Joe and Pauline Sinicrope from North Bay decided to have their first child despite the doctor’s diagnosis of spinabifida, indicated by a spot on the child’s spine by ultrasound. Joe recalled that period in their life when they “were very happy to be having their first child” and when they first learned of the problem in Pauline’s

Francesca Sinicrope is a happy healthy four-year-old. pregnancy, Pauline had gone to the hospital for a second ultrasound. It was a regular check-up on the child.

A problem

“My wife called to tell me that the doctor taking care of the pregnancy had told her that there was a problem, spinabifida. Pauline was crying on the phone. We did not know very much about it. Pauline told me she was going to the library to borrow some books and learn about this.”

Visions of a child that would not be able to walk hit Joe. He called the doctor to ask whether he was sure about what he shared to Pauline. The doctor said yes, there was a spot on the child’s spine. “I asked him what we could expect in terms of the health of the child. He told me that it could be anything from an inability to walk and control of the bladder to a child that would be retarded, to a child that would die shortly after birth. I was quite shaken by what he told me.”

At home he found his wife crying for she was terrified about what she had read. Pauline shared to him what she had learned. He too began to cry again and took one of the books.    “After looking at the photographs of children, I flung the book across the room in a rage,” said Joe.

Limited choice

Pauline’s doctor arranged an appointment with a specialist. Joe knew the doctor’s name by reputation only; he performed abortions. Joe asked if they could see another doctor. Pauline said that she had asked her doctor about this.   “The only other specialist available in North Bay also performed abortions. We decided we had no choice but to attend,” Joe said. The couple was told that the doctor would meet them both after examining Pauline.

As Joe waited, he read a magazine to keep his mind off of what was happening. “My wife and I still had hope that there was a mistake and that our child would be fine. Neither Pauline nor I supported abortion. There was no way, no matter what, that we were going to abort this child,” he said.

As Joe joined his wife who was alone in the room, she shared that the doctor said it was spinabifida. “Our hope that it was all a big mistake was dashed.”

When the doctor came in, “the first words out of his mouth were that we should consider having an abortion. The first words out of my mouth were that, ‘that is not an option for us.’ He did not mention it again,” Joe said.

No mistake?

When the doctor was asked whether there could be a mistake, he said that it was not likely. The doctor told them that he was arranging appointments for them at North York General Hospital in Toronto, and at the Spinabifida Association. Joe thought that they were sent to the association to prepare them for dealing with a child with many handicaps.

Five days later they were in Toronto. Their first appointment was at the Spinabifida Association.

“It was heart-wrenching to see these children. There were children with misshapen heads and misshapen legs everywhere in wheelchairs. I had visions of my own child looking like that in a wheelchair,” Joe said.

They told the doctor why they thought that their child could not have spinabifida. Sometimes at night, Pauline would have her stomach against his back and the child kicking so hard that it felt like the child’s foot was going through her stomach and through his back. He remembers being awakened in this fashion at least three times.

“The doctor looked at me as if thinking ‘you poor fool.’ He said, though that it was possible, but the fact the child was kicking did not mean anything. He told us all the possible problems that our child could have. The spot on the child’s spine was at the low end of the spine. The doctor stated that this would probably mean the child would not be as handicapped as the child would be if the spot were higher up on the spine. Pauline and I came away from that meeting with even more despair than when we arrived that morning,” Joe said.

For their next appointment at North York General Hospital they went directly to the ultrasound department. The couple had been trying to find out the sex of the child since the first of many ultrasounds, but were always told that the child was turned the wrong way. The technician had said that he could not tell.

Upon meeting with the doctor in another office in the building, he said that it certainly was not spinabifida. “Whatever had been there, if anything, was gone. The way he described it to us, it seemed that it could have been an error in the ultrasound. There may have been something there that was simply part of the child continuing to develop.

“We were ecstatic. It certainly was an amazing day. We went from the depths of despair to the heights of euphoria. We both profusely thanked the doctor. I thanked God for his help and mercy in making our child healthy,” Joe recalled.

Joe was present when the child was born. “She was a perfectly healthy child. Francesca has brought us a great deal of joy. Rarely a day passes that I look at her and think that had we been other parents, she would not be here today. When I think about this, it frightens me. I wonder how many children are being killed out there.

Chance at life

“I thank God that my wife and I are the people that we are because our daughter is alive. She will have the opportunity that so many other children will not have and that is simply to live and have a life. Francesca will have the opportunity to make this world a better place. This is what I thank God for,” Joe said.

Aunt Margaret Sinicrope in Toronto says Francesca is such a lively affectionate child, and she has amazingly ready, smart answers to all questions. A sweet gift and blessing, she said.