Thursday, October 21, 2010

In defense of babies that are "not healthy"

If you ask a pregnant woman what gender baby she wants, many will answer with the cliche "I don't mind, as long as it's healthy". I never answered like that - I guess I was too honest, or not politically correct enough. I'd always joke "I'd love all girls, but Bernard really wants a son, so either way, one of us will get what we want ;)" or something along those lines. 

By most people's definitions, Maddy does not fit into the category of "a healthy baby". For one, she has a genetic disease that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Secondly, she very obviously does not look "normal" - she didn't even at her 17 week ultrasound and she never will look like what most people consider "normal" to be. And thirdly, she will spend at least her first four months in NICU and will have many more hospital stays, surgeries and all kinds of therapy in her life.

Yet as soon as I found out that Maddy would not be like a "normal" baby, there was nothing within me that said "I don't want her if she is not healthy". Or course I didn't want to have to face these issues, and I've had to come to terms with our "new normal" - but I always wanted HER.

In fact, because of her problems, I felt an even fiercer love and sense of protection for her much earlier in the pregnancy than I did with Lana. When we were faced with the prospect of losing her, every fibre of my being just whispered to her with every heart beat, "Live, little one, we want you, we love you, just as God made you". 

I think that most people who say "We just want a healthy baby" haven't really thought it through. Many babies are born every day who don't fit the category of "healthy baby". Sometimes they are like Maddy, they have issues that were noticed during the pregnancy. Other times, they simply are too early. Sometimes a baby can be born after a completely uneventful pregnancy and problems are encountered at birth or soon after. Yet the vast majority of these babies are wanted and are loved just as they are.

So I think that instead of saying "I just want a healthy baby", we all should say "I just want THIS baby, whoever he or she is, whatever they look like, whatever personality they have, whatever differences they will have, whatever problems and issues they are going to have in their lives, however God made them..." - because ultimately, we're going to fall in love with our little ones, no matter what... that's what parents do :)


  1. Well said and so true! If questioned further, "What if your baby has this or that?", I'm sure most parents would say they still love and want their baby. We really do need to think about things more before we speak.

    Love the new look of your blog. :-)

  2. Very well said! I had a pretty healthy pregnancy. However, myself and my son went through a difficult a traumatizing birth. He also ended up in NICU for a few days. I'm just thankful he's with me.

  3. I LOVE this post!!

    It's always bothered me to hear people say the classic "I don't mind, as long as it's healthy" statement. You're right - it DOES sound as if they're saying that if God chose to give them an unhealthy baby they wouldn't want it.

    Nic, I'm so proud of you. You're handling this rough journey with such grace. I'm glad to count you among my friends.

    Ongoing prayers for you, Bernard, Maddy, and Lana...

  4. Well said.
    Is it alright if I link over to this post on my blog?
    P.S I think the new blog layout looks great.
    OMG gorgeous picture of Maddy at the top.

  5. I want to link this on my blog. This is an amazing post, and thank you so much for putting it into words.

  6. I loooveee that answer!!! I admit I probably would have used the "as long as it's healthy" line, even though I obviously would still want a child who isn't "normal" but "I want THIS child" is a much better answer and I hope I remember that when I'm pregnant and asked!

  7. Sure if you want to use it on your blog, as long as you post the link back over here too :)

  8. Thanks Nicole. I borrowed your wise words on my blog :)

  9. I LOVE THIS POST!!! So very right on! Thank you Nicole! :)

  10. Beautifully said as this post brought tears to my eyes!

  11. You are certainly right that it's the accepted answer to say "I don't mind as long as he or she is healthy." One time someone asked me about if I was hoping for a boy or girl (with Judah) and I started to say, "Well, I like both but I think Jack wants a girl" and the person was very quick to "correct me" and say, "What you mean to say is that you want the baby to be healthy, right?" I thought it was a bit weird. So, it makes people uncomfortable unless you respond with what we've been conditioned to respond with.

    But, having said that, I don't think we can read too much into the fact that people say that. It's just a cliche response like telling someone, "Keep your chin up" or "Smile and have a nice day"--it's what people say so they can say something and we all do that. When people say "I don't mind if I have a boy or girl, as long as he or she is healthy" I really don't think they mean (or are even thinking), "I only want a healthy child and if the child is not healthy, they are less wanted by me" (but, this of course is a debatable subject in HK where 29% of pregnancies are aborted--many because the OSCAR tests showed that the baby would likely not be the "perfect child" the parents were planning for).

    But, in the case of most people I know when they say that they are saying that their main priority is that their child is in good health and that gender is secondary to that. And I think that's what we all hope for for our children. All things come secondary to health and wellness. We all want the best for our kids in whatever circumstances.

    I think it's best that we all think carefully before we throw out cliche phrases that we're not even sure mean something, though.

  12. Such a great post. I know that I would've given anything to have our Madelyn with us still, and I know she wouldn't have been healthy.

    Always thinking of you!

  13. OMG I LOVE this post
    Thank you for sending me this amazing link !

  14. I just had my ninth at age forty. Once you get to be my age, the possibility of a "special" child is a little more tangible. I told people during this pregnancy that sick babies are blessings too. I really believe that. (I have a younger sister who is mentally and physically disabled.) I think God gave us a tiny token as a reward for my growing faith this time around. Our newest has a cleft lip. It's not a "disability", but a visible reminder to me that God's artistry is infinite and that my job is to admire and nurture his creations.

    Thanks for this beautiful and inspiring blog post.