I'm reading Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman, subtitled "A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace." It's part memoir, part essay. I won't go into a lot of detail about the crux of the book, as I'll review it on my other blog when I'm finished with it. But the chapter I just finished has stirred up a lot of emotions for me as they relate to Finn.
In this latest chapter, the author recounts being pregnant for the third time and finding out via amnio that the baby she is carrying has a genetic abnormality. She refers to it as "a trisomy," although she never specifically names the condition, but does say it's a condition more rare than Down syndrome. She also explains that, whatever the condition is, there is actually a chance the the baby could be born "normal" and healthy, and never actually be affected by the triplicate chromosome . . . or there is a chance that the condition could manifest in a myriad of ways, including various physical/medical issues and/or mental retardation. After struggling for several days after receiving the baby's diagnosis, she and her husband make the painful decision to terminate the pregnancy. At the stage of pregnancy she's at, she must be admitted to the hospital, go under general anesthesia, and a dilation and evacuation is performed (apparently different from a dilation and extraction). Much grieving ensues on her part, and to this day she claims to feel guilt over the decision. And I believe her. Guilt - not regret or remorse.
Really, I'm not judging her. Or, I'm trying not to. It took a lot of guts for her to so candidly recount this experience, knowing vast numbers of people will cast stones at her. But even though I'm trying not to pass judgment on her for her choice (because one of the main points of the book is that we moms need to stop judging one another, for crying out loud) I cried through almost the entire chapter. When she first mentions the amnio and then "genetic abnormality," I actually felt myself smiling and thinking, "Yayy! See, even famous authors have children with genetic issues." For a few moments I felt a sisterhood with her. Then she writes about struggling to decide what to do. She writes:
"I did calculations in my mind of what I could tolerate - physical malformations, fine. . . . But developmental delay. That shook me to my core. Mental retardation. I couldn't go there."
And here's where I started crying. Because I knew what she was going to decide. And it hurt me. Because I can't seem to be able to stop myself from imagining every aborted chromosomally enhanced baby (even if it's something a little different from Down syndrome) as Finn. Or Dylan. Or Georgia. Or Evan. Or Kira. Or Malea. Or Stella.
Apart from that vicarious grief I feel when I read about abortion statistics for prenatally diagnosed cases of T21, I felt something shift inside me as I read this chapter. A realization, I guess. I recalled all the times I've said that I wish Finn didn't have Ds. And I pictured his laughing face, with his eyes scrunched up into crescent moons, and his crooked pinky fingers and the way his pudgy hands hold onto me, and I realized that I can't imagine Finn any different than he is.
I don't think I will ever be glad that he has Down syndrome, and I suspect that I will always wish that his life could be devoid of the hardships and obstacles he will face because of having Ds . . . and I might even always feel a little resentful of moms whose babies/children are "normal" and yet they still worry that Jr. isn't quite keeping up with the Joneses with his milestones . . . but I think I am reaching a new stage of acceptance. I feel like I can not only accept Finn's differences, but embrace them.
He's my boy, and I love him just as he is.
Adieu - After more than two years and 555 posts (556 counting this one!), I'm saying goodbye to Adventures in Motherhood. I'm ready for a change, and I've started ...
6 years ago