A Healthy Baby

Last week on one of my flights we had a passenger board the plane with her gorgeous 6 month old daughter. As I’m a huge baby-lover, I struck up a conversation with the baby and the mother. (Yes, I shamelessly get a “baby fix” from playing with the babies on the plane – I miss my boys when I go away!)

Mom was a very nice lady. We chatted for a bit about normal baby stuff; traveling with a baby, nursing, sleep schedules and time zone changes, etc.

Somehow our conversation turned to the differences between boys and girls, and our hopes when we were pregnant about which gender we would have. She said that her husband had firm hopes for a boy, but that her only wish was “that the baby be healthy”.

Healthy.

All she wanted was a healthy child. She would be happy, as long as the child was healthy.

I felt a little bit like walking away and sitting dejectedly on my jumpseat at that moment.

See, I never thought much about this before, but when someone says that to a mother of children who are NOT healthy, well…it hurts. It offends. It angers.

My children are beautiful and amazing and perfect…and they happen to suffer from some very serious allergies and intolerances that mean, overall, they don’t quite fit the definition of “healthy children”.

So when someone says they will be happy if their unborn child is healthy, well, I have to wonder: will they then be UNhappy if the child is NOT healthy? Will they love that child any less?

Is that person saying my children are less valuable in some way because they are “not healthy”?

Or that I should somehow be unhappy because my children are “not healthy”?

The implication is there, even if the intention was not.

Women are encouraged to have in-utero testing for all sorts of maladies these days, and Darrel and I refused every single one of them the doctor would let us refuse.

Why? Well, think it through. You’re pregnant, the doctor tests you for cystic fibrosis or Down’s Syndrome and the test comes back positive.

What are you supposed to do with that information?

Logically, you have two choices: kill the baby because it is not “healthy”, or spend the rest of your pregnancy terrified and disappointed that you won’t have a “healthy” child (even though you know you’ll love your child regardless).

Both of those scenarios left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t believe in abortion (generally, and especially not because of a fallible medical test), and I never wanted my pregnancies to be tainted with disappointment and/or fear.

Besides, Darrel and I would have accepted, loved and cherished whatever baby God gave us. Period.

Healthy or not.

So when someone says they “only wanted a healthy baby”, I get angry.

I get angry at the dismissal of my amazing little boys. I get angry at the dismissal of all children who fight against some difficulty that qualifies them as “not healthy”.

I get angry at the ignorance of that comment.

My children are no less valuable because of their challenges. NO children are less valuable because of their challenges.

I am happy with my children exactly as they are.

No, these kids are not perfectly healthy in every possible way.

But they’re perfect just the way they are. In fact, they’re downright inspirational!

These challenges are part of my boys, they are not the sum total of my boys. They’re just a part; a part that is going to help make my boys strong enough to stand up for themselves, smart enough to question experts and listen to their own intuition, empathetic to the plights of others, and kind to people with challenges of all stripes.

That makes my boys BETTER than many other children out there.

I want my children to outgrow their allergies and intolerances, sure. Life would be easier without them, but I never EVER want anyone to make my children feel as though they are flawed in some way because of their many food issues.

I never want my kids to wonder if Mommy and Daddy are sad that they were born, because they were born “not healthy”.

I don’t want parents of children with special needs to have this extra burden placed on them; this road is challenging enough without people behaving as if they could not be happy if their children were “not healthy”. That statement begs the question for parents of “not healthy” children: am I not supposed  to be happy? Is there something wrong with me that I am?

The sentence “I didn’t care what we had, so long as the baby was healthy” needs to vanish from the world.

Better to say “I didn’t care what we had. I just wanted my baby in my arms to LOVE with all my heart.”

Period. End of story.

Like I said, this Mom was a very nice lady. After her comment about “healthy baby”, I responded by saying “Well, my boys are NOT healthy, and I’m blessed by them and love them anyway.”

Without missing a beat she replied “Oh, yes. My nephew has special needs and he’s wonderful! I know what you Mom’s go through from my sister. That’s why we prayed for a healthy baby. My sister didn’t want me to have to go through what she did.”

Then she smiled and said “God gives those babies to very special parents.”

It was sweet, touching, and very redeeming for me…but I still wish this statement – and the accompanying attitude – would disappear.

Parents should be happy with their children, simply because their children exist. Health has nothing to do with love and enjoyment. Raising healthy children might be easier in many ways, but it does not mean the children are better or the parents are happier.

I’m happy with my family exactly as they are, and I resent any implication that demeans my family.

I just want my babies in my arms to LOVE with all my heart.

__________

What do you think? Do you feel the same way, or am I being too sensitive?

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15 Responses to A Healthy Baby

  1. Ruth Pinnell says:

    TOTALLY feel the same way. Our son has ADHD/Tourette’s. He is not perfect. But he is perfect for our family. Our only prayer was that our baby would be wonderfully made and we knew that God would answer that prayer. ALL babies are wonderfully made – that’s just how God rolls! 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      That’s almost exactly what I was feeling when I wrote this. I think it’s normal to want a healthy child when you’re pregnant, but I was more focused on the blessing I had received – regardless of the “packaging” it came in…does that make sense? So hearing this kind of comment now sort of stung.

