Faith Put to the Test

Grief and Grace in the Delivery Room: Mark Geraci and Judy Presta

First Recorded

May 17, 2016


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Mark Geraci and Judy Presta tried for years to have children naturally before they turned to in vitro fertilization. In this conversation, the husband and wife discuss the loss of the first pair of twins they succeeded in conceiving, the sense of grace that they managed to find in the midst of tragedy, and the joy they experienced when they finally gave birth to a baby boy.

This story was produced by StoryCorps.

This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives. The interview was recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity‚Äôs stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. 

Grief and Grace in the Delivery Room: Mark Geraci and Judy Presta

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Mark Geraci: We always knew we wanted to have a family and it never was happening. So we eventually made a step to go towards medical help to try to have a family.

Judy Presta: We went through, I think, 10 cycles of IVF. We lost five babies-

Mark Geraci: Along the way.

Judy Presta: ... in four years. In 2011, we were pregnant with twins.

Mark Geraci: Finally pregnant past the danger point that we'd never gotten past before.

Judy Presta: And just started telling everybody, and then we had an emergency.

Mark Geraci: With the pregnancy.

Judy Presta: And wound up having to deliver-

Mark Geraci: At 19 weeks, both the babies.

Judy Presta: ... knowing they wouldn't survive.

Mark Geraci: Yes.

Judy Presta: It was a boy and a girl.

Mark Geraci: And it was tragic. And they said, "Do you want to see the baby?" And you said yes, right away.

And we were crying. And I was like, "Why are you saying yes?" And they brought this little baby over to us, and then God came in the room. And the grace that filled that room at that time was something I'd never experienced before in my entire life.

Judy Presta: It was the most profound peace and grace.

Mark Geraci: It was one of the most beautiful religious experiences I think we ever had.

Judy Presta: We had to say hello and goodbye to our babies. We always described it as: how could the most horrific day be one of the most beautiful?

Mark Geraci: Also, yes. It truly was. That beautiful grace, it doesn't linger. And we in many ways had to grieve alone because in our society, we don't recognize babies that are part way through pregnancy as being real.

Judy Presta: Couldn't even get a birth certificate to-.

Mark Geraci: Couldn't even get a birth certificate from the state of Illinois. So we decided in our grief that we were going to validate these babies. So we named our son Amato, which is Latin for love, and our daughter Baetricia, or Bia, as we say.

Judy Presta: Bringer of joy.

Mark Geraci: So they were our love and our joy.

Judy Presta: I wasn't angry. I think I felt more abandoned by God.

Mark Geraci: I was very angry at God-

Judy Presta: You were.

Mark Geraci: ... and I didn't know what to do with that. And it wasn't until we decided later on to continue to try to have a baby that I went back to the universal roots of prayer, which was if you only say thank you, it's enough for your prayer. I prayed to the baby who wasn't yet created. And I prayed to God and just said, thank you. And it was in that prayer that I was able to restore my relationship with God. We started again with IVF treatments, and try to have a family. And we had another loss. And then you got pregnant, and we had a little boy on August 14, 2014.

Speaker 3: Oh, my God.

Mark Geraci: And his name is Francesco Joseph Presta Geraci. He is the most beautiful child, and so loving.

Judy Presta: So many people prayed for us, so many; hundreds and hundreds of nuns praying for us that I worked with. It was incredible who got us through this. And he is infused with love-

Mark Geraci: He is.

Judy Presta: ... and joy.

Mark Geraci: He is.

Judy Presta: He's so happy. He waves to everybody.

Mark Geraci: He waves. He throws kisses to everyone.

Judy Presta: He throws kisses to everybody. He's 21 months now.

Mark Geraci: Just beautiful.

Judy Presta: And he redeemed my soul.

Mark Geraci: He did. He redeemed both of us.

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