A recent article in the press described one couple’s “abortion pact.” That is, if any pregnancy had a chance of a fetal anomaly they would abort. The couple felt that because of their age – she was 37 and he was in his 40s – they had an increased risk of having a child with a disability and they were not prepared to care for such a child.
I was going to write an emotionally detached post about this article, because I’ve had a few weeks to calm down from when I first read it. Yeah, right. I cry whenever I think about it.
I was going write about the difficulty in making a decision when you simply don’t know. You don’t know what the future will hold for you or your child. You don’t know if the test is accurate. You don’t know if the science is sound or what medical interventions will come. There are no crystal balls.
I was going to write about the notion of ‘chasing normal’ and how it permeates our society’s quests for perfection. Really, how perfect are you? What if someone decided that you were somehow wrong or ‘damaged.’ Would you still be here?
I was going to write about how this is a reflection of consumer culture and our objectification of people – that we think we can buy perfection and we (as parents) deserve nothing but ‘the best.’ Designer handbag, imported car, designer baby.
I was going to write about how ‘disability’ is the largest growing segment of our population and that anyone can join at any point in their lives. 50 percent of us do. Car accident, near-drowning, stroke, disease, this list goes on. Welcome to the club.
I was going to write about how the risk of genetic quirks at age 37 really isn’t that high. That is, the chances of having a child with Down syndrome ‘jumps’ from 2 out of 1000 births to 4 out of 1000 births. Big whoop-de-doo.
I was going to write about ‘invisible’ disabilities that there are no genetic tests for – autism, ADHD, learning disability as well as the random accidents at birth that can cause a disability like cerebral palsy. What are you going to do then? Send the kid back?
I was going to ask – where do you draw the line? Is it ok to wear eyeglasses or use a hearing aid? What about use a cane to walk? What if you can’t read? What’s the difference between a ‘syndrome’ and just a weakness, other than we often can pinpoint a genetic cause for some of them? What if one sneaks by? What if the child with Down Syndrome has average intelligence, but still has a syndrome? Will you love them less?
I was going to write about how disability does not mean dumb. It means different. Einstein, Steve Hawking, Temple Grandin – all have ‘disabilities.’ They are all brilliant folks who made great contributions to our society. So what have you done lately to save the world?
I was going to write about the trauma my friend faced when her baby tested positive for spina bifida. It was false. Does this even matter? Killing babies is killing babies.
I was going to write about my sister’s heartbreaking struggles to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. Repeat miscarriages, excruciating loss, hormone therapy, IVF, possible adoption. She’d be thrilled to have the child you do not want.
I was going to write about how I would have done the same thing – because I didn’t know what the other side of normal is really like until I had my own children with genetic quirks. Fear, over-thinking, guns in the hands of babes, and the great unknown – all this can stop you from being a parent. Of a child. Isn’t that what you want, after all?