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Lisa Henley Jones reviews Let Yourself Be Loved, a memoir that explores the heart of a mother carrying a baby with the certainty of death.

Elizabeth Leon’s book, Let Yourself Be Loved, Big Lessons from a Little Life is a memoir that “explores the heart of a mother carrying a baby to term with the certainty of death.” When I first discovered this memoir, I immediately wanted to read it. 




Elizabeth’s story could have been my story.

I was 18 weeks pregnant with my son when I first heard the words "Trisomy 18." My mind raced as I listened to my doctor tell me I needed further testing. While I tried to make sense of this potential diagnosis and what it meant for my baby, I became confused and frustrated that my doctor was throwing so much information at me and pressuring me to set a quick appointment for the testing. She then abruptly informed me that she wanted to make sure I had time to terminate my pregnancy if my baby tested positive for Trisomy 18.

Her sentence drove home the seriousness of what we were potentially facing. But I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t choose death for my baby. 

In my case, the testing revealed our son was healthy and thriving. My worry and upset only lasted a few very painful weeks. From that experience, I’ve been filled with empathy for women facing a potentially fatal diagnosis during their pregnancy.   

In her memoir, Elizabeth Leon does a good job walking you through her own journey. It is a difficult read at times, especially when she draws a contrast between the holy sacred time of John Paul Rafael’s birth and short life with the pain of his death and the overwhelming grief that followed.  

Elizabeth's witness and respect for John Paul Raphael’s death is impactful. Too often we tiptoe around the process of death, removing it from its place as a normal process in society. Her sharing of the immediate time in the hospital during and after his death was eye opening and heart wrenching all at the same time. 

I recommend this book to anyone who has experienced the loss of a child, as well as those of us walking alongside offering love and support. Let Yourself Be Loved is a loving testament to Elizabeth's son and to our shared Catholic faith. Reading it provided me with a deeper understanding of a mother’s grief at losing a newborn, including its lasting effects over time. 




Copyright 2022 Lisa Henley Jones
Images: copyright 2022 Lisa Henley Jones, all rights reserved.
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