what I’ve been reading: c-sections are beautiful too

“Whatever method of delivery that keeps mom and baby healthy, and safe, is a good delivery!” she said, adding, “C-sections are beautiful too. It is still a family, meeting their baby, it’s a miracle.”

This is a really amazing look at what happens on the other side of the blue surgical drape.


Final Generation 2

I was inspired by the comments on the previous post to share a little more about my background. Everyone says they were “encouraged to explore and question,” my father (selectively) encouraged my exploring and questioning. I did a lot of exploring and questioning, which is of the lovely, and often problematic, things about Christian Science: on one hand people are “free to explore and question” on the other hand, people’s experiences can vary widely to the point I wonder if we were all practicing the same religion.

I was raised by people who converted to Christian Science. Sometimes I think converts are the most dangerous type of CS, because it is new and exciting and anything is possible.

Although my family was not Catholic (I think they tended towards Episcopalian – at least some of the extended family still does), my father attend private Catholic schools as a boy, and found/converted to Christian Science in the mid-to-late 1960s.

The story, as my father told it, goes a little like this: he was having vague, nondescript health problems (probably stress and other life-style induced issues) and went to the family doctor, the doctor told him nothing was wrong, and that he should consult with his priest – perhaps something was weighing on his mind. My father then went to the family priest, and after a conversation, the priest recommended he go to his doctor. At this point, my father decided to look outside both the medicine of the day, and the religion he was familiar with, and found Christian Science. The details of exactly how he came to CS are vague, but he credits CS with healing him of drinking and a several-pack-a-day smoking habit. My father went through class instruction in 1970.

My mother was raised in a relaxed northern-European protestant tradition (religious around Easter, Christmas, the appropriate King Cake parties/activities around Lent), and converted to Christian Science around the time she married my father, because it “was easier than attending two different churches.” My mother went through class instruction, probably in the late 70s, or early 80s.

As a child, I was permitted unlimited access to the family bookshelves which housed a variety of fiction and non-fiction/historical works. I was actively encouraged to read, as questions, and explore my relationship with God. My father and I used to go for walks after dinner, we would talk about religion (not just Christian Science), history, school, my plans for the future, my friends, travel, etc.

I regularly frequented bookstores and picked up books on a wide range of topics, the only one that were truly frowned upon was Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, as that was “dangerous” and “occult nonsense” yet they tolerated my dabbling with a Celtic Magic book as “just a phase.” Interestingly, they didn’t blink an eye when I brought home heavy reading about memory manipulation, a pseudo-scientific book about Atlantis, dystopian fiction, or my phase of obsessively reading novels with heavy medical undertones (The Best Little Girl in the World, and Coma which proceeded to give me nightmares and instill a deep terror of the medical community).

Most of my friends outside of Sunday School were of the Bible-thumping hellfire-and-brimstone “have you been saved?” variety of Christianity. At least one of them fell to their knees, pulling me with them, to “pray for” my “eternal salvation.” I compromised and we exchanged books to read. After she read a few passages of Science & Health, and was assured that I did “believe in Jesus” she let up a little bit.

I was also friends with a few Catholics, there was one in particular who regularly joined me sitting in the library as an opt-out from the school taught “sex-ed” program (mostly showing scary photos of “sexually transmitted diseases”). He also “gave up Catholicism for Lent” and we often commiserated about our religious baggage.

Most of the time I got into trouble for questioning things was in Sunday School. I questioned why God punished the Egyptians, I questioned what made the Tribes of Israel so special, I questioned if Jesus really had to die. I questioned the stories, I questioned the interpretation, I questioned “the appearance of evil” even if nothing “evil” was happening – someone might think something was happening, I questioned the entire Jesus story, I questioned why healing didn’t always work, I questioned the authority of the Sunday School teacher, and later I questioned why I should be there at all.

In retrospect, I am amazed I came out of my childhood as unscathed as I did. I didn’t break any bones, or sustain many long-lasting injuries. I had the chickenpox, I wretched an ankle or two, I fell off my bike/scooter/roller skates a few times, but over all I escaped with only a few lasting scars, and a crippling fear of dentistry.

At an early age I had an accident in which I broke some teeth. This required extensive reconstructive work, and many, many hours in a dental chair. My mother had, initially, emphasized that “we are Christian Scientists” and we “don’t need” local anesthetic, antibiotics, or post-work pain relief. She later changed her stance to “we use local anesthetic to make the dentist more comfortable.” She never changed her mind on antibiotics, or post-work pain relief (1).

