Tag Archives: Chiari

The Latest Happenings….


Wow! It’s been another long period since we updated this blog……and a lot sure has happened!

It was actually in returning home from New York City this past weekend that I felt inspired to update our blog and create this post. (and hopefully, be more consistent in it!) I’ll go in to more detail about NYC later in this post.

So, since our last update in April (right after our return from Honduras), it was as if Christ was calling us to truly learn to live our normal, routine family life. Yep, I’m talking about all of the small things: working a 9-5 job while Cristina stayed at home with Bella, then coming home to have dinner and spending the last couple of hours with Bella playing, coloring, bubble-bathing and saying our nigh-night prayers before bed. As Cristina puts it, Christ was “romancing us” in the beauty of simply-living and breathing.

Daddy and Bella reading

A lot less dramatic/exciting than one imagined their life would be after having spent years as a missionary in Honduras! But, alas, this is EXACTLY where Christ has us.

God speaks to us in the ordinary

God speaks to us in the ordinary.                         (Bella saying Grace before dinner)

You see, there is a really profound piece of advice I’ve gotten from a Catholic blogger I’ve been following for the past few months (charliej373.wordpress.com) . A former political consultant, Charlie has dedicated himself to giving a sort of spiritual direction to his readers as the events of the world unfold around us, (ISIS, Ebola, our Govt, etc etc etc) yet he reminds his readers that our call isn’t to await some huge world-changing CATASTROPHE or for the END OF THE WORLD, nor does he spend time focused on the panic or the fear that the world news could cause us. His daily reminder is that:

“The only thing that will put flesh on the bones of our plans is to relentlessly acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around us.”

I digress.

As I was sharing, these past few months have served as a reflection on the importance of our home. Not only for Bella and her future siblings (God-willing), but for both Cristina and I as well. Cristina and I, since our youth and young-adulthood, recognize that God has molded our hearts and our calling to be outward-focused…..but over the years and through the process of spiritually maturing, (which seems to be slower than we’d like!) we see the importance of starting at home and creating a refuge there.

bella birthday 2

This time has been full of laughter and of tears…..of days that fly by and days that seem like they will never end. In the midst of all of them is our life, for better or for worse. We’ve had 2nd birthday parties:

 bella birthday

…gone to Princess Parties:

bella princess

…enjoyed the beach:

“I got and in my baysoo”

bella beach bandw1 bella and daniel1 bella and grace1 bella and daddy 1

….visited old stomping-grounds:

Family selfie in Philadelphia

…..had a day at the zoo:

bella zoo 1 bella waterfall zoo bella giraffe 1

…saw old friends (and future mother superior…?)

why so serious?

….got first Dominican-salon haircuts:

bella haircut

Don’t let the skin color fool you, this girl is half Carribean!

…hung out with cousins:


…but most of the time, goofed-off:


More than anything else, we’ve had days full of love. Mostly the fun, sloppy-wet-kiss-on-the-lips kind of love, but even the tough kind as well. It’s all good…..it’s all real….and in it is where we find God.

That brings us back to this past weekend in NYC….3 years after we lay prostrate before Our Lord in our wedding…..who would’ve known?

Congreso Foto

This past weekend, Cristina and I were invited to speak at the 7th Annual Pro-Life Congress for the Spanish Office of the Archdiocese of NY. This time, we were actually invited to lead workshops, separately, regarding Masculine/Feminine Sexuality and it’s role in rebuilding a pro-life culture. It’s incredible to look back at our lives and think about the gift that is our sexuality. How many problems in our world could be traced back to that: the misuse of the sexual gift? I’d argue the vast majority. On the flip-side, how many victories have been won for God’s Glory because of a healthy and whole understanding of our sexuality? I’d say many more.

Our Corazon Puro friends at the Congress

It was a blessed time, and since the folks that put on the event are old colleagues (at the Archdiocese) and good friends (Catholic Marriage Movement from the Bronx) of ours, it was like being with family.

As you can imagine, Bella stole the show. I’m pretty sure that more people showed up for her than to participate in our workshops!

That’s all for now…..pray that I can update this more frequently – that really is my goal!

Please pray for this little family,

In Christ and Our Lady,

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta


All Saints


I’ve decided that since a whole year has passed….it’s time to get things back together for this blog!

What a year….since last October…..what a year! For those of you who have been following – it’s been quite the eventful 12 months! Last we checked in, we were making the move from New York City (then NJ/PA for a few months) down to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Due to financial difficulties after the In-Utero surgery that Cristina and Maria Isabella underwent for Spina Bifida repair, followed by Maria Isabella’s “2nd birth” via C-Section……we decided it was best to spend a year living with my parents, in a small room over-the-garage. Heck of a way to spend the 1st year of marriage! Don’t get me wrong….we were/are grateful for the opportunity….but it’s worth adding that God truly has a sense of humor. Sometimes Cristina and I jokingly regret doing this during our wedding mass!

