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     My little Nikos Stylianos was born at 7:05 am on December 18th, 2020 and returned to God at 10:30 am the same day. I knew from three months into my pregnancy that my little boy wouldn’t live long, even if he made it all the way to labor; he was diagnosed with spina bifida, trisomy 18, and a hole in his heart. I decided that I would love him and be his mom for as long as he was with us, and trust God to take care of all of us, as scared as I felt. Those seven months of pregnancy and three and a half hours holding him were simultaneously the most heart wrenching and beautiful experience of my life. Nikos decided to meet us 2 months early at just 2 pounds---on the rug of our breezeway before we could even get into the car to go to the hospital. 

     I’ve felt all of the emotions; shock and sadness at the diagnosis, anger at others’ suggestions to abort him, fear of having to make a life or death decision in the hospital, doubt that I could do it, gratitude for holding him during his emergency baptism. With only seven months knowing him in utero and less than 4 hours in person, I’ve had to rely on drawing the few photos we took of him to process his short life and spend time with him. At first it was difficult to even look at the pictures of him as he slowly lost heat and color in his little body. But then it became my time to spend with my son, to study him, to touch his skin with my pencil. I find myself smiling and talking to him sometimes, telling him how much I enjoy his smushed little ears or funny little paddle feet. 

     Art is the only way that I can heal, and I now understand why God gave me the ability to create.