I tried very hard from a very young age to overcome my fear of dentistry. The fluoride made me gag and puke, the dentist never seemed to believe that I was REALLY FEELING PAIN when they were drilling (even with local anesthetic it has since been determined by a more responsible dentist and better x-rays, that yes, some of my teeth have more roots/nerves), and somehow, no matter how hard I “worked to know the truth” my teeth never managed to heal themselves.

Of course, nothing was ever wrong with them to begin with, which didn’t help things any either.

My mother dragged us to the dentist twice a year. When I asked her why, she explained it was “routine maintenance” and that “teeth are important.” When I then asked why we didn’t visit doctors, she explained “doctors only want to use you as a pincushion and poison you.” As opposed to the sadistic dentists I was seeing every six months who only wanted to drill out my molars.

My fellow CS didn’t ever say much about dental work, probably because they were doing it too, or because it wasn’t noticeable. What was noticeable was when one of my friends grandfather’s died suddenly because his appendix burst, and when another older gentleman at the church had a mild stroke. The older gentleman had previously been a bastion of the church community, a sort of church elder, looked up to, and was aspiring to be a full-time CSP. He went from a pillar of church life, to semi-ostracized as he lurched around the building, mumbling, no one was quite sure what to make of it. He didn’t die, he wasn’t getting better, he was in a state of CS-purgatory. This purgatory lasted for about six months, after which point he passed away. His wife then left the church and hasn’t set foot inside since.

What was also noticeable is how they treated the children with disabilities, they were not labeled autistic (although I suspect that’s what the problem was) they were simply termed “out of control.” Clearly the mother was at fault for not raising the child properly. This may have also been a generational/regional bias, I don’t know what happened to the child, or his parents.

There was also the young man (and very close friend of mine) who, having sustained a severe head/brain injury as a child, had infrequent, severe seizures. He passed away while I was at Principia, and upon my return to church, I was “informed” by a former Sunday School teacher that my friend was “no longer with us” followed by flushing very red, and giggling in a rather embarrassed manner. My friends passing was never really talked about ever again, not in Sunday School, not at church, not at home, not ever. Christian Scientists don’t deal well with death. His mother still attends the church, but his younger siblings no longer participate in CS. Among the CS community, it is as if he never existed, our mutual-non-CS friends and I exchange remembrances usually around his birthday.

In Christian Science, we may all “read the same textbooks” and we may all agree that “2+2=4” and “God is Love” but the outcome for healing varies so wildly that I don’t feel that the term “science” can be applied. To hand the average person off the street (or even a multi-generation CS) a copy of Science and Health and then expect them to read, understand and work miracles is unrealistic and to promote such ideas is dangerous.

I took a lab science class while at Principia and we were required to keep a record of our experiments using the scientific method, our hypothesis, testing, results, etc. were all neatly block printed so we could go over our results. Every now and again my team’s results varied wildly from the class and we were able to go back and find where we deviated from the norm. In Christian Science there is no record of what was done, there is no way to double check work, there is no one to check your work, there are not others working on the same experiment with you, the results are not peer-reviewed before they are published. It is conveniently individualized so that if (or rather when) the person fails to heal themselves using Christian Science the blame rests entirely upon them and their lack of understanding.

Many people have said the way they practice CS does not exclude visiting doctors, and that not all CS they have interacted with have been radical. Many people have claimed to have amazing, occasionally doctor-documented, healing experiences, I’m happy for them. That was not my experience.

I watched my father struggle for years with increasingly debilitating strokes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and one functioning kidney. I watched my mother alternate between radical reliance on God, pseudo science from the internet, a radical lifestyle and diet makeover and the doctor-advised/prescribed “western medicine” in an attempt to prolong my father’s life. My father held on ten years longer than any one really expected, with my mother cursing the doctors who were “trying to poison him!” in an attempt from keeping his blood pressure from skyrocketing out of control.

Would he have fared better on a strictly western-medicine regimen? I can’t shake the feeling that my parent’s toxic attitude towards the medical community was more harmful than helpful when it came to dealing with my father’s situation. It did not matter that my father had been a Christian Scientist longer than many of the doctors had been alive, they’d been to medical school, and my parents had gone to them (albeit begrudgingly, and at least once with the threat of social services being called,) seeking help.