Still, there is so much to tell since we’ve been in Virginia Beach…..from multiple ER visits, brace fittings, Spina-Bifida clinics, a birthday party (interrupted by an ER visit in the middle of the cake-cutting!) to wheel-chair fittings and even us purchasing a house!

Throughout all of it, however, God’s presence and Grace have guided us. That, is for sure. Even in our darkest moments, when we’ve been unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel…..He has been there….and He has sent us the right people and opened all of the doors for us to go through. (and closed the doors that would have sent us on the wrong path)

Please see our pictures below!

We continue to beg for your prayers and now that things seemed to have settled down (and us settled in to our new home!) to update our blog more often!

May God bless you and may Our Lady continue to intercede for you!

In Christ,

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta


With our realtor, Bob Smith, closing on our new home!


A 1 year reunion of our Ronald McDonald House roommates – all mothers and children who underwent In-Utero surgery for Spina Bifida Repair at CHOP!

Aviary Photo_130255738817639655

Our little munchkin…..mooching off of mommy’s dinner! Who said babies don’t know how to manipulate?!


No comment.

Aviary Photo_130275412714926609

Trying on Aunt Carol’s glasses!


Did we mention that Mother Teresa is CONSTANTLY following us around?!


Mother’s group celebrating All Saint’s Day!

Week 5 Update


I apologize for not updating this earlier, but this is the first chance that I’ve had to sit down and write!

Praise God, yesterday’s check-up went very well…things seem to be coming along, slowly but surely. As always, the normal ultrasound exam was done to examine Maria Isabella’s spine, the surgery site on her little back and also the progress of her brain development and fluids.

Along with last week, we couldn’t ask for a better situation….Maria Isabella is progressing along in this pregnancy and her ventricles haven’t increased in size(due to the fluid levels) since the surgery. This is a VERY good thing! The Chiari Malformation (or  hindbrain herniation) which is one of the worst parts of having Spina Bifida, has actually reversed – allowing for a healthy flow of fluids to-and-from her head.

A is a baby with the herniation, B is without. (Maria Isabella’s brain is now looking more like B!)

This is what they look for when they measure her ventricles (gratefully, Bella’s are A LOT smaller now!)

Our prayer is that the ventricle fluid levels remain constant, or if they increase at all, (which is somewhat common with Spina Bifida, and not necessarily a reason for alarm) that they don’t increase to a dangerous level.

Let me tell you, our little daughter constantly confirms her stubbornness. Every night between 8-10pm, little Bella is movin’ away, kicking and doing flips….but once we get in to the hospital for her ultrasound, she goes right back in to a breached fetal position. Unfortunately, her movements still cause Cristina some pain (and will continue to, until she is born) but it’s all a good sign because it means that she is kicking and moving her feet and legs and there has been no sign of paralysis!

As for me, I am back in NY for the weekend to get a few things done here at the Office and at our apartment, (we are moving things out because we can’t afford rent at a place we aren’t even living in) but I will return to be with Cristina on Monday morning. Look at the gifts we received when I came in to the office today:

An Icon from Poland!

A statue of Our Lady – really pregnant!

Please continue to keep Cristina and Maria Isabella in your prayers…..thank you all who have been praying for us…who have mailed us or sent us things that have kept us busy during this time of waiting! Your support means so much to us…God bless you!

Also – everyone should see this little video that a mother made of her children….it’s pretty amazing…but with the rough statistic of 93% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome,  it’s a definite tearjerker!

World Down Syndrome Day

God bless you all!

In Christ,
Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta

What is this world coming to?!


It’s pretty ironic that only a few days ago I posted an article about this….

Please please please read this article about a recent episode of DR PHIL (link to the episode on the Dr Phil website if you don’t believe me)

I know that once you start reading, it may be hard to continue…..but it’s important to know what kind of ideologies/beliefs/morality is being taught to us through the media…..notice towards the end of the episode how the majority of the audience seems to agree with the woman’s idea…..all because they’ve become “emotionally” involved. Disgusting.

A future world like this scares me.


The article by Cassy Fiano at LiveActionNews:

This week on the popular Dr. Phil Show, a mother named Annette Corriveau was featured. She’s special because she wants the right to be able to kill her children.