      I think I’m simultaneously correct in this post, AND being too sensitive. 🙂

  2. Joy says:

    God doesn’t make mistakes. Totally agree. 😉

  3. sara says:

    Every child (and parent) has their burden to bear, whether it is immediately apparent or not. I think when I said this (usually in response to someone’s trite opinion on which gender is better) I was thinking: healthy enough… What was “healthy enough?” A pregnant woman’s daily existence (especially a first timer) is full of fear, anxiety, worry. Is it healthy enough to survive to viability? To birth? To survive a clueless new parent? Healthy enough to survive the unknown. Healthy enough to be my child.

    • Carrie says:

      Hmm…very interesting! You’re right – the first time Mama pregnancy is a very angst-ridden time. I suppose we’re all scared we won’t be able to handle being a parent in general, let alone to a child with any sort of special needs, so we pray hard for things to be “perfect”. Of course, you only have to be a Mama for a very short time to realize “perfection” is NOT going to happen! LOL

      Thanks for the input, Sara! You’re always good for a new perspective. 😉

  4. Deb says:

    Huh, interesting. I always say that, and still say that. I am making no judgement on God or anyone’s personal beliefs. Nor am I trying to judge people. I say “i hope the baby is healthy” for the baby’s sake. Heart issues, cancers, other problems are heart breaking. I don’t wish that on any person. I have a heart condition. Mom and dad love me, zero doubt but they would do almost anything for me to be “healthy”. ——— not for them, for ME. Make sense? I am very interested in your reply as it bothers me that I may be inadvertently hurting someone.,.i go to huge levels to not offend anyone but apparently I am. :(.

    • Carrie says:

      Thank you for commenting, Deb! I agree 100% with what you said: we want our children to be healthy for THEIR sake, not ours. And we do all want healthy children, of course! I don’t think people take offense at being told “I hope the baby is healthy”. I don’t really, either…it just struck me hard at that moment, talking with a woman holding her very healthy child as she told me how all she wanted was a healthy child, that even though we both wanted the same thing…well, I didn’t get that. And it kind of stung for a bit.

      Every pregnant woman on earth prays for a healthy baby, and that is perfectly normal and right! In fact, I think it’s actually a lovely thing to say to a pregnant woman – that you hope her baby is healthy.

      It’s just that if the baby is NOT healthy…what then?

      Please keep saying it to your pregnant friends and companions. They won’t take offense, I’m sure, and it’s a wonderful thing to hope for. But it might be wise to refrain from saying that’s what you wanted in front of a mom if you don’t know whether her children are struggling or not. We’re kind of sensitive sometimes, I think. 😉

  5. Linda says:

    I don’t know, I see it probably from a little different perspective. I do wish my baby was healthy but it does not mean I love her less with her handicap. I love her endlessly and unconditionally and I would love and care for her the same way even if she was healthy or even if she had more sever handicap. We all wish the best for our babies and it is totally natural and it is also natural that we (well, most of us) accept them even with “imperfections”. So I understand the statement of the “wish for a healthy baby” and it does not touch me in a negative way.

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Linda! I think we are actually closer in perspective than my post might have indicated. I also would love for all children to be healthy, and I totally understand anyone saying that they hope for a healthy child. I think I might have been “processing” a bit when I wrote this. 😉

      Recently I’ve encountered a few incidents where parents were…not being very good parents to their “imperfect” children, and it all swirled around in my brain. More than anything, I want all children to be healthy; but if that isn’t going to happen I want the parents to love and cherish their children – and be happy – regardless.

  6. Janet Dubac says:

    Children are God’s gift. I’m sure the mom that you talked to did not mean to say anything to make you feel bad. All I can say, being a parent is such as fulfilling feeling. Whatever gender your baby is or in whatever condition-nothing compares to the joy of being a mom or a dad. And, I thank God for blessing my marriage with a little bundle of jumping, giggling, and milk-drinking joy!

    • Carrie says:

      Hi Janet! Oh, I know she didn’t mean to make me feel bad. She was actually a really nice lady! I also agree that children are a gift from God, regardless of anything. Maybe that’s why I got so worked up about the remark. 🙂

      Sometimes I can’t believe God would have blessed me – ME! – with the amazing husband and kids that I have. What on earth did I ever do to deserve this good fortune, you know? They’re the best things in the world to me. Thanks for stopping by!!

      By the way, I enjoyed reading some of your blog posts about parenting and children. Especially the one about “What makes a good parent”! 🙂

  7. Joy R. says:

    Definitely agree with you here, and I love your revised statement of, “I just want my baby in my arms to LOVE with all my heart.” I love that! Because some parents don’t get to keep their babies, and some never get to hold them.

    I always had to wonder about the “so long as they’re healthy” statement, too–what, so if they’re not healthy, are you going to throw them back? I suppose, however, that some people do, in a manner of speaking. And that just about breaks my heart, for many reasons. I won’t get on a soapbox about it here though.

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