Wrongful Birth

I heard this news story earlier in the week, and I can’t get it out of my mind. A couple sued a doctor and ultrasound tech because they missed a severe disability in the baby. The couple claim they wouldn’t have carried the baby to term had they known he was disabled (he is missing both arms and one leg). They weren’t awarded the full $9 million in the claim, but were awarded $4.5 million.

What breaks my heart, what won’t let me stop thinking about this, is that there is a child, Bryan, who will grow up knowing that his parents wish he had never been born. In no way do I discount the physical, emotional and financial cost associated with the boy’s disabilities. Not at all. It will be a very tough road for this family. But I think it adds insult to injury, to put it very mildly, for him to believe that his parents regret having him.

I think of my place in my own family. The situations are really not comparable, but you’ll see why I bring it up.

I came along later in life to my parents. My own siblings are quite a bit older than I am, to the point that I grew up more like an only child than a youngest child. My siblings were all out of the house by the time I was six. All my life, whenever someone found out how much younger I am than my siblings, I would hear comments like: “Oh, someone was an oops baby!” “I guess you must have been an accident.” “A new baby, when their family was practically grown up?!”

Keep in mind, this was coming from outside my family, not from my parents. Even so, it begins to wear on a person. Even though I never heard it from my parents, I began to question whether they had even wanted me, whether they might wish they never had me. Just imagine how it would feel if my own parents flat out said that they wished they hadn’t had me. Terrible. Awful. If that didn’t cause a major crisis in self-esteem and identity, I would be shocked.

In my case, to make matters just a little worse, guess what ~ I was not born with perfect health. I had what I suppose you’d call birth defects. Not only was the timing of my arrival inconvenient, at least by the standards of most people, but I also came with a few medical complications. Not as severe as the boy in this news item, but not the perfectly healthy child that all parents hope for either. One issue was diagnosed and treated when I was a toddler. One remained hidden for many years. I was inexplicably “sickly” as a child, and when my heart condition was diagnosed and treated at age nineteen, my mom figured she finally knew why.

I want to say it again, to make sure you hear me loud and clear, I do not compare my medical issues to Bryan’s. Whatever expense involved for my problems was probably a drop in the bucket compared to what Bryan’s family will face. Day to day care for me was pretty typical, whereas Bryan will need a lot more help.

The bottom line of this, for me, the thing that makes me so sad for Bryan and so grateful for my own parents, comes down to knowing I am wanted and loved in my family.

When I was younger, probably twelve or thirteen, I finally had to ask my mom. Hearing for years about how I was a mistake, an accident, an oops, a burden, I had to ask my mom if that was true. What she told me was just about the nicest thing she could have said. She told me that she and my dad had always hoped for four children. They just had to wait longer than they thought they would to have me. And you know what? I believe her. Her answer is consistent with the way she has always treated me ~ as a loving mother.

I really hope that Bryan’s parents, regardless of what they would have done if they had known of his disabilities before birth, give him the love and acceptance that every child needs. I hope they were just saying whatever they had to say to get needed financial help for his care, and if so, I hope they make that abundantly clear to their son. I hope that Bryan not only receives the physical care he needs to live his life to the fullest, but that he also receives the emotional nurture that we all neeed.

I know that I am lucky in so many ways. I’m not perfect. My life is not perfect. I’ve gone through tough times, like everyone does. But I am a lucky person. I am a blessed person. I thank my mom and dad for welcoming me into the family, even if I came along later than they expected, even if I came with some complications.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks for loving me.

Melissa

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2 thoughts on “Wrongful Birth

  1. Found you while looking through HTP comments, and thought I’d comment on this quickly, even though it’s a bit “old.” I kind of want Bryan’s parents to meet or at least hear about Nick Vujicic, who has one less limb than Bryan and is amazing. (So yes, he has no full limbs whatsoever.) And I hope that they show him the love he deserves. No child deserves to think their parents didn’t want them. =\

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