That’s right. She is the mother of two severely disabled adult children, and she feels that the moral thing to do would be to kill them by lethal injection, to end their “suffering.” Her children were diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, causing them to lose motor function and be institutionalized. They cannot speak, and they have to be fed through feeding tubes. Any more information on their condition wasn’t made clear – probably because, as Annette admitted, she visits her children only once every two months. The people who actually work with her children every day, and see them on a regular basis, and could therefore give a better idea of what their lives are like, were not interviewed for the show. We had only Annette’s point of view, which is that – according to her – if her children could choose, they would choose suicide.

She admits that she doesn’t know if they are in pain. She doesn’t know if they’re deaf or blind. She doesn’t know if they recognize her or not, and she doesn’t know what actions and activities, if any, are comforting to them. She doesn’t know if they are able to communicate in any way. She says that they’ve never left the facility they’re in over the past twenty years, but she also doesn’t disclose if she’s done anything to try to take her children out on trips – although considering that she visits them only once every two months, my guess would be no.

Yet she feels that, because she is their mother, she should be allowed to end their lives – because she doesn’t think their quality of life is worth living for.

Also invited on the show? Attorney Geoffrey Fleiger, who defended the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian. As we all know, Dr. Kevorkian performed assisted suicides for his patients, and the argument being made is that this is the same thing: helping people put themselves out of their own misery.

Assisted suicide arguments aside, there is a glaring difference between what Dr. Kevorkian was doing and what Annette Corriveau is advocating: these children wouldn’t be committing suicide. They wouldn’t be calling Dr. Kevorkian themselves. They aren’t consciously making that decision. It is a choice being made for them, by the person who is supposed to love and protect them. No matter how sympathetic you try to make yourself seem, this is murder, plain and simple. Taking someone’s life and calling it “merciful” does not change the fact that you are taking someone’s life.

The most disturbing part of all? Dr. Phil offered a weak rebuttal to her argument, but he still went on calling this an act of mercy to her children. He then polled the audience to see how many of them agreed with this mother.

Almost every single member of the audience did.

The woman crying at the end of that video was the one person speaking out for those children. She was given all of a minute, tops, to make her case for why murdering people with severe disabilities is abhorrent and wrong. And in that minute, she was able to pretty much hit the nail on the head: that you can’t kill your children just because it’s too much work for you to keep them alive.

This isn’t the first time Annette Corriveau has spoken publicly about this issue. She was featured in a documentary, Taking Mercy, along with a father who actually did kill his disabled daughter in the name of “mercy.” (You can watch the video here – it’s about fifteen minutes long.)

Robert Latimer, the other parent in Taking Mercy, murdered his daughter to end her “suffering” by putting her in the cab of his truck and letting her die of carbon monoxide poisoning. The affliction that meant that her life was not worth living? Cerebral palsy.

These two parents want to make it legal to murder your children if, as a parent, you feel that their lives aren’t worth living, because they are supposedly suffering too much. And what makes a life not worth living? Apparently, having a disability.

While you can’t argue that Annette Corriveau’s children are severely disabled, Robert Latimer’s daughter was nowhere near them in terms of disability. You can see her in videos, laughing and smiling. The reason he decided to kill her? She had to have surgery to repair her hip, another surgery in a long line of them, and he felt that her life was too “painful” to live. He says that after she died, he knew she was at peace. And of course, so was he.

What makes these people think they have the right to decide whether their child gets to live or die? Annette Corriveau repeatedly says that you can’t judge her unless you’ve “walked in her moccasins,” but that is a load of nonsense. This has nothing to do with being judgmental, and everything to do with refusing to open the door to euthanasia.

It’s repeatedly said that this should be between the parent and the physician, and no one else, but it isn’t the parent’s choice to make. You don’t get to decide whether someone’s life is worth living or not. You don’t get to decide that it’s better to murder people than let to let them live.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this entire argument – that “mercy killing” should be legalized – is the potential for a deadly slippery slope. If they get their way, then who gets to decide what the marker for quality of life is? Who chooses when life is worth living for someone else? What disabilities deserve a death sentence? Sure, Annette Corriveau’s children are severely disabled. But what about parents who feel that their child with, say, Down syndrome has poor quality of life and doesn’t deserve to live? Multiple sclerosis? Muscular dystrophy? Cerebral palsy?

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the world living with disabilities, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want someone deciding for them that their lives aren’t worth living and that as such, they’ll be murdered. The fact that this issue has been brought to prominence on The Dr. Phil Show and portrayed as a legitimate issue of compassion and mercy is horrifying; even worse is that so many of his viewers apparently feel that killing someone because of a disability is A-OK.

