Friday, December 14, 2007

My Mind Wanders

I’m not sure why, but I am seeing so many pregnant women these days. I know that often nine months after a major weather event – e.g. a snow storm that keeps people indoors for days or weeks – more babies will be born. But, I can’t think of anything like that which occurred in the last 6 or so months. Some of the pregnant women I know are employees of a school district, and most of their babies are due in the summer. That makes sense to me – they can spend their maternity leave at home during the summer and then return to teach again in September. But an obvious explanation doesn’t seem to exist for the rest of the pregnant women I know. Maybe it was just a real fun spring and summer for some folks!

While thinking about all the women that are pregnant, I pondered what their reactions would be if they could find out before their baby’s birth whether or not the baby had significant disabilities. Women over the age of 35 are routinely tested for things which could be affecting their babies, but if a woman is under the age of 35, I believe more often than not, doctors assume everything is fine unless there is some extreme indication otherwise. But what if all pregnant women could find out definitively the health and disability status of their babies before birth?

What would you do if you were pregnant and your doctor told you that your child would have cerebral palsy – or deafness – or blindness – or Tay Sachs Disease – or Down Syndrome – or Autism - or maybe several of those things? I don’t want this to be a discussion of whether abortion is right or wrong, but rather, what would your first reaction be? And, once you had made a decision about your pregnancy– regardless of what it was – what thoughts would be going through your mind?

If your decision was to continue with your pregnancy, would your joy be lessened? Would you stay up nights worrying and planning, or would you delay those things until after the birth? Would you hold out hope that the doctor was wrong? Would you pray to your God to heal your unborn child? Would you start to research what services and aides you would need, and would you look for doctors who would welcome your child after birth? Do you think you would love your child even a little tiny bit less knowing that he or she would have health issues or disabilities, or might you love them more because of those things? And what would you share with your families and friends?

Would it make a difference in your thoughts and actions if the disabilities revealed by your doctor were very significant? Or would the type of disability make a difference? When I attended adoption classes prior to adopting my girls, one of the questions I had to answer was what type of disabling condition would I accept in a child. A page listing everything from learning disabilities to AIDS was given to me to check off which I would accept. If you had a list like that given to you about the child you were carrying, how would you answer it? I had a really tough time answering the one provided by my adoption agency. I can’t imagine what I would do if I had to consider those same questions about a child I was carrying inside me.

I believe that one day in the not-too-distant future, all pregnant women may be presented with these questions. Medical science is advancing constantly, and one day as soon-to-be mothers, our jobs, our responsibilities may become even more immense than they are now. How will we as a society handle this? Will we completely eradicate certain disabling conditions because we have the ability to identify them in our fetuses? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Just wondering, just pondering, just admiring the strength of women, especially those who are or will be struggling with the decisions and issues of motherhood.

1 comment:

Ettina said...

I'm unusual in my reaction to this. I've always been drawn to unusual people. The only one in that list you gave me that would give me pause is Tay-Sachs, as it would be so devastating to loose a child so young.
I have pet rats and recently got two little baby rats. One of them had half of her tail bitten off my an older rat. When I first got them I wasn't worried about my reaction to her, but to her normal sister because I worried that I'd constantly see her as 'less special' than her sister. But now that I've had them awhile, I've been surprised to find that with the one with the missing tail, her tail has started looking mildly 'wrong' and my favorite aspect of her appearance is her smoky-gray coat, and I've come to adore her sister's tiny tail-tip. Basically, both of them are pretty in some ways and not in others. I don't know them well enough yet to say about their personalities.
I actually have been thinking of, when I'm older, adopting children because I really want to have at least one disabled child. Though me being autistic means my probability of having an autistic child is higher, the only way I can guarantee that I'll have a disabled child is by adopting. (I'm also scared of labour, as I'm somewhat hypersensitive to pain and the worst pain I've ever had is menstrual cramps which are apparently similar to labour pains but much milder.) On that list, I'd probably check off mostly things that don't cause major health problems. Not that I don't want a sick child, but it would be so upsetting to me to know they are likely to (or could) die young. If I had to, I'd find a way to cope, but I'd rather not go through that pain.