After Kid1 was born, my mother had the audacity to passively blame the cause of my pregnancy complications on my diet, and choice of going to the hospital (2). My husband unloaded on her, when the head of high-risk obstetrics and one of the best doctors in the county looks at the charts and lab results and can’t tell you what the problem was, much less what caused it, glibly saying “you needed to eat more vegetables” (when you were lucky to eat anything at all for 12 weeks) is asinine.

As a parent, I can not, in good conscience raise my children in Christian Science. I will not deny them regular health checkups, and I will call their pediatricians office if I have any concerns. When they get older, I will not be vague about my own medical history, or health problems that may arise, sheltering a small child from a problem is one thing, withholding information that a parent’s passing is imminent from a grown child in their twenties or early thirties is another matter all together. I will not send them to school congested and feverish (even if they insist on going), and I will make sure they are vaccinated, because whooping cough is miserable. I will not read them Travis talks with God, which tells children they’re not really hurt, God loves them, I will take practical steps: an ice pack, a Popsicle, a call to the pediatrician’s office, or a trip to the ER.

Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to think and question. I’ve read the Mother Church Authorized literature, I’ve read my share of “obnoxious” literature, and I’m pretty sure the Mother Church would call this blog “obnoxious” as well. I’ve worked with CSPs, and there are several that I respect deeply. I have successfully used CS techniques to overcome problems, and out of habit (sometimes to my detriment) I turn to CS ideas to work through situations.

Christian Science does not have to be deadly, but all too often I’ve seen even the most moderate of CS, when faced with health, or other challenges, take a turn for the radical and deny they have any issue what so ever. I do not ever want to go down that path.

  1. You don’t need anything after your wisdom tooth comes out! That’s what ice packs are for. The second time I had a wisdom tooth removed, I was no longer living at home, and I did take something for the pain. I had a horrifying allergic reaction and very vivid hallucinations all night. It would’ve been nice to have some idea about such allergies before they crept up on me in the middle of the night.
  2. My mother also taught me that you also only go to a hospital to die. Between that, the pregnancy issues and reading Coma while a naive middle school student, my first-ever hospital experience was even more anxiety-laden than it needed to be. My mother had several friends who had died of cancer (conveniently while in a hospital). She blamed the doctors (and later the individuals poor dietary choices), apparently if you eat healthy and avoid doctors you’ll never get cancer. That said, I strongly recommend reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

In Praise of Christian Science Practioners

I recently re-blogged MKHuggin’s piece A Warning About Christian Science Practitioners which I felt articulated many of the problems with the CS approach to physical healing. I agree that if physical healing is not happening then people should go seek whatever medical/alternative means they feel are necessary without judgement. I feel radically relying on prayer for physical healing is misguided at best, and dangerous at worst. We have been exchanging comments and I have been inspired by several more of her posts.

In the re-blog I stated:

  • Many CSPs are lovely people and are wonderful to talk to about problems, they can often help you calm down, address your fears, and work through trying times, but when it comes to life-or-death situations (infection, diabetes, cancer, unchecked growths, etc.) relying solely on someone’s “ability to heal through CS” and one’s own “understanding” is often deadly.

MKHuggins manages to articulate the topic better than I can:

  • I agree completely about what Christian Science Practitioners are best at. Reassurance, calming fears, re-framing life issues, and as such I think they are working to their strengths. I do not deny that wonderful things can happen and have, but I don’t deny it when nothing is improving either. Positivity without denial, Love without judgement, Knowing that, “every little thing is gonna be alright”

She continues in a follow-up post (Understanding Mary Baker Eddy’s “Mortal Mind” the Thumbnail Version)

  • The best use of Christian Science prayer.
    So in my eyes, removing excess fear/stress is the single best intervention any Christian Science practitioner can perform. If the total removal is not possible due to politics or something, then people need to keep working to remove or reduce its effects on the life and to keep the big picture in mind. Fear/stress is not a natural state and most men would want to reduce it, if they knew its bad effects.
    If we shrink mortal mind down to being states of fear which lower immune responses, it is still plenty troublesome. Fear needs to be faced as fear and not given all the powers in creation.

The following needs to be nailed (or more realistically taped) to Christian Science church doors all over the world:

Removing excess fear/stress is the single best intervention any Christian Science practitioner can perform. 

Providing reassurance, non-judgmental support, a positive outlook, and a reminder that it will get better is often what helps a person the most. Regardless of where it comes from, someone to provide a context to re-frame life issues, or inspire the “ah-ha!” moment that helps a person break through the fear can make a huge difference for someone who is working through a problem.

