Thursday, January 24, 2013

A healthy baby

Congratulations!! You're pregnant! Do you hope it's a boy or a girl?

"Oh we don't care.. As long as the baby's healthy that's all that matters.."

We hear this all the time.. don't we? As long as the baby's healthy that's all that matters.. It seems like the right thing to say-the noble thing. We live in a society where to judge someone based on their gender is wrong, to hope for a boy over a girl or vice versa might be frowned upon, but where expectations for healthy and "normal" are perfectly acceptable. A society that all too often overlooks the individuality of a human being and instead judges them based on a label or stereotype. A society that actually encourages the "removal" of "fetal tissue" (aka YOUR BABY) that may have a different combination of genetics than you or I. A society that looks upon someone who is different than our closed-minded selves as living a sad life filled with lonlieness and suffering.

I hear people say it all the time. Friends, family, strangers, Christian community members.. As long as the baby's healthy that's all that matters.. I had never thought much about the phrase before Ella was born. I had probably fallen victim to the trap of believing it was truth as well. Until January 6, 2011. And my world was turned upside down.. When Ella was a newborn, there were honestly countless occasions where unsuspecting strangers would come up to me and my new baby, have no clue what we were dealing with, ooh and ahh over her, and say to me in a loving voice "Ohhhh... how beautiful. As long as she's healthy that's all that really matters, isn't it sweetie?" 

I never knew what to say.. I would stare at them blankly, stammer a few words of thanks, and try to blink back the tears and I quickly walked away. But what I really wanted to do was shout at the kind old lady who was trying to congratulate me that "NO! It isn't all that matters!" To say that a "healthy baby" is the only thing that matters is an absolute slap in the face. A rip across my already wounded heart. To say that, makes my daughter's life a failure. Because everyone knows "healthy" is really code for "normal." You hope for a 'healthy' baby, but you're not afraid your newborn is going to come out with a bad case of the sniffles. Or a weird fungal infection on his toes. Or Carrot Addiction (It's a real thing. Go ahead.. Google it.) No.. you're hoping for things like the right number of chromosomes, 10 fingers and 10 toes, a typically sized head.. You're hoping your baby is "normal." You're hoping your baby is not like mine. You're hoping your baby is not like Ella.

I can't begin to describe how incredibly painful it was to hear this from friends and strangers, to see it plastered all over Facebook every time someone would have a new baby or announce a pregnancy. As long as the baby's healthy that's all that matters.. As long as your baby isn't like HERS, that's all that matters.. Right around the time we were first dealing with all of Ella's issues, knowing she was not going to be your typical healthy, I remember crying out in anger, "Why??? Why isn't our baby healthy? If that's the only thing that matters then what does that mean for us? What did we do wrong?? Why isn't our baby healthy???"

It was painfully difficult to hear, and sometimes still is, but you know what? I don't judge you for saying it. I get it.. I'm sure I used to say it too. No one wants their child to suffer. No one wants to see someone they love more than themselves struggle. We all want the best for our kids. We all want them to thrive and succeed. But what if.. what if success isn't defined in the way our shallow human minds see it? What if thriving means something completely different than what we're used to? What if a typically "healthy baby" isn't so important as you thought it was? What if a baby who wasn't born a 'healthy' baby turns out to be one of the biggest, most surprising blessings of your life?

Yesterday I went in for my first ultrasound with this pregnancy. When we first considered having more children after Ella, we knew it would be a different experience. It was. I honestly wasn't quite sure how I would react. My naive view of the world that 'bad' things happen only to other people had been stripped away from me. I was more educated this time. More aware. Would I scrutinize every single measurement the tech took and watch his face with intensity, trying to read any kind of sign of worry that might flash across it? Would I watch more carefully as he examined the chambers of the heart? Would I be anxious? Would I be able to enjoy myself and this precious time? I knew from painful experience that something could be 'wrong' this time..

I could have choked under all that pressure. I could have been swallowed in anxiety. But I didn't. And I wasn't. As the tech placed the wand over my slightly swollen abdomen and the view of our precious child appeared on the screen, a tear silently rolled down my cheek. I saw our beautiful baby for the first time and I knew. I was not afraid. Of genetic abnormalities. Of the number of chromosomes. Of something being 'wrong.' Of how our baby was wonderfully and fearfully made.

