15. März 2023 in English
Nicole LeBlanc, faithful Catholic: “Even though they have a life limiting diagnosis, they should not be killed by the hands of their parents”– KATH.NET interview by Petra Lorleberg
Michigan (kath.net/pl) “This is the most difficult situation I have ever encountered in my life”, says Nicole LeBlanc, faithful Catholic living in Detroit (Michigan/USA). She is 23 years old, Hispanoamerican born in the USA and pregnant with conjoined twins. Nicole speaks to KATH.NET on her experiences, why the girls Maria Therese and Rachel Clare are precious to her and her husband Austin LeBlanc and why she hopes the girls will live long enough to be baptized.
kath.net: Nicole, when you lay your hands on your baby bump, what do you feel, what do you think?
Nicole LeBlanc: At 23 weeks pregnant currently, I feel movement from my lower abdomen to above my belly button. Since 17 weeks I have felt daily Braxton Hicks as well. But when I lay down, the movements I feel are the 4 arms and 4 legs and 2 heads of my babies. They measure about 11 inches long and combined they’re about 2 pounds. When my babies had an echocardiogram in utero, I felt a consistent jumping movement and the technician was able to confirm with me that one of my babies had hiccups.
My babies are also breech, meaning they are position feet first. I have 4 feet on my cervix and my bladder is underneath the cervix. When they jump, they cause me to use the restroom because they can jump with a lot of force. But it is such a beautiful gift to feel babies growing stronger in my womb and is a privilege for women to experience when they’re pregnant.
kath.net: I read in Psalm 139: Lord, “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” Do you believe that your two girls are “wonderfully made” by God? Are they full, precious persons to God?
Nicole LeBlanc: God does not make mistakes and God is all loving, all powerful and all knowing. God created humans in His Image and likeness and he also created nature itself. I believe that God allows occurrences in nature that may be harsh but it is not because He is Evil, but that God allowed my babies to be formed like this to bring about a greater good. They are wonderfully made and now with modern technology, I can bond with my babies even more because I can see their little faces and with such detail! So like I started, God does not make mistakes and they are fully capable of Gods love and His Mercy.
Even though they have a life limiting diagnosis, they should not be killed by the hands of their parents.
kath.net: You and your husband gave names to your twins.
Nicole LeBlanc: At first we didn’t want to know if it was a boy or girl and wanted to be surprised at birth. But then we learned that they were conjoined and that the chance of miscarriage was highly probable. My husband and I wanted to make as many memories as possible with our babies because we didn’t know how much time we would have with them. We thought that if we used their names we would have a better connection with them. Something in my heart knew that they were girls so my husband and I figured out names the day after their diagnosis. We decided on Maria Therese and Rachel Clare.
My husband and I had other names chosen if this was a normal pregnancy for a boy or girl, and these are names we wanted for our babies that we would spend our entire lives with. Since that isn’t the case for our babies, we wanted their names to be extra special and meaningful. Maria is a Latin name and we chose the name as a gift to Our Lady, The Mother of God. Her middle name, Therese is because of St. Therese of Lisieux and St Terese of Avila. My father had a great love for The saint of The Little Flower. Then we named our daughter Rachel because Rachel was the mother of Joseph in the Old Testament and Rachel gave birth to a son who could interpret dreams and was destined for greatness. Her middle name, Clare was in dedication to St. Clare of Assisi.
It is important for our daughters and God Willing, our future children to have religious, Catholic name’s because babies are a gift from God, and what better way to honor God and thank him for the miracle of life in my womb, than to name my babies after great people who dedicate their lives to God.
kath.net: You hope that your girls can be baptized directly after their birth.
Nicole LeBlanc: We are hoping and praying whenever the time comes for them to be delivered (via c section) that they are born alive. If they are born alive, they would be baptized in the minutes following their birth. My husband and I have had meetings with the palliative care team at The University of Michigan Hospital (where they will be delivered) and how the team can make me and my babies be as most comfortable as possible during this time. In the operating room, my husband, my mother and a priest will be there. We are not sure of the priest yet, we are friends with many priests but The U of M has a Catholic priest on call.
It is important that they are baptized because they are not expected to live very long after birth. They could pass away as soon as minutes after they are born. Every person is born with original sin due to the fall of man, Adam and Eve. The waters of baptism cleanse a person of that original sin and those baptized can enter Heaven. Those who pass away before receiving Baptism may not be granted the gift of Heaven. So it is very important that they be baptized.
kath.net: Did the doctors propose to abort your girls?
Nicole LeBlanc: I was experiencing severe abdominal pain so I went to the emergency room at 10 weeks. We found out about their diagnosis at the emergency room but they admitted me overnight for pain to make sure that went away since there were no other signs of miscarriage. The day that I was discharged, a team of doctors came in and asked how I wanted to proceed with the pregnancy. They told me it was highly probable that I would miscarry, and that if they did survive, they would only live for minutes or hours. They said if I chose to terminate they would have to transfer me to another hospital and I had a limited amount of time to make the decision since there may be certain laws in the state of Michigan that may have a cutoff date in terms of gestation. But my husband and I just looked at each other and we held each other and we both said strongly, “no”. This is the ultimate test for any pro life woman, when your baby in your womb gets a life limiting diagnosis. But even with a diagnosis, it is still not a valid reason to kill your own children.