I worked with a CSP in the emotional turmoil that followed the birth of Kid1, and the subsequent pregnancy/arrival of Kid2. I wasn’t looking for some amazing physical demonstration and magical second birth experience, I needed to overcome my extreme anxiety/panic attacks which were brought on by a host of what I felt were very fears/concerns surrounding the birth of Kid1, the arrival of Kid2 and everything that entailed.

Over the course of several months and numerous e-mails we tackled the fears. Most of what we talked about was practical getting-through-the-day advice for a mother of a small child with another on the way. Much of what we talked about I already knew, but it was helpful to be reminded of again. Some of the language was Christian Science-y (she e-mailed several catchy and familiar hymns) but most of it could have applied to anyone of any religious (or secular) background, and a lot of what we discussed I have heard since from childcare professionals and teachers:

  • being outside is important
  • get the older child a doll so they can role-play with it instead of using the new baby
  • they won’t be little forever
  • make sure you have good support in place
  • take care of yourself first (this is not selfish)
  • it gets better
  • it is OKAY not to have a pintrest-perfect life, dare to be average!

Through out our e-mail exchange I was very upfront about my plans for a scheduled c-section, plans to take the follow up pain medication and plans to continue to have both children visit their pediatrician. Unlike with some members of the family, and the midwives I’d worked with previously. I never felt any judgement surrounding those decisions from my CSP. I did not just “work with a CSP” about the problems either: I talked with my doctor and her midwife at length about the upcoming birth. I talked with other women who had similar birth experiences/scheduled c-sections. I had a solid support team in place. I felt more prepared.

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, a friend, teacher, mentor, someone who won’t judge, won’t be little, won’t make you feel less of a good person. My CSP was loving, supportive, insightful and very easy to talk to. She excelled at everything MKHuggins described as a good CSP, and the extreme anxiety attacks stopped. I still get overwhelmed sometimes, there is a lot going on in my life, but I know that even though I have left CS and become solidly agnostic/atheist, I can always call or e-mail my friend (who happens to be a CSP) and we can talk about it.

The culture of radical reliance, righteous judgement and inflexibility that has emerged from Christian Science is deadly. A few good CSPs won’t change over a centuries worth of harm, but some of them are capable of making tremendous differences in the lives of those in need.

More Children

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I have strong views when it comes to pregnancy, and strongly feel that women can make their own decisions (without the assistance of politicians, or pressure from various “moral” factions). I do not want “morality” or family planning decisions legislated, nor do I want to discuss them with complete strangers (or well meaning family) in the guise of “conversation” at the grocery store (or anywhere else).

Kid2 is about the same age as Kid1 was when Kid2 conceived. Kid2 is fully weaned, sleeping well at night, eating solid foods with gusto and a fairly independent individual. Kid2 is fully capable of expressing likes, dislikes and preferences. With these milestones people have started asking when we are “going to try for another child” and generally inquiring into our family planning.

Most of these people* mean well, or are trying to make what passes for conversation, but sometimes they get downright intrusive, and insensitive.

They ask “so when are you having another one?” and then nod knowingly when I tell them, “We are set with the two we have.” They pester and badger. I make excuses: I don’t want to drive a mini-van, I’ve passed along all my maternity clothing and burned my nursing bras. I try to laugh it off, change the conversation, or run.

I don’t want to talk about having more children, because I don’t want to have more children.

“Well you never know,” they’ll say smugly. “These things have a way of happening.”

Do they now?

I’m aware of where babies come from. I’m not interested in discussing their formation, or my family planning preferences with anyone beyond my doctor (and her associated midwife), and my husband (with his opinion and preferences coming after mine).

Listen up well meaning people: you are NOT me. Please don’t presume to “know” how I feel, what I think, and what the best course of action for my life is. I do not need to ask you for forgiveness or permission, nor do I need to include you in my family planning. This is not something I want to talk about with you, I don’t care if you’re the guy at the grocery store checkout line, or a well-meaning invasively inquisitive relative, it is none of your business.

I have bitten my tongue a fair bit these past few weeks. I want to tell people who ask about adding future children that I am making decisions I feel are best for myself, my children, and my family. They are welcome to make decisions for themselves and their family, I haven’t asked them to make decisions for mine. Nor have I asked for their opinions, input, or commentary… but I haven’t told them this. For some reason I don’t want to alienate “well-meaning” family and acquaintances.