The reality here is that no one gets to play God and decide who lives and who dies, or whose life is worthwhile and whose isn’t. Just because you brought your children into the world doesn’t mean that you have the right to take them out of the world, whether it’s done in the name of mercy or not. Because no matter how you may try to paint the picture, there is absolutely nothing merciful or compassionate about murder.

Week 3 doctor’s appointment


At this point Cristina and I have our countdowns until Wednesday’s weekly appointment, so today was very exciting for us as you can imagine.

After putting a couple hours of work in this morning and after getting Cristina ready to leave her bed (after 7 days of being stuck there!), we headed to CHOP. On the way we found this voicemail from this morning! :

Message from the big guy

It’s been such a blessing to have such support and prayers coming our way!

The appointment was as normal and routine as the last 3, basically consisting of a 30 minute ultrasound with questions from the Nurse Practitioner and our Doctors. Also, Maria Isabella’s anatomy is reviewed and checked to monitor the progress….

The liquid on her brain ,specifically within the ventricles, has remained stable. Remember, one of the major effects of the Spina Bifida defect (hole in her back, exposing the spinal cord and nerves)  is the amniotic fluid among other fluids, slowly accumulating on top of the brain which causes Hydrocephalus – or “water on the brain – in latin. They let us know from the very beginning when we were discharged post-surgery that it was very normal (although NOT necessarily always the case) that the fluid levels might slowly rise before they were to fall (God-willing). The normal size of a baby’s ventricles without Hydrocephalus is about 10mm on each side.   Today the ultrasouns shows that the  levels remained the same – about 13 mm and 14mm – on the two ventricles! While they are ‘slightly’ larger than the average baby, they still remain at a good size! Let us keep praying that they stay that way!

Also, last week in the ultrasound we had noticed that Maria Isabella had her legs crossed – indian style – and that meant that she was indeed moving them. Today we noticed her legs were uncrossed but she had her feet overlapping one another….and the best part – we actually noticed a slight twinkling of her toes….which means that if she’s able to move her toes, shes able to move her feet….and her legs. That’s a great sign! Please pray that this also remains the same and that the surgical closing of the defect is able to prevent any further damage to her nerves and thus immobility.

Here you can see her feet, and the larger oval shapes are her knees!

Overall, we couldn’t be happier with how she looks in the ultrasounds….she continues to move and to wiggle around while they try to examine her….and that is all a good sign!

Please continue praying for her protection within the womb…and for Cristina’s continued recovery.

I promise to keep updating whenever we have news!

In Christ,


Holy week/3 weeks after surgery


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 weeks since the surgery on wednesday. While time is going by so slowly, looking back it seems like it’s been forever!

As we enter in to this Holy week and prepare for the greatest mystery of our Christian Faith, we can definitely feel His presense with us.

Part of our weekly routine (apart from me working 9-5 on the computer while Cristina sleeps through most of the day) has been the visit of a new priest friend, Msgr Michael Mannion, one of the pioneers and humble author of the first book on Abortion and Healing. Mother Teresa continues to sneak into our lives, showing her presence and intercession each day….and Fr. Michael Mannion is a confirmation of that. His book:

Not only has Fr. Michael been generously giving of his time to us and to his visits with us, he has been joyfully sharing his experiences and adventures working along side Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Yesterday, after bringing us Communion to the Ronald McDonald House, he gave us a Miraculous Medal that Mother Teresa had given him during one of their adventures in India.

To top that off, the Sisters of Life in the Bronx sent Cristina a beautiful care package this morning and in it we found this:

(A hand-knit prayer shawl based on the Missionary of Charity habit colors!)

At this point we couldn’t help ourselves but laugh a little…and Cristina looked up to heaven and said “Ok Mother Teresa, we get it!”

What else can I say? God has been and continues to be good to us….we really don’t deserve these blessings.

From what I have learned from the other young mothers who are here at the Ronald McDonald House healing from the same fetal surgery that Cristina and Bella had, it seems that it becomes a waiting game…even painful at times. Our “big day” of the week is Wednesday….and that will be the day that we have our weekly check-ups to see Maria Isabella’s progress and growth as well as her brain function and the slow relief of her hindbrain on her spinal cord. (that’s the hope!)

On Sunday we were blessed with the visit of one of the young women who gave birth last week after going through the same process that Cristina and Maria Isabella are going through…..the little girl was born at 37 weeks and she is GORGEOUS! Her feet are grown a little inwards (due to the Spina Bifida) but through patient and consistent physical therapy by the mother, she will most likely regain all of her functioning. She also seems to have full control of her bowels and is feeding extremely well! Quite different from what the initial doctor’s visits back home predicted! (and sadly, the opinion of family members who didn’t want her to have a baby with “problems”) She truly is a miracle!

