Left: Maddie during her stay in the hospital. Below: Stephanie with Maddie.
January-February 2021 – Robert and Stephanie Westrick were thrilled to welcome Madison Lorraine, their seventh child, to their family on March 19, 2018.
After her birth, the New Iberia, Louisiana, couple learned their precious little Maddie had Down syndrome. Three days later she was flown by helicopter for emergency stomach surgery. That was followed by a myriad of ongoing health issues.
Facing the unknown
“We loved Madison unconditionally,” Robert told AFA Journal, “and we wanted her from the very beginning. There was never any doubt.” But they felt unprepared for this special child God had
“The first thing I did,” Stephanie explained, “was get my tablet and start researching Down syndrome from my hospital bed.” She learned that nearly 70% of babies with Downs in the U.S. are aborted. Her heart broke.
“We went from scared parents facing uncertainty to fully embracing the challenges that lay ahead,” said Robert.
Six months later, Maddie required high-risk, open-heart surgery. Though threat of complications loomed over her, the surgery was a complete success. Two weeks later, she was welcomed home by her parents and six siblings.
Within days, Maddie contracted a cold that progressed to pneumonia, and she was returned to the hospital.
An unexpected turn
Still in a weakened state from the surgery, it was more than her body could endure. On October 27, 2018, Maddie went home again, this time to her eternal home with Jesus.
“I will never understand in my lifetime why God chose to call Maddie home when He did,” said Robert. “But I know there’s a bigger picture and a plan we don’t see.”
“Maddie was a lot of work,” said Stephanie, “but I never worried about how much work it was. She was definitely worth every minute of it. And her brothers and sisters adored her.”
“She was perfect,” said Robert. “She was created in God’s image, every bit as much as a healthy baby would have been. She happened to have Down syndrome, but that’s not who she was. It didn’t make her less of a person.
“Children with Downs are so loving and bring so much joy to their families. The world needs more Down syndrome children. It would be a happier place.”
Hope for the future
As the entire family was overcome with intense grief, their church came alongside them, and so did Maddie’s Footprints, a ministry founded in 2010, named after another family’s Maddie (maddiesfootprints.org). The organization comes alongside grief-stricken families after an infant loss, miscarriage, or stillbirth by offering support groups and financial assistance.
More than two years have passed since the Westrick family lost their Maddie. In April 2020, God blessed them with a “rainbow baby” – representing beauty and hope that comes after a storm. And though the grief over Maddie is still real, their support group and members of their local church continue to comfort and support them.
“Maddie left us way too soon,” said Robert. “I hope that someday the pain of losing her can be replaced with gratitude for the time we did have together. I don’t know how we would have made it through this without having faith in God, believing in the bigger picture. It’s our faith in Jesus and His promises that give us strength.
“I know that we’ll see her again someday.”
The Westricks and AFA
The Westricks wrote AFA president Tim Wildmon, telling him the story and sending photos of Maddie. They wrote, “Thank you for your unapologetic support for the unborn. [We] appreciate your ministry’s support of the pro-life message.”
“The Westricks and others like them are why we do what we do at AFA,” said Wildmon.