The doctors thought I would miscarry, but as I answer these questions at 23 weeks pregnant, I feel 4 little legs and 4 arms kicking and punching me. They are defying the odds everyday as my miracle princesses. Conjoined twins occur at a rate of 1 in 100,000 live births. It is a miracle they are still alive as 1 heart can’t beat for 2 people but here they are! I will continue to let the girls grow as much as God will allow!
kath.net: Have you been sensible to the prolife subject even before becoming pregnant with your conjoined twins?
Nicole LeBlanc: This is my very first pregnancy and my husband and I were raised by pro life families so we always pray for the unborn. At my Catholic high school I was part of pro life club and was blessed enough to go to the March for Life in Washington DC in 2016. In college I joined a Catholic Newman Center on campus and tried to evangelize others on campus and pray the rosary for the unborn in public. I have prayed outside of an abortion facility in my hometown and would join the annual solidarity day on major roads holding pro life signs.
Now that my husband and I are experiencing such a heartbreaking pregnancy, we have become even more pro life. We become saddened when we hear of mothers getting abortions on their healthy babies. Even a baby with a life limiting diagnosis should not be discarded as human life is sacred.
kath.net: For me your girls are ambassadors spreading the good news: all human life is very precious. Do you think your girls make an impact to the prolife attitude and even for the Christian faith of others?
Nicole LeBlanc: My daughters are making an impact on the pro life movement and those who are not pro life. Pro choice people claim that a 9 week baby is still a clump of cells with no identifiable body parts — but this is false. At just 10 weeks, my babies were diagnosed as being conjoined twins with a shared heart and liver. How could medical professionals make such a diagnosis if a week prior they were considered a clump of cells?
This diagnosis is difficult for people who don’t even know me personally, so I try to be as open as possible on my Twitter platform and genuinely ask for prayers and give updates. I’ve had many Catholics say they’re praying for me and I’ve even had some non Catholics say they are praying rosaries for my babies and I. There is no cure and no separation surgery that could be done so the only thing left is to leave it to God and ask for His Mercy on these precious babies.
kath.net: You spoke with a mom with similar conjoined twins. What is their situation and how do these informations influence you?
Nicole LeBlanc: This mother is located in Texas and I found her because someone on Twitter tagged me in a post asking if I saw this mother. She was on the local news and was asking if anyone could make her conjoined daughters a car seat so she can take them out to places. Her daughters are exactly like mine. They are thorocopagus conjoined twins and share 1 heart and 1 liver. They cannot be separated, however they are about to be 7 months old! She did not find out until her 20 week appointment that they were conjoined and she delivered them via c section at 38 weeks. She had the long incision done on her abdomen, but they were needing a little assistance at their birth but later on got to be more stable. They were stable enough to go home and the babies would be doing Hospice at home.
For me, hearing her story is very comforting and I identify myself with her a great deal. She is also a Latina and Catholic and we have chatted over the phone and we are just blessed that God chose us to be the mothers of these special babies because many of these conjojned babies are aborted once the parents find out about the diagnosis. She has given me strength because she is able to take care of her babies at home even after a major surgery.
kath.net: To be honest: probably the situation is not easy for you. Where do you find your power and strength?
Nicole LeBlanc: This is the most difficult situation I have ever encountered in my life. I was quarantined for a week with c. Diff when I was 13 years old, I broke my jaw when I was 14 and couldn’t eat solid food for months, my father passed away of pancreatic cancer when I was 15 and he didn’t get to walk me down the aisle when I got married… none of these situations are like what I’m currently dealing with but they have all prepared me to make me the person I am today.
But honestly I had horrible first trimester pregnancy symptoms and I still need assistance with doing normal things and I could not have done any of this without my incredible husband and my loving mother. My in laws have also been very supportive, and my sisters have been by my side every day. I am blessed to live 2 minutes away from my mother and have my husband close to me since he works on a small business we have at home.
But God provides for us and I don’t get the strength from myself. God is working through me and is listening to all the prayers people are offering for my babies and I. Even though this is a very sad and difficult pregnancy, I still experience joy every day and I’m so blessed to be pregnant with 2 babies! Every life is precious and life is not measured by years, but is measured by important moments and the love they experience.
All they will experience is the love their mother and father have for them. I hope that I can continue to grow as a pro life activist and speak about Maria and Rachel’s lives even after they have passed. I hope to one day be a mother to children I will spend my entire life with and share with them about their 2 older sisters and their incredible and meaningful life!
kath.net: Thank you so much for all your inspiring answers! I am praying for your twins, you and your husband since I noticed your situation. I hope that some of our kath.net readers will start to pray for you, too.
Foto: Nicole and Austin LeBlanc © private
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