We now have a more visual idea of what to hope and pray and wait for…..Cristina can now feel little Bella move more than ever and her pains (while not completely gone) are slowly starting to get a little better. The biggest struggle for her at this point seems to be the fact that she is confined to her bed….and usually has to sleep through the day because of the meds.

*****Please keep 2 of the other post-fetal-surgery women in your prayers…..one of which went in to labor only 2-3 weeks after surgery! Her baby was delivered at 25 weeks due to one of the risks associated with this surgery “Global Membrane Separation”  and required the baby to be delivered immediately. Thankfully, the baby is doing well for such a pre-term birth and although she is extremely delicate and fragile….the doctors are doing all that they can to keep her alive and developing. Her mother will remain here in the Philly area until she is about “9 months” of ‘age’ or until she would have supposedly been born at 9 months. 
The other woman to pray for was someone who had the surgery a little over a month ago and last week spontaneously and unexpectedly (we had had a conversation the night before, everything was going great) felt her water break at 5:30AM and is now in the hospital while the doctors try to figure out how to keep the baby in her womb long enough for her son to develop a little more. ****** 

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating for the sake of bringing in more prayers for Cristina and Maria Isabella – these risks can happen to anyone! We have a strong faith and hope in Our Lord, that He has brought us here to this point…that He opened the doors not only for the surgery but also the stay here at the Ronald McDonald House. (which was confirmed when we ran in to a fellow Catholic Blogger/Mother from Chicago who recognized us here at the House….I’ll have to blog about that another time!) No matter what happens, we trust that He is in Control and has His Hands in all of this. BUT, we count on your prayers…and as nerve-racking and painful this waiting period can be at time….(Cristina’s random sores and pains can be signs of anything) we strive to constantly lay everything down over to Him, especially this Holy Week as we prepare for what is the cause and reason for our Hope – the Resurrection!

So tomorrow we are heading back to CHOP for our check-up and we can’t wait to see our little girl!

Please continue to pray for her healing and for God’s Will to be done in all of our lives!

Also know that even as this has become a prayer intention that seems to be slowly “drawn out” because of the long waiting period we still have, (12-14 weeks!) we still need your prayers! We count on them daily and return them to God for all of those who are praying for us!

We are so grateful for all of the love, support and prayers that has been sent our way!

God bless you all! We love you! (Expect some updated pics tomorrow!)

In Christ


Reflections from a mother on bedrest


I sit here as I end the first week of what my doctors are calling “Strict Bed-Rest”…..at the moment I write this, I find myself alone as my mom takes our dishes downstairs to the common area to wash them.

It has been a few hours since my husband has left me…..he had to head back to NYC for a Spanish Pro-Life Congress that is being run by his office at the Archdiocese of NY.

Oh, be still my heart! How I miss him! I can’t help but embrace this moment to pray and to speak with my Lord….”Father, I miss him!”

I hear Him speak to me gently, “Fear not my daughter, for I am with you!”

“But Father, I feel so alone without him here by my side”

“I am with you, know that I am the ONLY one who can truly fulfill you in that deepest of ways…and in these moments of missing your one flesh, hold on to ME!”

At this moment I imagine myself embracing Our Lord….and as I fall more deeply into prayer, I feel the splinters of the Cross stinging my lips…..

….I have to tell you (and I know this might sound crazy) that during my first trimester of pregnancy with Maria Isabella, I heard the Lord speak to me (Andrew is my witness for those of you who might think that I’m schizophrenic!) saying: “Cristina, I want you to carry a Cross for this little Life within you”

Now naturally I’m thinking headaches, nausea, even the progesterone treatments (in extra-large injection form!)….you know, the typical pregnancy symptoms. Boy, was I wrong!

At this point – after finding out the diagnosis and undergoing reparative surgery for Maria Isabella – I now understand more about what His plan is with this “Cross” I will be carrying. I truly feel that the Lord is taking Andrew and I together on a journey to go deeper into understanding this LOVE (Jesus) that was willing to die – and continue to die, daily – for His Love.

I mean….I’ve had to die to myself – literally – in taking up this Cross (whether I liked it or not!)  I’ve left my job, family, and friends and have moved to South Jersey…all in the name of taking up this Cross (and embracing it!)

At this point I feel like I have no other choice but to tell God “Take me wherever you want me to go!”

So…I ask all of you to please send me your prayer requests….I have a lot of discomfort/pain/soreness and even nervousness to offer up to Our Lord….so I’d love to add your intentions to that list!!!

Either post your intention here, or send it to me via catholiccafeconleche@gmail.com

Oh, and please keep praying for our recovery!!!

With Love

Cristina (and little Maria Isabella)