Baby Megan reminds us to hold our ground alongside the mystery of life.
Cassy Gray was told there was virtually no hope for her unborn daughter—only a 3% chance of live birth, and even if she did survive to that point, she wouldn’t live long after. The 36-year-old Scottish mum was strongly advised to “terminate” the pregnancy.
“We decided right away that termination was not an option. She’s a miracle,” she told The Scottish Sun. “I had so longed for a child and I decided to leave it in God’s hands, and I’m so thankful that I did,” she told Daily Record.
The child—named Megan—survived birth, and is now more than 18 months old. Her mother’s words, simple and direct, have the strength of a reasonableness rooted in affection: I am not the master of my daughter’s life or of her death.
“There’s nothing wrong with her”
It was 2020, and the whole world was dealing with the pandemic. In Fraserburgh, Scotland, Gray and the child’s father, Zander Whyte, found themselves dealing with a very complicated pregnancy. The 12th-week ultrasound revealed that the baby was suffering from a condition that the doctors considered “incompatible with life.”
The frontal area of the brain — the seat of higher thought, emotions, and motor skills — had not separated into two parts as it should have, and had stopped developing. The doctors “strongly advised” Gray have an abortion. She and her partner refused. We’ve already mentioned their reasons: the baby would live or die naturally, as God willed.
It must not have been easy, in such an emotionally charged situation, to be clear and decisive in the face of the authoritative voice of the doctors.
The fetal malformation from which the child is suffering has a very complicated name: semilobar holoprosencephaly. Her brain stopped developing at the fifth week of pregnancy. Five days before her birth, the ultrasound seemed to show an even worse picture: “open wounds on her face, no cheekbones and her eyes were bulging.”
Birth is always a threshold; in little Megan’s case, it was the end of ominous predictions and the beginning of a visible flesh-and-blood presence. Yes, she only had a 3% chance of being born alive, but that was enough.
Her mother recounts to The Herald:
When she was born I was scared to look at her because of the picture they had painted. I knew I would love her, but I just didn’t know if I would like the way she looked. But as soon as she was born I remember saying to her dad, ‘There’s nothing wrong with her.’ Now I can’t believe the strong personality she has coming through. She smiles through everything and is a cheeky wee monkey.
Megan has a voice
The photos of Megan that her mother has shared on Facebook show a beautiful little girl with a smile that could melt the Arctic. Despite the heartwarming appearance of little Megan, it can’t have been easy for her parents to accept the weight of suffering that comes with the gift of her life.
Megan is blind, has three kidneys, and suffers from epilepsy and diabetes insipidus, a rare condition that causes an imbalance of bodily fluids.
The family’s daily routine requires constant caregiving that puts no veil between love and the heartbreaking wounded fragility of a very small human being. At night, Megan must be given oxygen, and she’s had to undergo surgery to place stents in her nose to clear the passage for the air. Her vulnerability is evident.
Yet, amazing news was made public in November 2021: Megan, at 18 months of age, defeated all dire predictions not only by living but by beginning to speak. And she did so following the most classic script: one morning, she said “mum.”
Cassy Gray describes how it happened: “It was really emotional, I didn’t think I would ever hear her say it. In the morning, she’s always vocal. She just shouts—no words in particular—and then she kept saying, ‘Mum, Mum,’ telling me to get up.” The Herald adds that in the following days Megan also started saying “Nana”—”to the delight of doting grandmother Alexandra Thompson, 56.”
Yes, it is voices like Megan’s—unlikely voices, at the risk of being silenced—that invite us to really wake up.
The power to smile
“A neurologist in Glasgow asked if she could smile and I said ‘yes,’ then she smiled on cue, and he said, ‘It takes a lot more brain function to smile than it does to do a lot of other things,’” Gray told the Scottish Sun.
Perhaps we should always keep in mind, beyond this story, this information about the brain having to work hard to make us smile.
Smiling is a great sign for Megan, suggesting a brain potential the doctors never imagined. It’s tempting to imagine what goes on inside her to produce a smile. It might be like a very steep climb that leads to a breathtaking view. It takes effort to reach that sight. For her parents, seeing her face painted with joy is surely a portentous sign, but she’s a portent either way.
Smiling is a feat. The gaze of this little girl reminds us that the best thing we can do is hold our ground alongside the mystery of life.