Friday, November 12, 2010

Shannon and Kip Brooks: A Remarkable Journey


Last summer, when I first met Shannon and Kip Brooks, I was touched by their willingness to allow me to follow along as they continued a pregnancy anyone would view as tragic. Their baby had been diagnosed with anencephaly – a birth defect that meant her brain didn’t develop early in pregnancy.

When we first talked, they had known this for about three months, and they were focused on trying to help another family by donating their baby’s organs or tissues. I found their story fascinating.

But when I spoke of it with friends and colleagues, reactions I got ranged from puzzlement to horror. I was often asked why parents would choose to carry a baby to term if it was going to die. People seemed to think this would just be a sad story that no one would want to read.

I could never say exactly why I saw it differently. Yes, their story is about grief and loss and a terrible physical deformity. But it’s also about trying to find something good in a bad situation, about finding beauty in pain.

This week, one of my yoga teachers read a passage at the end of class that seemed to express everything I’ve been feeling about Shannon and Kip’s desire to meet their baby Skylar.

The passage is from Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist:

"The ancients are right: The dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of it, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."

Shannon and Kip surely experienced pain and sorrow. They grieved more deeply than they ever have.

Kip expressed his emotions in poetry, a craft he loves but had put aside when life got busy.

Shannon found comfort in a beautiful song, "I Will Carry You," about another couple who chose to continue a pregnancy and meet their baby who lived for only a short time.


Shannon and Kip made the decision to pass through their "valley of the shadow."

Instead of viewing pain and grief as something they could avoid, they let their hearts break.

And they found strength and beauty on the other side.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think, if faced with the same situation, that my wife and I would also want to meet our baby for whatever short time we would have.

The thought of just removing the baby to have it then treated as "medical waste" is, well, repulsive to me.

Not to mention the fact that they would save other children with donated organs; it would help as a way for their child to "live on" in others.

I'm glad I never had to face that decision.

Anonymous said...

i know it is what it is, as far as what this couple has been told, but in fact miracles do happen, i think they are very courageous , and brave to make this type of decision, not trying to go over board with false hope, but who knows when the child is born, it is POSSIBLE that the images of tests that showed little brain function, or very little brain was wrong, indeed the child could live , yes it would be handicapped to say the least but the child could survive MUCH LONGER than what they have been told, keep the faith anyway !! Best of luck, and God Bless.

Anonymous said...

How so very brave and generous. While I can see why parents would choose either option, to think of others while in your own grief is so amazing.

Anonymous said...

A cousin of mine and her husband were faced with the same decision, due to the diagnosis of anencephaly in their unborn child. They chose the same path as this lovely couple; something they have never regreted. I believe they will find much joy, even in the midst of pain, because of this honorable action. Beautiful work, Brooks family!

Anonymous said...

They are incredibly lucky that THEY are able to make this choice, and were not told what to do by the government or an insurance company.

I wish them the best!

Anonymous said...

I've knew Shannon awhile back. I would not expect anything less of her. She is a wonderful and loving person that looks for the silver lining in everything. The world is a better place because of people like her. I've never met her husband, but birds of a feather...

Anonymous said...

I have a dear friend who was told the same thing while she carried her second child. Not only did the brain not form, she also had Down syndrome. They too chose to carry their baby to term. Today, their daughter is ten years old! She is happy, loving and smart. Her life is a true testimony to trust and faith.

Anonymous said...

Mike and Shannon are very special, blessed people. They have a beautiful son Jadon who exemplifies their love for each other and for him and for Skylar. They have been truly blessed to have been able to meet and love Skylar even though for such a short time. She has brought much love to these two wonderful people and their family and friends who dearly love them. To those who have never met them, you are missing out. They are truly God's children.

Eddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike & Brenda said...

Good Job you guys! Mike and Brenda Winner. P.S. "Skylar,
my name is Jarren..............."

Eddie said...

I’m a photographer in Northern New Mexico. Every year on Good Friday I cover an event where thousands of Catholics make a pilgrimage to a small church in Chimayo, the Santuario de Chimayo. One Thursday evening, near Santa Fe, I was looking for a “walker” and noticed a man walking along the by-pass. I stopped and took a couple of photos of him then struck up a conversation about why he was making the pilgrimage. He told me about the birth of his two children. The first died only minutes after it was born. On the second he prayed to God to please let him take his child home from the hospital. He did. The child lived at home for about one week then died. Now every year he makes the 90 mile walk from Albuquerque to Chimayo to thank God for that one week at home with his child.
You story sounds like one of amazing generosity and sacrifice but I think there can be so much value in every little moment with a child.

