NOTE: This is a guest post from Mackenzie Young, offering a quick glimpse into what softened her heart and changed her perspective on life in the womb.

The journey that shaped my view on the sanctity of every life is hard to truly describe.

To quote Jane Austen, “I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.” If I had to pinpoint one reason, one person, that moved the needle permanently for me, it would be Abel Paul Crawford. And yet, it may surprise you to know that I never actually met Abel in person—I knew of his story while he lived, but before he was born.

Daniel and Kelly Crawford hosted a Bible study at SMU, my alma mater in Dallas. My friends invited me to attend the study when I was a freshman drowning in chemistry midterms. The music was soulful, the message was timely, but what really stuck with me was Daniel’s reminder to set our alarms for 1:29 pm to “pray for Abel.”

I left the study asking my friends what he had meant and learned that the Crawford’s unborn son had a genetic condition called Trisomy 18. The doctors had counseled Daniel and Kelly to terminate the pregnancy. Instead, they had rallied people to pray from them and for Abel each day at 1:29 pm, symbolizing his projected due date of January 29th.

My friends dropped me off at my dorm, and I suddenly found myself researching Trisomy 18. Terms like “life-limiting” swam in front of my eyes. Many babies with Trisomy 18 do not make it full-term. Many do not live more than hours after their birth. My blood pressure was in the 200s simply googling, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “How were they still experiencing joy in the midst of this diagnosis?” My world was rocked.

For so long, the sanctity of life debate had seemed, ironically, too inhuman to stir my heart.

I knew all the statistics, the rhetoric, the pertinent philosophy. This was different. I was watching two people–young, first-time parents–navigate a devastating diagnosis for a third person, their unborn child.

Daniel and Kelly spoke candidly about Abel’s diagnosis. More importantly, they spoke Abel’s name. They treated his presence in their lives as valuable and important, viewing and treating Abel’s life as a gift. This approach was unprecedented to me. So, I did what any Millennial would do. I followed Daniel and Kelly on Instagram and watched Abel’s life unfold…

I watched Abel be born a week shy of his due date, on “National Sanctity of Life Day”, alive and adorable.

I watched him breath his first breath and cry his first cry.

I watched Daniel and Kelly walk through the earliest hours of caring for a newborn.

I watched as Kelly and Daniel announced that Abel had passed into the next life fifteen days after his birthday.

I watched Daniel and Kelly begin the long and lonely journey that grief can be – compounded by the reality that they were first-time parents mourning the loss of their first child.

I watched them celebrate answered prayers, a joyous birthday, and a heart-wrenching loss all within one month’s time.

Their honesty and vulnerability changed me. I cried in my car the day I saw the news of Abel’s death on Instagram. This small boy’s life was changing the landscape of my heart. See, Abel’s life showed how desperately human this entire discussion must be. To this day, when I am asked why I believe what I do about the sanctity of life, my immediate response is Abel’s name.

I am forever grateful to Daniel and Kelly for giving Abel a voice. Their faithful stewardship of his life inspired me to empathize and to stand with those who find themselves facing unprecedented and scary circumstances, especially these tender pregnancies.

To anyone reading this who has just received a diagnosis like Abel’s for a child in the womb…

I want to first say: I am so sorry. I cannot imagine all that is going through your mind. You are likely wrestling with many different things: the loss of getting to live lifetime milestones with your child, the unsolicited advice of family and friends, the potentially unhelpful medical advice from medical professionals, and more. This is probably unexpected news, and it is heartbreaking. Again, I am so sorry.

However, I want to also say this: never underestimate the impact your child’s life can have; not only in your own lives, but in the lives of those around you. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to open up in this way, but I do hope you will share your story and share your baby’s story. Because I am living proof that your child just might change hearts, change perspectives, and change lives.

Daniel and Kelly rallied together a (literal) global network of support that truly astounded me. Thankfully, they have shared this wealth by founding Abel Speaks, which is now here to help other families in their situation. I pray that you will find people that will walk with you in this.

Know that I am praying for you, for your family, and for your child. You are strong. We believe in you and may God bless you as you carry this cross.

-Mackenzie Young