Monday, January 05, 2009

Our Amazing Grace

I've shared about our story of adoption, both with our baby boy (so new and so beloved to us), and of our little ones over the last few years, 12 of whom went to God before ever seeing the light of day. I'm so happy to say that, for a short while, Little 13 saw that light. Baby Grace Elizabeth came to us early on Sunday, the feast of the Epiphany and of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (we think Gracie planned it that way). We waited, praying, while the c-section proceeded. Someone sneezed and we all whispered "God bless you." And the doctor said "That was Grace." What a way to come into the world! Blessed in her very first seconds. She cried and squeezed our fingers, she turned her fragile head towards the light more than once. I baptized her with water from a tiny cup and we prayed, not knowing how long she would live in her condition. Then she fought for 10 hours before going back to God. She gave up her spirit just after the Angelus bells at 6pm. For how this day unfolded in the plan of Our Father, we could not have asked for more. We had the tremendous blessing of family, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins around her, hugging and kissing her all day. Photographs and videos were taken, our pastor came and blessed her, and a dear friend from Maryland came too; he and his wife having lost their own precious daughter at birth, and truly knowing our pain. We sang "Amazing Grace," we prayed together, and Gracie met her big brother too. We wept, wishing she could stay, but at the end of the day we had a sense that she was going. Family left the room after saying their goodbyes, (over 20 people who had shared time with Grace), and then in our dimly lit room, Rebecca, S., Grace and I huddled up. We kissed her and sang hymns, and prayed some more. S. rested peacefully beside his sister for an hour, allowing his parents the grace to cherish every breath Grace took. For an hour, a holy hour, we kept vigil. And then she went home, and now she is whole. We are so thankful for all of the prayers of people near and far. Messages have come literally from all over. What does this mean? That life is precious, that one little life so fragile and so fair as Grace's can have such an impact on our hearts. Grace Elizabeth lived just 10 hours but filled our hearts with enough memories for a lifetime. Every little move she made was magic. We have truly felt "carried" this week by so much love and support. So now, from the hospital, we're just resting, reflecting, and praying. God has been with us at the foot of this Cross; on it in fact with Grace, we believe. We prayed for one miracle and got so much more.... "grace upon grace." Grace Elizabeth Donaghy Born - January 4, 2009, 8:04am Died - January 4, 2009, 6:08pm Baptized, Beloved, and Beautiful. We will NEVER forget you, our little saint. Rest now in your Father's arms. Love you forever, Mommy, Daddy, and your big brother S. "Every human life is sacred, because every human person is sacred."

- Pope John Paul II ________________________ Read all the posts on Grace's Story Listen to Rebecca's Song for Grace Embryo Adoption Amazing Grace


Mike in CT said...

Bill, your family's story and the blessing of your daughter Grace is truly an inspiration. God bless you and know that you are in my prayers. Pax.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I can only send many thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca and Bill-
You have been in my constant prayers. Thank you for sharing the love of your family and the beautiful life (FILLED WITH LOVE!) that you gave Grace.
Prayers and love from the left coast.

lil e

Unknown said...

Bill, I am so sorry to hear about your loss, but glad that you were able to spend some time with your little Grace. What a powerful message that little Grace is giving to the world through this blog.

Frances said...

God bless you. What a lovely exchange of gifts appropriate for this holy season: God gave you the gift of Grace Elizabeth and you gave her the gift of love (both within and outside of the womb). May she dance for God in Heaven now! :)

The Heart of Things said...

thank you all so much


Anonymous said...


Christina King said...

You were all in my prayers that day and today. I will call upon Grace's intercession as she is now a Saint in Heaven.
Peace in Christ the King,
Christina King

rebecca said...

I want to share with you a little poem for my nephew who also left this world so fast. Your corageous act only makes sense in light of the eternity of both love and souls.

Of Meteors and Stars

Once upon a summer night
I gazed up at the sky
I sang a song of gratitude
For all that filled my eye
The stars like people gathered round
And gathered up my song
All shared my joy and love of life
And sought to sing along

Suddenly and silently
A meteor flew past
It pained my soul with beauty
Because it left so fast
It left me longing with an ache
Enough to break my heart
Enough to take my song away
And tear my soul apart

The stars were silent watching
Not knowing what to say
Soon their song began again
Where mine had gone away
I wanted them to stop and see
And know what I had lost
But who, save me, could understand
What this small light had cost

For which is more important,
A meteor or a star?
This meteor came close to me
While stars shine from afar
And which is more enduring,
A moment or a year?
The years can blur in passing
While one moment shines clear

My memory is filled with stars
With people gathered round
But meteors fill up my dreams
Where what was lost is found
They are not gone, they did not leave
For I am changed forever
Though for a moment I may grieve
Someday we’ll laugh together

The Woman of the House said...

