Maggie French Speaks

OUR STORY

After over a year of riding the waves of hope and disappointment, we finally become pregnant in the fall of 2022. The beginning of my pregnancy was normal and uneventful. We spent time talking as a blended family and began dreaming of what it would be like to have a child who would bring our unique family full circle. In an already small, tight house we began to prep and problem solve … and panic just a little at the thought of squeezing another human in!

At our routine 19 week anatomy scan, the week before Christmas, we discovered multiple anatomical abnormalities, mostly brain and brain stem related, as well as some issues with other organs and system, that standing alone, likely wouldn’t be fatal. The doctors felt confident that most of what we were seeing closely aligned with trisomy, a chromosomal abnormality, but there were other characteristics that they just couldn’t shake, and that led us to believe the diagnosis could be something different. Because of one major neurological abnormality (a rare encephalocele) and the absence of crucial brain structures, we were given a life limiting diagnosis and we were told to expect little to no time before we lost the pregnancy.

We decided to fight and put one foot in front of the other. That appointment eventually led us to a full day spent at Children’s National Hospital in DC, having different scans done and reviewing our case with neurologists, cardiologists, NICU, and the palliative care team. We had conversations that allowed us to more fully understand the defects we were seeing, as well as why our baby had such a poor prognosis. We also chose to have some genetic testing done, which came back inconclusive for trisomy, both confirming what we suspected (that this wasn’t Down’s or another trisomy condition) and also throwing us for a major loop, because they also could not confirm the gender of our baby.

As the team in DC walked us through learning and preparing and decision making, I also connected with the local hospital where we live in Maryland, and they began to form a team of providers who helped us walk through what giving birth and after birth care would look like here. We had conversations that led us through options for hospice, comfort care, and pain management for our baby. We had countless conversations with our midwives and maternal fetal doctors, and came up with the safest game plan we could for birth.

In the meantime, we were reminded constantly that any morning could be the last we heard a heartbeat. Our baby was fully expected to pass long before the third trimester, but she fought! After over 4 months of planning and praying and hoping, our Margaret “Maggie” Hope was born on May 11, 2023 — her due date!

Her earthly body gently gave in during the last hour of labor, and so when we received her, she was already with Jesus. Peace permeated the space and I’ll never forget the silence, the collective breath that was released when we finally saw her for the first time. Cole and I were so proud of her yet devastated that we were so close to possibly hearing a cry or seeing the flutter of her eyes.

She was absolutely beautiful, with the softest skin and most dainty nose and lips. All of her fingers, all of her toes. The tiny round belly, the most impossibly small hands and feet. We loved her long before that moment, but we fell so deeply in love then. Oh, the joy we feel at being her earthly parents – that God would entrust us with her precious life!

The time since has been heavy. We later received the results of cord blood testing and found out that in addition to her encephalocele, Maggie also had two rare chromosomal abnormalities — DiGeorge syndrome and ring 13 syndrome.

Those answers do not bring us any closer to any earthly understanding. We don’t know the cause and the outcome breaks our hearts, but we have chosen to believe that Maggie was formed in the full image of God, and we rejoice that she will be the one to teach us how to worship once we join her and meet our Creator!

PAYING IT FORWARD

Grief is so much work. Experiencing a life limiting diagnosis is like buckling down for a battle with no clear plans and no known end.

Through Abel Speaks, we have been able to connect with a community of parents who know intimately what is like to fight for the life of their son or daughter and to carry the heavy burden of hope and loss. Being supported by this ministry has invited softness and joy into our experience.

Abel Speaks’ commitment to us as a grieving family has helped us keep her name close and alive, it’s offered us mentorship and advocacy, and opportunities to connect with the grieving parent community. All we have to do is be open and receptive – there are no expectations, and after what we’ve been through, simply being seen and valued is so healing and such a relief.

Friends and family who partner with us to support Abel Speaks continue that gift. It honors what we’ve been through, it honors Maggie, and it ensures that no other family grieves without their arms linked with others who have walked and are walking the same road.

By faith, Maggie still speaks!

-Jess & Cole French

SUPPORT ABEL SPEAKS IN HONOR OF MAGGIE

Your generous giving allows Abel Speaks to support families like ours. Thank you for your partnership as we seek to ensure that every family will cherish their child’s life and have hope in the midst of sorrow!

Abel Speaks is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

2001 W Plano Pkwy, Suite 3405

Plano, TX 75075

(972) 688-6405