By Melanie Lyon
If God offered you a gift but you could only keep it for a little while, would you take it?
For Mike and Jess Witous, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
When they conceived their second child last year, Mike and Jess knew there was a chance they would only have their baby for a little while.
The couple has a form of dwarfism known as achondroplasia. Their children have a 25% chance of having a terminal form of that condition, where typically babies live for hours to a couple of days.
They opted to not undergo genetic testing. The results didn’t matter. They were going to give their baby a shot no matter what.
Their little girl was born with the fatal condition, known as Double Dominance dwarfism. They named her Margot (a form of Margaret) which means “pearl” or “rare.” They only learned later that St. Margaret of Costello is not only the patron saint of the pro-life movement and those with disabilities, but she also had a form of dwarfism.
Margot miraculously lived for two and a half months. Her life may save many more lives in the future because doctors were able to study her. Because termination of such children is so frequent, there is very little research available.
The team at St. Joseph Health System gave Margot unparalleled care. They never pressured the couple to terminate and they fought hard for Margot’s health.
Msgr. William Schooler of St. Pius was able to baptize and confirm the little girl in the neonatal intensive care unit despite the pandemic.
Mike and Jess brought Margot home from the hospital for the last three weeks of her life.
“Margot taught us a lot,” Jess said. “She was a fighter. She taught us that we are not in control, and to appreciate the little things.”
They hope Margot’s story encourages other couples facing difficult prenatal diagnoses to choose life.
“I can’t imagine not getting to hold Margot,” Jess said. “Or kiss her. Or tell her I loved her.” The couple agrees choosing life made it easier for them both to heal. It gave them closure.
“Why make life and death decisions for your children when you can choose life?” Mike said.
“She was a gift,” Jess summarized. “It was gift to have her. We’re so grateful our world had the precious gift of Margot for even a little while.”
There is life-affirming support available in the local community for anyone who has received a similar prenatal diagnosis. Reach out to Lisa Everett at [email protected], or for more information on Miriam’s Blessing ministry, visit diocesefwsb.org/miriams-blessing/.
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