"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 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.