This time was different. This time I had something that I hadn't had before. I was armed with experience. I had been through my own sort of Hell and back so the fear of the unknown was lessened. I carried a shield of strength. Our family has been tested over the past 2 years and I know that no matter what happens with this baby, no matter what he or she might be like, we will get through it together and be stronger because of it. And most importantly I was consumed with love. Love that knows no boundaries. Love that puts no conditional limits on this baby of being "healthy" or not.

We will love this baby. Unconditionally. Boy or girl. Healthy or not healthy.

This baby.

This froggy-legged, Buddha-belly, indigestion-causing, 5 cartons of ice cream devouring, early morning Chinese food craving, making mommy a scatterbrained fool, sweet sweet baby.

No matter what. That baby.


  1. Beautiful!!! A wonderful and powerful post. It takes guts to address the "secret code" behind our polite and politically correct society's language. Thank you for your courage!

  2. oh.... you are so right. And you've said it so wonderfully. While I haven't been through what you've been through, or put nearly as much thought into it, I feel like God is has been telling me something similar with this pregnancy and with my last.

    I have seen or heard of so many different baby experiences - from miscarriages early on (way more common than I ever realized before) to no heartbeat at a 17 week ultrasound, to abnormalities in development that cause the baby to go to God within a few hours or days of birth to the Ella's and Down Syndrome babies of the world - I realize how much more common it is to have something go 'wrong' than I ever realized with my first pregnancy. I think God just wants us to hang on for the ride, he's giving us his child to take care of for however long he chooses, with whatever conditions He puts in place, because he knows what makes us stronger and closer to Him in the long run...

    1. I totally agree and that's awesome you can see that, even without being through some of these things firsthand. It seems as I get older and more experienced at this life thing, there is just SO many things that make life so imperfect. Friends dealing with infertility, a child with cancer, a genetic abnormality. When I see a family that seems all "healthy" I actually think.. "Hmmm.. that's weird." It's crazy how with Ella I put SO much emphasis on wanting her to be healthy and normal and just didn't know what I would do if she wasn't and now? Now.. I can honestly trust God that whatever He deems me capable of handling, I will.

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  4. I agree. I am expecting our next baby after a child with CdLS and our seventh child all up. Our littlest bundle had almost the full gammit of CdLS "complications" and it was a harrowing first year that included far too much time in ICU, the unique opportunity to see her chest open and packed with gauze after a heart surgery complication and months interstate - much of it with my other five accross the water in our home state while I was completely on my own. It was an experience. When I told our kids we had another bub on the way they were thrilled. I have to admit though, this morning as I laid in bed with my hubby and we rubbed the bulge together I said quietly "I am looking forward to doing the baby thing again without the tubes. Because while I am so glad of the tubes, because without them we would not have Kaylee, tubes suck." One by one the oldest of them, who are old enough to articulate their feelings, have come to me and quietly - unsure if it was sacrilege against the sister who they adore - said "I am praying our new baby isn't sick like Kaylee was." My answer, though, is exactly the same as it was when the would wish for a boy or a girl - "God will give us exactly the baby our family needs." While I want to have my family together and I never want to see my children in pain - if Kaylee and our littlest bub get a two for one deal with our therapists, So what? We like them. If I continue my first-name-basis relationship with the coffee guy in the children's hospital, it is a small price for the privilege of our baby. I have to admit I want this baby to be well, but ONLY because I do not want to see our baby in pain and I want our family together. But whatever the DNA, however many fingers and toes, however long the eyelashes - this child is perfect for our family. No ultrasound needed to determine that :)

    1. This made me tear up! I didn't know you were expecting again.. congrats!! I get what you're saying.. No one really specifically prays that their child will be UNwell or have abnormalities and it's okay to not really want them to, but at the end of the day we need to be open minded enough to realize that if something does occur they are still our precious child and we will love them no matter what package they come in or for how long we have them. (which you obviously do!) and being healthy is NOT the ONLY thing that matters.. It is not an end-all to your life. It's just a different path.

  5. As always Maria, a beautiful post. I've never thought of it that way and it must be such a different experience after everything you have been through. Wishing you a happy baby :o) (And I love the not-so-little belly on that baby of yours)

  6. You nailed it. THIS. This is what all expectant mothers should read. (applause) well done!

  7. Thank you for helping all of us to understand how "normal" isn't "better."

  8. Thanks for sharing your words and speaking for us do it so well.