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The Well-Meaning Comment I Struggle With as a Chronically Ill Mother-to-Be

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As of writing this, I am 29 years old and 23 weeks pregnant with my first child. This means that I’m past the point of being able to find out what sex the baby growing inside of me is. This also means that people around me, like friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, are curious. They’ll ask if I have found out the sex of the baby and I welcome the question, because I can whole-heartedly give them my genuine answer: “No, because it really doesn’t matter what it turns out to be.”

The comment I struggle with is the one I wasn’t expecting so many people to say in response to my answer. More often than not, people will say “That makes sense. The most important thing is that the baby will be healthy, anyway.” I understand that people say this from a place of well-meaning. Of course, they wish for my future child to be healthy. Still, I’ve found myself struggling with this comment, because my instinct is to protest.

Now, let me give you some background on my history with chronic illness. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 15 years old, and I was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis in my early 20s. Suffice it to say, chronic illness has been a part of my life for a long time, and it’s made me into the person I am today. This also means that my relationship with the word “healthy” is a bit complicated, just like for many, if not all, other people with chronic illnesses. Sure, one can argue that health is relative, but that is normally not what non-chronically ill people mean when they talk about health.

In my own personal journey, I’ve reached acceptance of the fact that I will never be healthy, and I will go through life at my own pace, on my own terms. For me, and for many other chronically ill people, “healthy” isn’t a state we will ever get to, and that has to be OK. Our lived experiences, our contributions to society, and the ways we enrich the lives of the people around us aren’t worth any less because we’re not “healthy.” We’re not any less important.

For me, the most important thing is to do things I enjoy. To experience life the way I can. To help people through my job as a social worker. To make a difference by trying to be an open-minded person. For me, being healthy isn’t the most important thing, and that’s why I struggle with people saying that my future child’s health is the most important thing.

“So,” you might ask, “what is the most important thing, if not the health of your baby?” And to that, I’d like to say that the most important thing when it comes to my future child is that they will get the chance to experience life and explore the world on their own terms. The thing I look forward to the most about becoming a parent is getting to know the person my baby will grow up to be, and supporting them on that journey through life.

Healthy or not.

Getty photo by People Images.

Originally published: April 27, 2022
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