PROVIDENCE — Baby Angela smiles as a visitor tickles her feet. She wiggles and coos, moving her head from side to side.
“She’s doing great,” Angela’s mother, Sonia Morales, told a Rhode Island Catholic reporter last week. “She’s almost 14 pounds, and she’s growing well.”
In May, Angela underwent a three-hour surgery to close an opening at the top of her head, as she has anencephaly, a neural tube defect in which portions of the brain, skull and scalp do not form in whole or in part during embryonic development.
She was also born with an encephalocele, another neural tube defect characterized by sac-like protrusions of the brain and membranes that cover it through openings in the skull. During the surgery, doctors removed the encephalocele, and closed the opening.
Morales, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Providence, said doctors predicted Angela would likely be stillborn or die within a few hours or days following her birth. But on September 23, Angela will turn six months old.
“Everything she’s doing they said she wouldn’t be able to do,” said Morales, as her husband, Rony, holds Angela, and their older daughter, Elizabeth, 5, looks on. “She smiles when we talk to her, and she’s responding to our voices and our love. She’s starting to crawl, and she can scoot three feet. She cries when she’s hungry, and lets us know what she doesn’t like. She loves to be touched, and she loves kisses. We were prepared for the worst, but God had other plans.”
While she was pregnant with Angela, Morales started a Facebook account not only to raise awareness about anencephaly, but to also defend human life. The account has more than 3,100 “likes,” with Morales adding that it has generated at least 50,000 views.
Morales often receives messages of support, noting that many women who have poor-prenatal diagnoses tell her that baby Angela gives them hope. One woman, said Morales, refused to tell anyone that her fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, as she was ashamed and afraid.
“But by seeing Angela, she told her family that her baby has this condition and she started raising awareness,” Morales said. “She was hiding, but now she’s talking about her baby.”
Yet, not every Facebook user praises Morales. She said she recently received a message from someone who accused her of being a religious fanatic, claiming that aborting a fetus with a birth defect is “merciful.”
“Their defense was that the child won’t have a full life,” said Morales. “But what guarantee do you have? Some people have everything in life and they are miserable. Angela is not suffering. She’s full of love, and where there is love, there is life. I responded back that I had the baby because of pure love. Mercy is loving someone with their imperfections. No one is perfect. We just need to love them despite their imperfections, and give them the best life possible.”
To further defend life, Morales will take part in the tenth annual Human Life Guild Day on September 27 at St. Philip Church in Greenville. The event, which begins with a 9 a.m. Mass featuring Bishop Thomas J. Tobin as Main Celebrant and Homilist, includes presentations, workshops, lunch and more.
Carol Owens, the diocesan Life and Family Office coordinator, invited Morales to speak at the event, as Morales and her family trusted God despite a poor-prenatal diagnosis.
“We need to deliver a message to parents who receive a poor-prenatal diagnosis that there is help, there are resources, and there is a caring and compassionate team waiting to guide them through their crisis pregnancy,” said Owens. “Angela defied all odds because God always has the final word.”
Morales feels the same. She’s nervous about addressing a crowd, but wants to help raise more pro-life awareness.
“I want to share our story so we can try to save other babies,” she said. “Maybe by hearing Angela’s story, they will choose life instead of abortion. Life is sacred, from inception to natural death.”
But before Human Life Guild Day, the Morales family will celebrate Angela’s six month birthday. They plan to bake her a cake, and spend time with loved ones.
“Because of Angela, we are more thankful to God,” Morales said. “We don’t have any regrets. We are not living in fear; we are just living by faith. Always trust in God because miracles can happen.”
The deadline to register for Human Life Guild Day is September 21. For more information about the event or efforts of the Church to protect life, contact Owens at 421-7833, extension 218.