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”.
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?