When a Pregnant Stranger Asked Me, 'When Did You Find Out?'
“When did you find out? At her ultrasound or when she was born?”
I could tell she wasn’t asking me about my daughter’s gender.
I always feel for first-time pregnant mamas who start asking me questions about my daughter Adelaide’s disability. The fear in their eyes is unmatched, even though they try to hide it. Because we use expressions like “perfect baby” and “as long as it’s healthy” and we think if we don’t focus on gender, but on health, that we’re safe. That our society has made some sort of advancement concerning life. But all we do is place unrealistic expectations.
I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with hoping and praying and desiring a healthy baby. But we don’t prepare people for the reality that babies aren’t perfect. Not a single one. With or without disability, babies don’t come into the world the way we think they will, or latch right away, or sleep through the night, or stay on a perfect schedule or poop only when wearing a diaper.
And some babies are not born healthy. And some, like Adelaide, are born looking healthy, and you don’t learn until later that a baby’s brain is abnormal. That no surgeries can fix what’s wrong. That you may have just gained a lifelong roommate. All your visions of the future change.
But it doesn’t change worth. Adelaide is no less worthy now than she was as a “healthy” newborn. And I believe her value as a human was there when she was conceived. And when her ultrasound was “perfect and healthy” and we had no clue.
I look at this mom-in-the-making and say, “At her nine-month appointment. We found out shortly after her nine-month appointment.” And that woman looks panicked. Because our society says you can announce your pregnancy after 14 weeks to be safe. And you can get ultrasounds and fluid checks and blood tests to be safe. Or you’re safe when they shout that APGAR score. But we’re not ever safe. Because we conceive, carry and bring into this atmosphere imperfect human beings.
You can eat all the right things and do all the right things and be blindsided by a baby who doesn’t fit the norm. And we don’t prepare people for it at all.
I believe our society, by its laws and practices, frowns upon bringing unhealthy, imperfect children into our circle. Because we place “healthy” on a pedestal and our culture worships perfect. Not only should that child be whole and without defect, but she had better be a star athlete and he had better be top of his class.
Babies form in the womb and surprise us all. Sometimes the “perfect, healthy” baby isn’t. And she is still worth the same. Her worth is unmatched.
And I can’t explain all of this to this frightened, pregnant stranger, but her baby is worthy. No matter what happens, that baby’s life is worthy. Boy or girl. Uneventful natural birth or emergency c-section. Home after two days or in the NICU. Or never going home at all. I believe that baby deserves a chance.
That imperfect baby, who will surprise you 100 times a day. That baby may be healthy. That baby may have birth trauma. That baby may get cancer at age 6. Or 36. But, Mama, I believe that baby is a miracle, that all babies are miracles.
Don’t fret about the future, but don’t buy into the lie that you can control it either. None of us can. Control and healthy and perfect and viable are illusions. Leave this Sonic playplace and buy something fun for your baby. You won’t regret it. I never regretted buying hair bows and frilly socks for Adelaide. We still buy those things. Plus seizure medication and wheelchairs.
Enjoy the little things and don’t fret. But somewhere in the back of your mind, remember your baby is sugar and spice and everything nice, and an imperfect human with immeasurable value and worth. Don’t ever think he’s less because he’s imperfect. Or that she’s more because she’s healthy. Just remember you’re carrying a miracle.
Follow this journey on Little House in the City.