Local couple remembers son's short life
March for Life honours Caleb James
Whenever Crystal and Adam Charbonneau see a blue butterfly, they are reminded of their son Caleb James, who lived for only a couple of hours after he was born.
While Caleb was still in the womb, the young couple learned their son had a condition known as anencephaly, which is the absence of a large part of the brain and skull. The couple decided to continue on with the pregnancy, despite knowing their baby would not live long once he was born.
On the way home from the hospital, after Caleb was born and passed away naturally, Adam and Crystal began noticing blue butterflies everywhere. From a butterfly on the side of the road, to a vase and card adorned with blue butterflies, and a large piece of artwork that was given to the couple as a gift showing Jesus and a young boy touching a blue butterfly, Crystal and Adam knew their son was nearby.
On May 12, 2011, Caleb came into the world and lived for a short time in his parents’ arms. While the couple is now anxiously awaiting the arrival of their second baby, who is due in July, they continue to remember Caleb’s life.
When Crystal and Adam received a positive pregnancy test in October of 2010, they were very excited to be starting a family. But a routine ultrasound a few months later revealed their unborn child had anencephaly.
Whenever this diagnosis is given, it means there is no chance of life beyond a short period of time, says Adam. The condition is random, and “you don’t really know why” it happens, he adds.
Though shaken by the news, Adam and Crystal rooted themselves in their faith and belief in God, and leaned on family and friends for support. The couple believes that their Christian faith helped shape their decision. “That was the key,” says Crystal. “We just knew that God had a plan for Caleb’s life.”
After being told of their son’s diagnosis, it didn’t take long for Crystal and Adam to decide against terminating the pregnancy, although it was the first option offered to them by health care professionals. The couple understands that terminating a pregnancy under these conditions is the norm, but didn’t feel it was the right choice for them.
Crystal and Adam knew early on they had made the right choice in allowing the pregnancy to continue. Crystal remembers how she and her husband both slept very peacefully the day they received the news and she believes that leaning on God during that time gave them that peace.
As a nurse, Crystal knew to ask questions and in the end, she found she would not face any more risks than in an otherwise healthy pregnancy. That made the couple’s decision to choose to have the baby easier. She encouraged people who are faced with a similar decision to ask doctors questions in order to make an informed decision.
Once the couple told health care professionals of their decision, a wave of support came toward them.
“We had phenomenal care,” says Crystal, adding, a team of health care professionals was on hand to help the couple through the rest of the pregnancy. The Charbonneaus also had a strong church family in St. Paul that supported them throughout.
“The whole labour experience was phenomenal,” says Crystal of giving birth to Caleb. “He opened his eyes and looked at us,” which is something doctors didn’t anticipate.
“The joy of hearing that first cry, seeing him open his eyes and look at us, holding him, and showing him as much love as we possibly could in those two hours of his life was so worth it,” Crystal was quoted as saying in the Western Catholic Reporter, which covered this year’s March for Life.
Last year, Caleb was born on the day of the March for Life, which is an event organized by “an independent pro-life group whose mission is to promulgate the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and the dignity of disabled people,” according to its website.
Crystal contacted the organization to see if she could list it as an organization to which people could donate, in honour of Caleb. Organizers were inspired by the Charbonneaus’ story and the fact that Caleb was born on the day of the walk in 2011.
This year, the Edmonton walk was done in commemoration of Caleb. Adam and Crystal attended the walk on May 17, where they shared their story.
She acknowledged that although she and her husband were praying for a miracle, and that their son would be born healthy, they were thankful for all the little things that happened in the time he was alive.
“I would do it all over again,” she said.
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