Beauty And The Bella Jun28


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Beauty And The Bella

Karen Santorum Opens Up And Shares Her Heart On The Joy Of Raising a Special Needs Child

Written by Monica C. Fink


Growing up in Pittsburgh the tenth of 12 children, Karen Santorum has always known the joys of living in a large family. She recognizes firsthand that the love and support of family have a profound impact on how we move and live in the world. At the age of 30, Karen was ready to start her own family when she married Rick Santorum, two-time Republican Party presidential nominee.  

After having seven children, Karen and Rick were still ready for more. But when another pregnancy eluded them, they trusted that this was part of God’s plan for them and simply stopped trying. As is often the case, Karen found herself pregnant just two months later, soon after she had given away most of their baby merchandise. Baby Bella was on her way.


18 weeks into the pregnancy, Karen’s doctor detected a problem but was not able to fully pinpoint Bella’s condition. Four days after her birth, Bella was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a rare genetic condition that less than ten percent of babies survive through the first year. Children born with this disorder suffer from numerous medical complications, delayed growth, and severe developmental delays.  

Karen and Rick had other ideas. They vowed to treat Bella like each of their other children. After 10 days in the NICU and numerous treatments at George Washington Hospital in Washington, DC, Bella came home. Rather than focus on her disabilities and the doctor’s lack of faith, Karen chose to put all her energy into Bella’s life, happiness and joy. Karen refused to hire full-time nurses; she could not conceive of not being there for each moment of this precious child’s life. “She is an angel in our lives, pure joy and goodness” Karen says.


Bella is now 8 years old and exceeding every expectation placed upon her by countless doctors. Karen remembers vividly the negativity with which the doctors spoke when Bella was first-born. Fortunately, Karen discovered Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where Bella receives her current treatments. Karen noticed that, here at CHOP, the doctors and staff use hopeful language and call Bella by her name. Just like Karen, they understand that when you love and believe in a child, they do so much better.

Despite her early diagnosis, some of Bella’s favorite activities are riding her horse and her tricycle. She loves to sing and dance and you can catch her and her family in spontaneous break-out dance sessions all the time. She also loves books. “She is taking in so much more than people believe. She knows she is loved; she knows her home, her surroundings, her church, and her family.

She knows the rhythm of everyday life” says Karen. Bella has truly exceeded every expectation – she is healthy and rarely sick. Karen can sense that Bella communicates in her own language. If she had the words, Karen knows in her heart that Bella would say she feels loved and joyful and is thankful for the life she has been given.


When asked about the challenges of raising a special needs child, Karen says that faith is the one thing that helped her and Rick through the past eight years. Karen and Rick are dedicated to supporting parents of disabled children. They receive such joy when witnessing other families out and about with their children.

As parents, they encourage everyone to speak life and joy into every situation, to remember that having a child with a disability is a blessing. These special children elevate the level of joy and happiness in their families. Bella has impacted her older siblings with a maturity and perspective that otherwise might not have happened. Karen and Rick cannot imagine a time when Bella is not with them; they plan to enjoy every single minute.



Karen Santorum is the proud wife of former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum,
mother of 7, attorney, author, and former neonatal intensive care nurse.


Monica C. Fink is a proud mother of 2, wellness coach, writer, and also a
Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, AADP