This is my post in the Just Post roundtable series. I have installed the button in my sidebar but it won’t function until March 10th or so. Right now you’re not too late to join us. If you’re interested, click on the button below.
When I was pregnant with my son the pregnancy was deemed high-risk. And do you know why? Because of the simple fact that I got pregnant in the year that I turned 35. Thirty-five. Had I been pregnant one year earlier it wouldn’t have been considered risky at all.
So what? Because everything went well. But I didn’t know that when my doctor advised me to get an amniocentesis. Because you know older women have a higher risk of having a handicapped child. (By the way, after my first post about “handicapped” people I realized that the term is not political correct. I’m sorry but I don’t know what to write instead. “Special needs” seems a little ridiculous.)
To me this decision was a no-brainer. Have my belly punctured with a needle? To find out more about my baby? Are you nuts?
Apparently the rest of the world thought I was the nutty one. Everybody had an opinion on this. Of course I should do it. What if I had a handicapped child? Indeed, what if? I knew that I would have kept the baby anyway. And what if the amnio hurt the baby? I’ll give you the math: the risk of having a baby with a chromosome defect for women age 35 to 37 is 1.6%. The risk of losing the baby through the amnio is about 1%. (It is less than 1% if made by a specialist.) In my world that means that the risk of having a baby with a chromosome defect is only slightly more probable than losing the baby through the amnio.
But that’s not all. A factor to be considered is also what one would do if the baby were “defective”. (And this is why I think that this is a social issue not only a personal story.) If there had been anything wrong with my baby there would have been considerable pressure not to have it. I think that knowing that one will have a special needs child is stressful enough without people telling you that you’re doing a disservice to society by having it. If I had gotten pregnant just a couple of months earlier no one would have tried to persuade me to be punctured by needles. (Sorry, but this picture was just horrible to me and still is.)
What I did do was let them make a very big and detailed ultrasound. I was okay with that because I knew that it wouldn’t hurt my baby. And I knew that I would have kept it anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally pro-choice, only my own baby already was a human being to me when it was just a tiny clump of cells.
While I was making that decision I met with the overpowering opinion of almost everyone I met (apart from one friend) that if the baby were handicapped his life wouldn’t be worth living. That it would be better off not to be born. And of course that handicapped people are expensive.
I was flabbergasted. You know, most people aren’t born handicapped. There are only a few things that can be seen in pre-natal diagnostics. And what if something went wrong when it was born and it ended up with spasticity? What if it had a rare gene defect like muscular dystrophy that you won’t see until a few years later? What if my baby were already a toddler and then almost drowned or had an accident and ended up different than before? Would those same people think his life not worth living then? I don’t think they would tell me though, even if they thought so.
As I have told before there are a lot of people who secretly think that handicapped people should be put away so that they don’t bother the others. And that surely there shouldn’t be money spend on their education since there isn’t enough for us normal people anyway. This makes me very, very angry.
Because that indicates that this is something that can’t happen to us. That if your child is deemed healthy and “normal” you’re destined for the happily-every-after-ending to your life. When your mother was punctured and diagnosed then nothing can ever happen to you. Nobody will ever have an accident, nobody will catch a disease, nobody will ever be old an feeble. Of course you will go through life with a right to stay youthful and strong and healthy. And then maybe die in your sleep at age 101.
I have the feeling that all this fuss about pre-natal diagnostics (and from what I hear German’s pregnant women are more thoroughly diagnosed than US ones.) is so that everybody has a feeling of being insured against, well, life.
Addendum: I just saw Jenn Satterwhite’s post on “Teaching understanding of disabilites in elementary school” on BlogHer and wanted to point you towards it.