A Chicago mother’s miracle baby and the making of a saint

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CHICAGO — A pregnant woman in crisis, a baby in jeopardy and absolute healing. Melissa Villalobos believes it was a miracle. Her doctors have no medical explanation, and now the Catholic Church is canonizing Cardinal Newman thanks to a Chicago woman's experience.

“I was supposed to miscarry, or she’d be born prematurely, but she was born full term," Villalobos said of her daugher Gemma, born full-term, 8.5 pounds and perfectly healthy. "I feel so blessed. It’s really overwhelming.”

The joy comes after much fear. Villalobos was pregnant with her fifth child, a baby girl, but there was a problem.

“She had what’s medically called a subchorionic hematoma, which is basically a blood clot between the placenta and the uterine wall," said investigating physician Dr. Gerald Casey.

Villalobos' doctor had no options.

“He was sad, he would look at the floor. He couldn’t offer me a remedy," she said.

“The only intervention one can take is bedrest and decreased activity, and, even in those circumstances, the frequent scenario is that the pregnancy is lost," Casey said.

On May 10, Villalobos was bleeding profusely. She went to the emergency room and given the grim prognosis. Then, days later, she woke up in a pool of blood.

"I had been bleeding for weeks, but it was a lot that morning," she said.

She gathered her children around the table, got them some cereal and told them to wait.

“I said, ‘Please stay in your seats, and don’t get up no matter what,'" Villalobos said. "I wanted to go upstairs and be in private, and I didn’t want them to sneak up and see the bleeding. By the time I got to the bathroom, I collapsed on the floor because I was losing so much blood. I knew at that time I needed to call 911, but I did not have my phone. I couldn’t believe it. I must’ve left it downstairs. I don’t know where I had it.”

But this very weak mother, so strong in her Catholic faith, did have one tool in her heart — Cardinal John Henry Newman.

“He was this brilliant man, and he had a love for ordinary people. I decided to call out to Cardinal Newman. And I said, ‘Please, Cardinal Newman, make the bleeding stop.’ And just then he made it stop. It stopped instantly. And the scent of roses filled the bathroom air immediately.”

She got up, she ran downstairs to the kitchen to find her children exactly where she left them.

"And they were all sitting there. And my oldest son said, ‘Well we’re just sitting here just like you told us.’ And just then I knew they were all OK, and I had everything I wanted," she said. "My baby was OK, I wasn’t hemorrhaging, and my children were safe. So, I sat down at the kitchen table and I said, ‘Thank you, Cardinal Newman.’”

But Villalobos still needed a doctor's confirmation. She had her weekly ultrasound scheduled.

“He said the baby looks perfect, there’s no more bleeding. In fact, I never lost any blood again throughout the pregnancy.”

Villalobos felt she knew what had happened but didn't reach out to the church until she delivered a healthy baby girl.

“The theory in the Church is, if God is going to perform a miracle, he is going to go all out. It is going to be sudden. It is going to be complete,” she said.

After a complete investigation over five-and-a-half years, the Catholic Church confirmed Villalobos' miracle.

“The Pope is the one who decides whether the miracle has occurred. Our role is only to say we cannot find a reasonable medical explanation," Casey said.

Testimony from the other medical experts across the country and in Rome concurred.

“I feel like I asked for this, and I know how loving Cardinal Newman is, that he would do this for me if it was in God’s will," Villalobos said.

Villalobos has since had two more children — a loving family she and her husband, David, work hard to protect every day.

“I don’t want people to think that you have to live a perfect life or be perfectly holy to reach out to God and seek his help," Villalobos said. "It is overwhelming to think that God has blessed me with this gift. And I try to do my best in my day-to-day life so as not to squander my time.”

Villalobos is traveling with her family to Rome for Cardinal Newman's canonization. She hopes others will talk to St. Newman and have him touch their lives as well.

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