Dear Bill and Mrs Donaghy. So sorry about your painful loss of little Grace and all the other babies too. We had also thought of snowflake adoption when we were first married 5 1/2 years ago. It sounded like a good pro-life thing to do. We didn't end up looking too far into it. You may or may not know that the new Church document Dignitas Personae comes out against snowflake adoption for various reasons one being that it can make IVF seem more acceptable. I was surprised to hear this myself but accept what the Church teaches and so will uphold that. Perhaps this document will help you in the future. It is so hard to know what to do when there is nothing clear. To read the document, for anyone interested: go to . There is a link to the actual document on the right hand side. Love and prayers to you in your time of great suffering. Adele and family.

The Heart of Things said...

Hello Adele,

Thank you for the prayers and the information, and I feel your pain of wanting but being unable to have biological children. May God bless you and your husband with LIFE soon!

About Dignitas Personae, thank you. I've actually read and studied it, and like others, was a bit confused on the ambiguous language surrounding embryo adoption. To be clear, I did not find the Church giving a definitive NO to prenatal or embryo adoption. The language of the Church is always clear when an act is morally illicit or unacceptable. It stated as much on various issues in the letter. But at the point when prenatal adoption was mentioned (section 19), there was no such language. Here is the text itself:

"It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of 'prenatal adoption'. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above."

It continues: "All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved."

This is what we find confusing. There is no declaration of it being morally unacceptable or illicit, but no recognition that adoption CAN be that resolution of an "injustice." Again, the Church is clear when an act is unacceptable. That clarity is missing here. Instead, a lingering question seems to remain.

Here are my thoughts on this open wound that our technology has created and that the Church is seeking to address... The reality is, an innocent life has come. New souls have been breathed into these precious "little ones" - frozen embryos - because God stays faithful to His laws of life, even when we bend and break them. Research is out of the question, as is destruction of these embryos. I understand the hesitancy of theologians here. I know this is a unique calling, to rescue these little ones through prenatal adoption, but to the over 150 children adopted and born in this manner, who right now are laughing and loving and dancing in the world (Hannah, the first Snowflake adoption, is now 10 years old) it seems that there is an answer. Much more prayer and discernment is needed here on the part of all of us. Rebecca and I love the Church our Mother and want nothing more than to stay close to Her Heart. We have spoken with a number of theologians and continue to do so. All that we know is that Grace deserved and received a chance at life and love, and she is now no longer frozen in a kind of limbo, like the over half a million other embryos. Thank you for your comment. Still praying...


The Woman of the House said...

Bill, I'm not a theologian (thank God in a way, I'm less likely to try and come up with my own theology), but I really have to disagree with your interpretation of the document. You've selected a few lines there but left out the whole text: I have capitalized the part that I would normally put in bold type:

The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which MAKE ARTIFICIAL HETEROLOGOUS PROCREATION ILLICIT AS WELL AS ANY FORM OF SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD; this practice would ALSO LEAD TO OTHER PROBLEMS OF A MEDICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND LEGAL NATURE.

It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “prenatal adoption”. This proposal, PRAISEWORTHY WITH REGARD TO THE INTENTION of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above.

All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved. Therefore John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that THERE SEEMS TO BE NO MORALLY LICIT SOLUTION REGARDING THE HUMAN DESTINY OF THE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF 'FROZEN EMBRYOS' which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.”

The Woman of the House said...

This is probably not the best time to be discussing this as the wound of your loss is so fresh, so I apologize.

Since I have started I will finish my thought here. From the document, it is quite clear to me that since JPII's statement that "there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos" and the point that surrogate motherhood is always unacceptable", the Church is saying NO.

As to the medical, psychological and legal reasons. I can think of two major medical reasons that would complicate this: (1) a baby made in a petri dish would be greater danger of genetic anomalies as any sperm can fertilize the ovum. In sexual intercourse, only the strongest and best sperm can make the journey all the way there. God designed it that way for a purpose. (2) All the drugs necessary to induce a pregnancy in your wife are not healthy for her.

As to the children running about because of snowflake adoption, well there are plenty running about through IVF too and that is not licit.

The biggest point though here... and I'm not blaming you as this document was not out before this, in the lives of the great saints who spoke with Jesus Himself, he was always much more pleased with humble obedience even to a seemingly unfair order, than he was with any act of charity done outside of obedience.

