To the Friend Who Felt I Was Selfish for Getting Pregnant When I Have a Disability
My friend took one look at my stomach, then stared up at me in horror. It was a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. Not quite the response you expect when you run into an old friend. I watched her expression turn from horror to anger. Baffled, I glanced down at my stomach. Was my shirt somehow offensive? Had I dropped food all over myself? What could possibly cause such a reaction? As I looked down all I could see was my 18-weeks-in-the-making baby bump.
The friend stormed over to me.
“You’re pregnant?” she demanded.
I still couldn’t figure out why that would be upsetting to her. Up until then, everyone who had found out had been happy and excited for me. I was delighted by the pregnancy, especially as my health conditions, medications and going through chemotherapy had dramatically reduced my chances of getting and staying pregnant in the first place.
“You are so selfish. You have rheumatoid arthritis and complex regional pain syndrome. Don’t you know they’re inheritable? How could you do that to your baby? Do you want them to be disabled? To be in pain like you?”
Her words crashed over me like a ton of bricks. The friend explained she had chosen to never have children, as she has a chronic and potentially inheritable condition. I listened to her reasoning. I understood her perspective. I also understood in that moment she was probably never going to appreciate my reasons for having this child. I tried to explain anyway.
I told her that if my parents had known I would end up with rheumatoid arthritis and complex regional pain syndrome, I would have still wanted them to have me. My life has value. I have value. Yes, I live with chronic pain and disability. I also have a life filled with wonderful people and experiences. I contribute to society. I am loved and love in turn. I would never deny a child those things, even it does mean they end up having to face what I’ve been through.
I explained that inheriting the RA and/or CRPS is hardly a given. The reality is that no one in my immediate family has either condition, yet I ended up with both. My child may never develop either condition, or they may get both or they may have something else completely. I will love that child fiercely and with every piece of me no matter how their life turns out. They will be perfect to me no matter what hand life gives them.
Finally, I told her that if my baby does end up with a disability then he/she will have best possible role model in life: me. I may struggle at times with my health conditions, but I have never been beaten. On more than one occasion I have defied the odds and achieved what I had been told was impossible for my body. My child may grow up with a disabled parent, but they will be better for it — not worse for it like my friend implied.
I conceded that I did have some fears for this baby, for their health and mine, for what the future might bring. Did it make me selfish that I became pregnant despite these fears? No. I felt it made me very much like any other parent out there who worries for their child and only wants the best for them.
As expected, my arguments did little to sway my friend’s mind. However, we’d both said our piece so there was nothing further to say. As she walked away though I saw her turn back for a moment and look at my growing bump. Not with horror or anger but with doubt. I looked back down at my bump with no doubt at all.