The Miracle Baby: A Story of God's Mercy
Amelia Monroe Carlson
“I was in a crisis pregnancy. I was terrified,” said Michelle Schachle, a convert to Catholicism and a stay-at-home mom.
Michelle was a mother of 12, home-schooling, and had just been informed by physicians her 13th child had Down Syndrome. The care and needs of a child with Down Syndrome frightened Michelle as she thought about all her responsibilities with her other 12 children. Her husband Dan traveled a lot with his career responsibilities as an insurance agent. Physicians had given the couple various options due to the Down Syndrome diagnosis, which included the choice of abortion. Dan and Michelle refused anything but life.
“Seven to ten percent of Down Syndrome babies are all that is born in America because of testing and the choices of abortion,” Michelle said. “He wasn’t born how everyone would think. He wasn’t born perfect the way everyone would think of as perfect. But he’s perfect.”
It did not take long for Down Syndrome to be the least of their concerns with their unborn child. Soon, they would be fighting for his life even before he was born. However, little did they know at the time, they had a heavenly assistant fighting alongside them.
Two months after hearing their unborn child had Down Syndrome, doctors told the Schachles on February 25, 2014 their child had zero chance of living. Their child had a deadly case of fetal hydrops. The condition causes an abnormal buildup of fluids around vital organs such as the lungs, heart, abdomen, and under the skin. For doctors, they were certain the child was going to die. If it lived after birth, they told the Schachles, it would only be for a few hours or days. According to doctors, it was a certain death for the child to have the combination of Down Syndrome and fetal hydrops. Once again, the Schachles were offered the opportunity to abort the child with the reassurance from the doctors there was nothing to feel guilty about if they chose to abort. They chose to trust God. They chose life – again.
Michelle had experienced the tragedy of delivering a stillborn child in the past. She was afraid that could happen again. Despite the fear, she trusted God and chose life. Dan, a member of the Knights of Columbus and former grand knight at his home parish at St Mary Catholic Church in Savannah, Tennessee, was well aware of the cause for canonization of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney needed a confirmed miracle to advance his cause to the next level. The Schachles needed a miracle to save the life of their unborn child. It seemed like the perfect time for a miracle.
Dan was an insurance agent for the Knights of Columbus and had won a trip for him and his family to go on a pilgrimage for eight days that included the Vatican, Spain, and the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Before leaving for the trip, Dan asked his friends and loved ones to pray for the intercession of Fr. McGivney to save the life of their unborn child. The Schachles prayed during the entire trip for the intercession of Father McGivney to save their son. Masses were held for them and their unborn son at their home parish and in Rome. On March 16, 2014, just under a month after hearing the news from doctors that their son would not survive, the Schachles believed they heard from God a different ending.
They were attending a Mass at Fatima when the Gospel reading, taken from John 4:43-45, confirmed to them their prayers were heard. “The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies,’ Jesus said to him, ‘You may go; your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.” The Schachles too believed.
After landing back in the United States from the pilgrimage, the Schachles were back in the doctor’s office four days later for a follow-up ultrasound to check the fluid levels and progression of the hydrops of their son. Fear was soon replaced with gratitude when Michelle was shown the ultrasound of her son with no swelling or fluid buildup. The hydrops was gone.
“The story is God’s mercy,” Michelle said. “I really believe God worked in our life because we were open to life. All you have to do is give God just a little bit and he will do miracles.”
The Schachles had no doubt Father McGivney had interceded for their son and he was not only their family’s miracle, but the Church’s and Fr. McGivney’s as well.
“Father McGivney has always loved me because he knew my story because I was born on his birthday,” Michelle said. “When we got to go to Fr. McGivney’s tomb I couldn’t hold back the emotions. How do you say thank you enough.”
Michelle recalls her own history as the recipient of a pro-life choice and how the choice her mother made over four decades ago led to Mikey’s life and miracle.
“In 1971, my mom was pregnant with me. I was her third child, and they (Michelle’s parents) were about to get a divorce. My dad’s mother gave her the money to get an abortion. My mother said no regardless of how hard it was,” Michelle said. “It’s really because of her that Fr. McGivney is beatified.” The pro-life choice Michelle’s mother made, combined with her own pro-life choice despite the obstacles Mikey faced, led to a miracle. “God is so merciful.”
Mikey Schachle was born on May 15, the same date in 1882 the first Knights of Columbus council was chartered. He was born with Down Syndrome, causing him to endure several operations and hospital stays but the Schachles were okay with that.
“We never prayed for him to be healed from Down Syndrome,” Michelle said. “Down Syndrome wasn’t fatal.”
For the Schachles, it was more than just the healing of fetal hydrops that was a miracle. “The miracle is Down Syndrome,” Michelle said. “You don’t know that until you’ve said yes.”
Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing Mikey’s cure from fetal hydrops while in the womb as a miracle attributed to Venerable Father Michael McGivney’s intercession. The approval moved Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization to the next level, beatification, where he became Blessed Father Michael McGivney.
“What do you do when God shows up?” Michelle asked. “A child that’s saved in the womb, that’s like having a living relic in your home every day.”