Pro-life speaker shares his journey of faith

Chad Judice and his wife Ashley have three boys. Eli, in yellow, was born with spina binifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord. (Photo courtesy www.chadjudice.com)

By Hannah M. Hepfer
Correspondent

Pro-life volunteers gathered for a Culture of Life Celebratory Dinner on Feb. 12 at St. Helen Parish in Georgetown. 
Keynote speaker Chad Judice, author of two pro-life books, described what it was like to find out that his son, Eli, had spina bifada. He recounted how the diagnosis, also chronicled in his book “Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith,” strengthened his belief in God.
In late 2008, Chad and his wife Ashley, were happily anticipating the birth of their second son. But, at a routine ultrasound, they received unsettling news.
“I’m having trouble locating a few things,” the ultrasound technician said.
Another technician came into the room and a concerned look passed over her face as she scanned the ultrasound. Finally, the couple spoke with a doctor who said he couldn’t find a part of Eli’s brain, the cerebellum. 
The next day, Chad and Ashley met with a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist who identified a small opening in their son’s spinal cord. The specialist explained that this defect caused the baby’s brain to be out of place, preventing the first doctor from originally seeing the cerebellum. Eli was diagnosed with a severe form of spina bifida, a birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly. 
One of Chad’s worst fears had come true. At 30-years-old and a self-proclaimed perfectionist, he said that his faith became much more real in that moment. 
“I found out very quickly that I don’t control anything. God almighty controls everything,” he said.
Chad and his wife began to research the condition that same day. The medical literature they received stated that 80 percent of unborn children with a neural tube defect, like spina bifada, are aborted. Their son would need major surgery on his spinal cord and brain. Even with the surgeries, his quality of life would likely be low. He would be significantly mentally and physically disabled, and he would probably never walk. Also, he would not have control of his bowels.
“That was the most difficult one for me as a man,” Chad said. 
Later that night, Ashley told Chad that the option of abortion had crossed her mind when faced with the reality of the diagnosis.
Chad grabbed her and said, “It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault, we have to trust God the way our child trusts us.” He referenced Matthew 18:3, reminding her that God said to become like little children. Together they committed to trusting God as they faced their coming challenges.
Chad attended Mass the following day at St. Thomas More in Lafayette, La., where he worked as a teacher. He was stunned to hear that the verse he’d quoted to his wife the night before, was the subject of the Gospel. It was one of many small wonders he experienced leading up to Eli’s birth, he said.
Chad also began to pray for a miracle –– and was joined by his relatives, friends and students at his school. As word of his son’s diagnosis spread, people he’d never met began to show their support. He received a postcard from the De La Salle brothers, letting him know that members of the congregation from around the world were praying for Eli. Chad was astonished and touched that his son’s reach extended that far. 
“I’m some nobody from southwest Louisiana,” he recalled thinking. “Why are strangers praying for my son?”
As the pregnancy continued, Chad deepened his prayer life. He took time to pray in his school’s chapel and said the rosary regularly. He also went to confession again for the first time in a long time. 
“When the priest gave me absolution, I felt a peace I’d never felt before,” he said. He saw his wife afterwards, who had also gone to confession that day, and reached out to touch her stomach. He felt Eli move more than ever. “He was leaping and dancing,” he said.
Three days later, he received a phone call from his wife who had recently prayed a Novena to St. Therese (the Little Flower). She had just received a rose unexpectedly at work. 
“Someone knew I needed that rose,” she said through tears of joy. 
Eli was born on Feb. 17, 2009, amidst a supportive community of family and friends who were anticipating and praying for his birth. The prayers helped. Doctors predicted that Eli would have a hole in his head the size of a softball and it turned out to be much smaller –– the size of a 50-cent piece. He had two surgeries almost immediately after his birth. Since then, he’s had more surgeries, but he’s exceeding expectations developmentally and his intelligence is at or above average. He is also learning to walk with braces and a special device.
“I don’t know what the future holds for my son,” Chad said. “But, he is beautiful and vibrant, a miracle.”

For more information on Chad Judice, visit www.chadjudice.com