of life.
Yet Mrs. Royer and her husband chose to take this courageous step, allowing surgeons to perform a fetal surgery—one of the “few operations with a 200 percent risk of mortality,” as one doctor put it. In doing so, Mrs. Royer put her life at risk for her child, beautifully affirming that baby’s personhood while also demonstrating sacrificial love.
Meanwhile, the surgeons prepared extensively for the difficult task, holding the life of both mother and child in great care. They did so because both the mother and her boy are fearfully and wonderfully made, amazing works of God, worth even an insanely difficult surgery.