Anonymous said...

Why risk the life of the Mother carrying a baby that can not live? That is denying the right to exist for other babies the Mother could carry later. Modern medical science has made it possible for women to easily survive an unfortunate event like this. Ignoring the facts and carrying a malformed baby is needlessly risking the health of the Mother and driving up medical costs for whomever is paying.

Debbie Rieger said...

Unless you experience this first hand, you have no idea what it feels like to be told your baby will not live. 100% fatality. How can any human tell another human that the baby you are carrying will not live, there is no chance of survival, not even 5%??? No, 100% fatality. The birth experience and death experience do change your life. I experienced exactly what Shannon and Kip went through on September 13 of 1989. I am blessed with 4 beautiful children and still think of the little girl who only lived 14 hours. Life is a gift. Thank you for sharing your story. It so brought back so many memories that I had not allowed myself to think of.

Anonymous said...

Carrying to term a babv with a lethal diagnosis poses NO RISK to the mother AND late term abortion can impact a mother's ability to carry a healthy child to term later. Checkout www.perinatalhospice.com.

Anonymous said...

ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!!!

Anonymous said...

Our first child miss-carried. Was it a sad event? Yes. Was it traumatic? Not really. My spouse and I are educated folks and know that naturally hundreds of things can go wrong. We greatly enjoyed the children we had later.

I do still feel the trauma both of my Grandmothers felt. Both were giving birth in the rural south before hospitals were available. One lost a full term baby due to the cord being wrapped around the neck. The second lost one twin when they were delivered premature by a farm hand in a barn during a snow storm. The farm hand didn't see the second before she froze to death. The surviving twin was mentally disabled due to the terrible conditions of her birth.

We all need to recognize the luxury we live in now compared to the not so distant past.

Anonymous said...

What some people do not realize is the fact that even though Skylar lived such a short time, she brought so much joy into this family. She gave them a gift that most of us never receive, the gift of understanding and appreciation for the lives we have and the loved ones around us. All some people want to see is the tragedy and sadness, and yes of course, there was plenty of that, but the wonderment of the birth of this very special baby is beyond the grasp of anyone who was not there to experience it. Contrary to what doctors attest to, this lovely child knew her parents while she was here. She gave them a different perspective as to the world around them and the loved ones around them. They will never take for granted the love of those close to them, their love of each other and for their son, Jadon. They have a new perspective for what is important in this life. The blogger who simply wrote "abort,abort,abort" will never understand any of this. I don't know the exact thoughts of this person, but I am sure those thoughts came from a self-centeredness, a selfishness, the present way of thinking about self instead of others, the "have it my way" type of thinking. We have become so involved with satisfying our every want that we forget there is more to life than simply pleasing ourselves. This family gave more than they asked, and we should all be so lucky that we could be a small part of their journey. I hope that by reading the rest of their story, and seeing the amazing things that have happened because of Skylar, that people will have at least a small understanding of why termination was not an option.

Anonymous said...

This mother and father got to hold their child and say "goodbye." Even though it was a short time, they got to see her beauty, love her, cradle her in her final moments. They not only comforted themselves, they comforted her. Who, given the choice of holding and loving their child for a few minutes even knowing it would only be a few minutes, would opt for the alternative to never see her, never touch her, never cradle her. Ask any mother or father of a healthy child, would they have given up the opportunity to know their child? Had they known they would only spend a few moments with that child, would they have said it wasn't worth it?

Loretta & albert Tedder said...

Shannon&Kip you did the right thing because god blessed you both with beautiful little life and that is what you did you let her lived.been there done that and guess what how ever long she lived yours and mine we have a life time of memories Loretta & Albert Tedder

Anonymous said...

What happened to the mother's health? What if the fetus suffered because the parents were selfish? Why are people so terribly ignorant about utilizing medical technology to guide decision making? I will never read this horrible senseless story again or its follow up. Shame on this selfish couple to bring a dead fetus to term because of their selfishness and misguided use of our Pro-life Health Care system. Thank GOD for Roe v. Wade and how horrible to think that so many people are this pathetic including the woman who ran the story. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Thank you selfish couple and writer for making me, a tax payer, responsible for your sickening behavior.

Anonymous said...

