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November 06, 2008

Oh Baby!

-this photo was taken in the parking lot of Lynn Valley Headwaters park in North Vancouver. It was a few days after the friend I write about here had told me she was pregnant. We parked the car, got out, and right in front of the car was this tiny shoe. It just seemed so fitting.

Yesterday I went with a friend to an appointment at Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. She’s pregnant, almost 40, and as a result decided to have an amniocentesis which apparently (and amazingly) can determine to 99% whether the baby will have Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida or something called Trisomy 18. Her husband was out of town and so I went with her.

We were led into an office and a nurse came in with a paper in her hand and said I have the results of your blood tests. It’s good news she said.

If you look at the paper, it’s showing that in spite of the fact that you are almost 40, you have the risk factors in this pregnancy of a female who is less than 15 years old. I’ve almost never seen anything like this she said.

I responded to that by saying something like, My God, look at you, a super human specimen. My friend, who I have noticed tends to absorb news – good or bad – with reserve didn’t really respond although obviously she was pleased.

Whereas soon to be mothers who are 40 have a 1 in 124 chance of having a Down Syndrome Baby (which is amazingly high), my friend’s chance of having a Down Syndrome baby was calculated to be 1 in 5,330. Whereas women her age have a risk of having a baby with Spina Bifida at 1 in 1,000 births, my friend has a risk factor of 1 in 2000.

As a result of this, given that the risk of miscarriage with amniocentesis is 1 in 200, my friend decided to forego the test because based on the nurse's insinuations, having the test, under the circumstances, would be more risky than not. The thought of having a huge needle stuck in your belly button or wherever probably helped to make that an easy decision as well.

Pregnancy, even when it’s not your own, brings up all sorts of ethical and moral questions it seems. For some people, once they’ve made the decision to have a baby, they might choose to not proceed with any test. Others, given the opportunity/precaution to discover some serious birth defects, would definitely choose to check it out and then be faced with either an easy decision or a very difficult decision depending on their philosophical or religious beliefs.

Some people would not see having a Down Syndrome baby as anything but a gift; especially given how many people who have had that experience have been known to describe it that way.

My friend understands that there are no guarantees in life.

The thing is, even if the baby is 100% physically healthy at birth, maybe you’ve noticed that humans, that would be you and me, have a multitude of challenges that arise even when we are physically healthy at birth.

We get depressed. We develop addictions. We get cancer. We might have learning disabilities or serious asthma or we’re ADHD or we have a speech impediment and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes our imperfections are actually the things that endear us to others, set us apart, provide the individual characteristics that make us who we are for better or worse.

Parenthood is a total crapshoot isn’t it? And, let’s face it, that reality is a two way street - for the parents and for the kids.

I personally believe it's actually what happens after the birth that is a lot more important, regardless of our imperfections.

Secure attachment. Insecure attachment. Ambivalent attachment. Our life experiences as adults will be shaped to a much greater degree than most people realize by our experiences as babies.

Did our childhood set us up to feel secure, to take risks, to feel that we are worthy just because we are or did the expectations and criticisms of our parents set us up for insecurity to the degree that it will affect the quality of all the rest of our intimate relationships?

Luckily, there are other factors that intersect with the quality of our beginnings but research into attachment theory has shown that its significance has been severely underrated until recently.

Choosing to become parents, maybe more than any other decision, is a risk and if we are wise it’s a risk that we already understand has a responsibility attached that urges us to shape our interaction with our children to be respectful, gentle and full of reverance, always mindful of the miracle that occurred the moment they were conceived.

As Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Our children are not our children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself, they come through you but not from you and though they are with you, they belong not to you...

Give your child wings


Anonymous said...

Thats our little girl you're talking about, and we're so thankful you were able to be there for her and with her!! She misses you so much!! She mentions you in every call.

I'm not one bit surprised at this result.......she takes such good care of herself, she's careful about her diet, weight, and she gets lots of exercise. Of course, life isn't always fair.....and like you say, there are no guarantees.

I'm enjoying your blog immensely, and we both wish you well in your new chosen home.

Ray and Annie

GM said...

Hi Annie,
I love your first line. It's so endearing. Lisa and I had a good time and it was great to see her and be able to spend time with her. She DOES take great care of herself doesn't she? I don't know how she got like that but it certainly hasn't rubbed off on me that much! :-) Well, maybe just a little...Have a great day!