As long as it is healthy!
I never thought these six simple words could hurt me this much! Surprisingly, the used weapons (read words) were not something I had never heard before. But this time, they pierced my heart without any warning. And it made me realise that I was not the same person that I had been all my life.
I was a different person before I had my daughter; who was born with an extra chromosome and severe heart defects. I was a mother before, but this time motherhood came with a cost. It shook my social status as a woman and a mother and made me refrain from giving any advice to expectant mothers, just because I did not give birth to a ‘perfectly healthy child’.
Meeting a friend who was glowing with the first time approaching motherhood, a coffee house seemed like the best place for catching up! Seeing her after all those months was great. After a long hug and some much needed ‘Delhi traffic’ judgements. We settled with our cappuccinos. ‘So what do you want? A boy or a girl?’ I asked, taking my first sip. And out came the expected default response, “I don’t mind having any, as long as it is healthy!” She replied, looking me straight in the eyes, “I mean that’s all you want for your child. For them to be healthy! Isn’t it?” She finished her sentence. Absolutely’, I said, feeling a surge of strange emotions rising up inside me. She further added how she had already got the screening done for any chromosomal abnormality and the baby was perfectly healthy! That’s what did it!
I felt a lump in my throat! Not because any of what she said was wrong or intentionally hurtful, but it meant a thousand things for me and my daughter.
“As long as it is healthy!” And what if it is not? Then is it not to be welcomed? Loved?
Since when is motherhood run by investment bankers where we only put our stakes on shares or funds that can give us great returns in the future? Since when did motherhood become a conditional love that we would only bestow on our child if it was born with a perfect head, ten fingers and a fully developed brain?
If you think that these words are just a well meaning blessing, please think about the mothers of beautiful children with disabilities, cancers, abnormalities or other health hazards, and prove that by saying so, you are not putting a limit on a child’s worth. Some of the greatest people in the world have been born ‘not perfect’. Imagine people like ‘Helen Keller’ and ‘Nick Vujicic’ never being born to teach us about unlimited human potential or people like ‘Stephen Hawking’, ‘Jean-Dominique-Bauby’ who gave humanity some of the most precious gifts. We all wish for our children to be healthy and I am not suggesting anything otherwise but I would like to pose a question; is it right to put health over the right of life? Shouldn’t motherhood be about accepting and embracing with a full heart!
I am not underestimating the value of health. Being in the hospital for straight two months and seeing my daughter go through an open heart surgery and being on ventilator for 23 days, I, of all, surely know what health means. And I know the last thing that a parent wants is a medically fragile baby, but I am questioning the thought process which says that a child who is not perfectly healthy is better off not being born! That cannot be the criterion for us to decide the worth of our unborn children.
And those of us who get their ‘not so healthy’ or ‘imperfect’ child aborted should also ponder on the thought that ‘ability selective abortion’ is similar to or even worse than ‘sex selective abortion’ because you know for sure if a child is a boy or a girl, but nobody can possibly foresee what abilities he is going to have!
Let’s see it from another perspective. It’s been almost 30 years since ultrasounds have been around but has that stopped people with physical or intellectual disabilities from being born? Nature is a great balancer and whether we like it or not, it does perpetuate people or species to balance this world and if we think that like Hitler’s ethnic cleansing plan, we can change the law of nature and can stop having disabilities and physical complications in the future, then we need to understand that we are quite small in the bigger scheme of things and the only thing that we can change is our attitude towards disabilities and imperfections.
Today, after knowing my daughter for who she is and the kind of unconditional love she has brought into our lives, I know one thing for sure; if I had chosen to not give birth to her, I would’ve lost a chance to experience the most beautiful emotions I have experienced and meet some wonderful people I would’ve never met otherwise. Her life is so much more than what my ignorant mind knew back then. And I am one hundred percent sure that all parents of special needs children around the world would share this feeling!
I believe it is time that we, as a society become a little more sensitive to those around us for the sake of our future teachers, dancers, writers, lawyers or rule changers and stop putting health and typicality over everything else and place happiness ahead instead!
How about we start saying “As long as it is happy!”?
This article was published in Parentedge magazine here: