December 29, 2020
Inbal Azzulai was 26 weeks pregnant when the doctor informed her that her fetus suffers from a rare case of fistula and would never survive a day in the world. “They recommended abortion,” she relates emotionally, “but I insisted that I wanted to go through with the pregnancy anyway.”
And how is Inbal’s baby doing today?
There was nothing out of the ordinary about that day when Inbal Azzulai entered the doctor’s office for what should have been a routine pregnancy checkup. Already a mom of five adorable kids, she was a pro.
Her troubles began when the ultrasound revealed something abnormal. “The doctor said that he detected a rare case of fistula, a fetal condition in which the trachea and esophagus are connected.” This condition is life threatening, because as soon as the baby tries to breastfeed, he can inhale the food into his lungs and choke to death.
“I was 26 weeks pregnant at the time, and the doctors strongly recommended abortion. They explained that, in all probability, the baby would die in utero. Already at this point, he had fluid in his lungs—a sign that it was a bad case of fistula with virtually no chances of survival.” There was even one doctor who told her to be grateful that the decision wasn’t hers, since there was no chance that the baby would survive.
We decided to let God run the show
Inbal had entered the doctor’s office a happy, eager soon-to-be new mom, but the Inbal who left his office was a different woman altogether. “It was one of the hardest moments in my entire life,” she relates. “I knew that I wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy and precious little life inside of me come what may, since it is forbidden by halachah. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I had the strength inside of me to singlehandedly fight a full army of medical professionals who were all advocating for abortion.” Over the years, she’d heard about Hidabroot’s IMA department, and on a whim, decided to call them.
IMA presented Inbal with a whole new perspective on the situation. “The women there were incredible, compassionate, and explained that I could only stand to lose from abortion. Once it’s over, there’s no turning back. In the meanwhile, the fetus is alive and well, and every day in utero is only for his benefit and mine. IMA emphasized that it’s not my role as his mother to decide when to end his life, and that I should channel my energies to prayer. The discussion comforted me and empowered me. It was exactly what I needed to hear, a glowing ray of light in a dark, forbidding, excruciating tunnel.
Over the next few weeks, Inbal graduated to the category of high-risk pregnancy. At one point, she was referred to the hospital for a series of tests that her doctor explained was vital to the fetus. She thus found herself hospitalized for two weeks undergoing every imaginable test and scan. One of the tests was an imaging scan in which the doctors were determined to watch the fetus being fed in real time in order to ensure that it was capable of sending food into its stomach as opposed to the lungs. The room was filled with a large team of doctors who all kept their eyes glued in fascination to the large screen.
“I couldn’t really tell what was happening on screen, but suddenly, I heard a collective sigh of relief, and one doctor explained that they could actually see the food entering the right pipe. I ended off the two-week stay optimistic, with a cautious measure of confidence that my baby was viable.”
The next three weeks were relatively calm, and Inbal went back to work, resuming her normal schedule and job as a preschool superintendant. She tried to maintain a positive, calm demeanor while keeping up with her family and job and keeping her worries on the back burner.
“I knew that the situation wasn’t ideal, and that my baby would in all likelihood have medical issues, but the findings from the recent tests had given us reason to hope and continue praying. Most of all, I trusted in God’s infinite mercy and kindness. But then, when I went for a late ultrasound only several days before I was supposed to give birth, the ultrasound technician shook her head and expressed her concerns that something wasn’t right. “The fetus has an abnormally small stomach, and it looks like the fistula is still there and negatively affecting him,” she said.
With only several days to go before Inbal’s planned delivery date, it was her husband now who encouraged her and gave her strength to carry on. He asked the technician if there was anything that could be done, and when she replied that there wasn’t, he averred, “If there’s nothing we can do, then we leave it to the care of the Master of the world Who can heal any flaw or defect.”
Distressed, Inbal contacted IMA again, and once again, received the counseling and spiritual strength that she craved. “The volunteers kept reminding me of what I already know—that God’s salvation arrives in the blink of an eye. They gave me hope and helped me see the bright side of it all. I don’t believe that I’d have been able to keep my spirits up during these grueling days without IMA’s support.”
“How could they advocate for abortion?”
One week later, Inbal went into labor. Baby Ilai was born with froth around his mouth and blue skin, immediately confirming the doctor’s suspicions that the infant suffered from an esophageal abnormality. The new parents were immediately notified that the next 24 hours were critical, and that a feeding tube would be inserted into the infant’s esophagus.
“I watched the test with my own eyes,” Inbal relates in a voice thick with emotion. “I watched food enter his mouth, and saw how he soon began breastfeeding completely normally, without even spitting up or coughing once! At the end of those 24 hours, the doctors congratulated me on the birth of a completely healthy child! There was no fluid in his esophagus, and they had no idea how or why we’d received such a diagnosis.”
“Didn’t it show up on all the earlier scans?”