At this point, the Church has spoken and we should obey even implicit (by that I mean even if they are not completely direct say) directions given by Our Mother Church. Also, to be said, I would not base my actions on the opinions of theologians who go against what she says here.

Those are my three cents. Love and prayers to you in this time of great suffering.

Adele and family.

P.S. My husband who is a Biology Professor says that most specimens(sorry to use that word about babies) in crypreservation do not last as long as people fear. Plant specimens for instance, have to be thawed, grown up and refrozen every few years or per decade in order to last. Animal/human specimens are much more delicate than that. So, although it is horrendous to have these little innocents forced to take on this role in the world, they will not be in Limbo forever. Maybe we should start a movement to baptize all IVF embryos. I guess we could do that spiritually. Spiritual adoption.

Juniper, a bean farmer said...


You yourself said: "This is probably not the best time to be discussing this as the wound of your loss is so fresh, so I apologize." Frankly, while I commend your clear passion for wisdom of the Church and the sanctity of life, I wish this realization had made you reconsider posting. These posts really made me wince. Regardless of the strength of your argument (I haven't studied it yet, so I'm personally not sure what the document says as a whole), I really don't think this is the right venue for it.

A few observations:

Dignitatis Personae was released only just a month ago! In other words, while it is the most recent guidance of the church, it wasn't available at the time Bill and Rebecca became involved with Snowflakes. It seems to me that to throw this out there now in response to a deeply personal and emotional blog post falls somewhere between tacky and mean.

I've known Bill and Rebecca for a number of years, and know that they take church teaching very seriously, and sought out the counsel of orthodox moral theologians and bioethicists before pursuing embryo adoption. If church teaching has moved to authoritatively say that embryo adoption is not licit, you can rest easy that they will accept that and not pursue it further.

But in the meantime, can't we rejoice in this story of Grace's Amazing and beautiful life? And give Bill and Rebecca time to cherish and mourn her? For pete's sake, the Church's teaching is not a hammer.

Anonymous said...


Tacky, mean, obnoxious. Your posts give pro-lifers a bad name. Put your soapbox somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of Grace's death and will pray for your family in your sorrow. My husband and I are parents of 2 embryo adopted children, after 9 years of infertility (8 of our adopted babies died during miscarriages). Be encouraged. You have sacrificed greatly for all of your children. May God comfort you and bless you as you raise your son to know and love Him.

The Heart of Things said...

Thank you so much. Praying for you and your family as well. In all of this we've learned and grown so much. God is good and God is with us in all of it!


Anonymous said...

Also, Adele's comments are completely out of line. I have no idea what your general policy is on deleting comments, but if you're not opposed to doing so I think this would be an appropriate time to remove them. Dignitas Personae did not make a definitive statement about embryo adoption. If it had, it would have said something like "Embryo adoption is illicit". There are well schooled Catholic theologians on both sides of the issue (see the NCBC's collection of essays on the very issue of embryo adoption). My husband and I adopted embryos with the explicit permission of our conservative Bishop.

The Heart of Things said...

Thanks Anon, I think I will leave just a couple of those comments for clarity on this thread. I really appreciate your thoughts here, and I failed to mention a deep thanks to KBrian as well. We moved ahead with and through prayer and after the counsel and advice of orthodox priests, bioethicists and theologians who love and honor the Church. What is at stake in the words of the new document are these little lives "which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons."

What honors this truth more than prenatal adoption?

Helen said...

Bill, this comment may be very late in coming, but better late than never right!? I just wanted to say that you and your family have been in my prayers the past couple of months and I was just thinking about your baby a few days ago. So I decided to check on your blog! So sorry to hear about your loss.
Life can be very bitter-sweet sometimes. It is nice that little Grace was able to meet her parents face-to-face, if only for a few hours. I am sure those hours were some of the most treasured that you have shared with your wife and son.
Your story has also been a source of inspiration for me. After being married for 5 years and unable to become pregnant, my husband and I just adopted a baby girl in July. She is truly a blessing from God and a miracle as she survived 2 abortion clinics, then after coming into the world safely came home with us from the hospital! Now we are trying to figure out how we can offer her siblings in the future.
Again, sorry for your loss, but many blessings to you, your wife and your cute little son!
God bless, Helen

The Heart of Things said...

Hi Helen!

Thanks so much for your comment, your prayers, and for sharing your great news! Adoption is such a gift isn't it? And it sounds like quite a story. I think the journey has made your love stronger, for each other and for your baby girl, right? That's what we experienced... the desert period of waiting and hoping has suddenly burst into a Promised Land. God bless Helen!

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