When a Mother at a Baby Shower Said 'All That Matters Is the Baby Is Healthy'

I was at a baby shower recently. When asked whether she hoped for a boy or a girl, the young mother-to-be put her hand protectively on her belly and replied serenely, “All that matters is the baby is healthy.”

At which point all heads turned in my direction and then quickly looked away.

Yes, my child has a rare disease. It is genetic. No, we didn’t know we were carriers. It is not contagious. And, yes, I did notice right when things got awkward.

One thing I have learned in the years since I was young, hopeful and pregnant for the first time, is when it comes to being a mother, health really doesn’t matter all that much. I love my daughter fiercely, neither more nor less than I love her “typically” developing sibling. Health, like gender, is just part of her individual makeup.

It might surprise my shower-going friends to learn that I don’t mourn the loss of the healthy child I was naively anticipating when I was pregnant. To me, there is no sense in grieving a fantasy, especially when the reality is wonderful in its own way. My daughter is perfect, just as she is.

Don’t misunderstand. I am very, very sad sometimes — sad my daughter has had to face daunting medical odds, physical pain, hours of procedures and days in the hospital. Do I wish she didn’t have to endure that? Of course I do.

But from the first moment I held her, I knew there was nothing to be gained, and much to be lost by wishing she was different.

In spite of, or maybe because of, her medical issues, my daughter is amazingly, unabashedly, uniquely herself. It’s hard to explain how much she adds to my life and the lives of those who are fortunate enough to get to know her. She can be insightful, giving and demanding, childishly innocent and wickedly funny. She is a human being, not a diagnosis. She draws out in me a mother I didn’t know I could be. She makes me a better person – not because of her disease, but because of exactly who she is and everything she adds to the life of our family.

So by all means, my sweet young friend, wish and hope and pray for health of the precious life growing inside of you. But don’t look away from me out of pity. I am not embarrassed by my daughter’s medical condition, and there is no need for you to spare my feelings. I wish health upon your baby as well.

My experiences have taught me sometimes things do turn out differently than we expect. And if that happens, know joy can be found there, too. Your baby will be perfect, and you will love that little person, him or her, healthy or unhealthy. You will love that child with every ounce of your soul.

And that truly is all that matters.

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