The person posting the previous blog 11-14-10 @8:17pm, just doesn't get it. The mother's health would have been compromised more by terminating. The baby grew naturally within the womb and did not suffer. Rather she blossomed into a beautiful cherished infant. The fact that she had a birth defect did not make her less valuable in her parent's eyes. She was not trash to be discarded for the convenience of those around her. She was thriving and kicking when this couple was given the devastating news of her deformity. Ask any mother whose baby is moving inside her if she could just callously terminate her beloved child within her. Talk to mothers who have had abotions at this time in the pregnancy and see if they don't question themselves and live with a terrible regret that they didn't do everything they could for their child. What you see as selfish is just the opposite. They had a very short time to make a decision that would affect them the rest of their lives. As they so beautifully put it, "It was not their decision to end their baby's life, it was God's decision." End of discussion and debate!

Lwagner said...

In Feb. 1999 my husband and I were given the same diagnosis for our unborn child. We knew immediately that it was not our right to even choose to terminate our pregnancy. We come from the view that God IS the Author and Taker of Life and only He can make this decision. We have never regreted it! We gave our daughter the chance to live and gave God the opportunity to touch other people's lives. It changed us in more ways than words can describe. Our hearts broke as well, but joy does come.There is something about having the knowledge of the diagnosis and feeling the baby moving inside just like any normal baby would. It was often hard to simply comprehend my growing belly and the pending outcome if God chose not to interceed. My labor was induced at full term and we were grateful for the nurses and our wonderful OB that God allowed to be there. It was bittersweet, knowing we had done the right thing to bring her into the world to only say goodbye nearly 24 hours later, but with that God did give us a miracle of sorts because in her last minutes God allowed her to open her closed eyes to see us, to hear us as she turned her head to our voices, and to take her last breath. Abigail was a gift and she was loved and still is. It is NEVER a mistake to choose life even if it means having to let go. I have to say this, God bless Shannon and Kip for making the right decision!

Anonymous said...

You god people need a reality check. It is very interesting to note that you are all scientists knowing when a fetus is suffering. It is the very people like you who are totally warped, irgnorant, uneducated, and flatly brain washed. It is absolute psychosis to bring a dead fetus to term at the expense of the mother's health. END OF DEBATE. YOU ALL ARE FLATLY WRONG AND SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES FOR PREACHING SUCH STUPIDITY.

Anonymous said...

My sweet son was also given little hope of life due to a chromosomal problem, however, we chose to carry him to term because he was and is our precious son. He was stillborn on August 1, 2010. The joy he brought to our life and continues to bring to our family is something I would never give up. Yes, the sadness is overwhelming and I miss him more than words can ever explain, but knowing I gave him a chance at life and that I was able to know him and love him while he grew inside of me is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. "A person is a person no matter how small"

Anonymous said...

My husband and I had this same experience with our first daughter in 2001 (we have four living children). We cherished every minute of her 20 hours of life, we remember her with joy, and we still celebrate her birthday every November. It is interesting to note that among these posts, the pro-life voices are loving and joyful, and the pro-abortion voices are hateful and angry. What does that say about these two paths? Only one of these paths leads to peace. I will always be thankful that we chose to welcome Clare; she had a brief but beautiful life!

KipBrooks said...

We would like to thank everyone for their love, support, and kind words. Thank you all for following Skylar's journey and being a part of it.

KipBrooks said...

Even the people that don't understand or agree with our decision, somehow you actually make Skylar's victories sweeter. Thank you all.

Anonymous said...

I have been where you have been. I too have had an anencephaly baby. She was born on November 12, 1983. I am so glad that I got to meet our Christi. She brought me to a much closer walk with Jesus than I could have ever imagined. There was so much peace I felt, I can not explain it with words. Christi died on January 1, 1984. The pain lessens with time, but the memory of her with live on forever.

Anonymous said...

I think it's completely selfish of parents like these to carry such a terminally undeveloped fetus to full term, all for the sake of their experience. But, it just goes to highlight how sick our society is when we view life itself only in terms of what benefit or use it has to us, as opposed to what sort of life is lived on its own terms. It's no wonder that all the suburban mommies out there who view their children as accessories to their "lifestyle" see a triumph in a story like this.

Anonymous said...

It would be much More selfish of parents to violently rip the child from the safety of its mother's womb for the sake of convenience or the desire to "get it over with". The senseless destruction of a human life is what's Sick. Children are not accessories and nothing can compare to the love of a parent for a child. Kudoes to Shannon and Kip for choosing to allow Skylar's life to conclude on its own instead of taking that matter into their own hands. She died peacfully cradled in her mother's arms, surrounded by people who love her. Nothing selfish or sick about that!

Shirley McDaniel said...

I wish I had the oppertunity to do something like that but back in the day there wasn't any way it could be done.."GOD BLESS" THIS FAMILY, I would have done the same thing with my 2 babies that passed too soon..one 9mo's & 3mo.'s