*We have mentioned our family planning with our children’s pediatrician (so he is aware of the family dynamics), and my dentist (hormonal shifts can influence dental health). This was to inform them of our plans so they can help us make more informed decisions about our long term health, they do not get to participate in family planning decisions.

my path away from CS

Growing up a Christian Scientist I often felt isolated from the rest of society. I didn’t go to the doctor, or take medication. I went to church every Sunday, and often on Wednesdays as well. I wasn’t “saved” or “born again” or even baptized. I hadn’t “found Jesus” or taken Communion classes. I didn’t go to Vacation Bible School, sing in a church choir, or actively participate in religious-based community outreach. I didn’t drink alcohol, do drugs, or have “promiscuous sex” after all, Christian Scientists don’t do those sorts of things.

I left CS slowly. I’m not sure when it started exactly, I’d been questioning CS for years, no one seemed to have answers beyond, pray harder, read the books, listen for God to talk to you.

I wanted it to work.

I went to Prin, seriously contemplated suicide (for the first and only time), lost one of my best friends, got entangled in a less-than-ideal relationship, and had a fun, but difficult four years. I didn’t “break the Prin code” although I did inadvertently break house hours on occasion. Over one winter break I read all of S&H from cover-to-cover and felt so inspired, and spiritual, and so holier-than-thou it was disgusting. I gushed about the “logical progression of thought” that MBE had used, and how much clearer everything was.

I’m not sure who that person is, but it isn’t me.

I also found and married a “good Christian Scientist” with a multi-generational CS family, and kept trying to make CS work for me.

I tried to read the lesson, I tried to “grow spiritually,” I tried to make sense of it, and in the end I became a “medicine cabinet” Christian Scientist. Deep down, I probably always had been, only really turning to CS in times of “need.” I hated attending church, it was boring, and brought back memories of my childhood friend who had passed away.

While I could happily say “nothing is lost in God’s kingdom” when I misplaced my house keys, it always felt shallow. “There is no sensation in matter” worked great until I was doubled over with menstrual cramps that were so horrible I couldn’t walk. Tylenol worked better for my occasional tension headaches than prayer, and I preferred hormonal birth control over chance and condoms. I was going through the motions, and that was about it.

A year or two into our marriage, I attempted attending the local CS church, which only brought to light some social-anxiety issues. The church ladies always wanted to talk, and while I was interested in being part of some community, I didn’t want to belong to that one.

A few months after Kid1’s arrival I gave church another try. I needed a break, and $1 donation for an hour childcare is a fabulous deal. I left my husband at home to sleep, loaded Kid1 into the car, drove to church, and deposited him with the well-meaning-but-clueless childcare attendant. Then dutifully followed the lesson in my full text. To stay awake I listened for mistakes in the readings. I managed this a few times, and then gave up. It felt fake. It felt dishonest. Inexpensive childcare aside, it felt like a waste of my Sunday morning. It might’ve been improved with donuts and coffee, but not much.

Shortly after Kid2’s arrival that the Mormons made an entrance into my life. By this point I was considering myself to be a “seriously lapsed CS” and “somewhat Christian” in that we celebrated Easter and Christmas (mostly out of societal convention).

After a few talks with the well-meaning missionaries I came out to my husband: I’m pretty sure I’m an atheist, or at the very least agnostic. He looked up from his computer: I’m pretty sure I am too.

striking a balance

I wrote this some time ago and there never seemed to be an appropriate time to share. I found there is/was an unhealthy focus and emphasis on “natural” childbirth within the CS movement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with “natural” but “natural” is not inherently safer, nor should people be judged by the choices they make about childbirth.

Several months after Kid2’s scheduled c-section a friend of the family had her second child as well, she’d had a c-section the first time, but, my MIL gushed, the friend had managed an “amazing demonstration” and had a “wonderful, natural childbirth experience” the second time. I’m tried to be happy for her, but the underlying message I walked away with was “if she managed it, why couldn’t you?” My SIL’s off hand remark “why did you schedule a c-section?!” and my mother’s total freak-out at my sister (I certainly wasn’t going to tell her!) when she heard the news summed it up. 

***** ***** *****

When I was pregnant with Kid1 I read numerous CS articles about pregnancy and birth from a CS perspective. They dealt with how to deal with fear that arose from dealing with the medical community, and knowing the baby would be perfect as God had created it as God’s perfect idea. They were warm and fuzzy articles which all ended with a “smooth” birth, “perfect” child, and “wonderful spiritual experience.” In short, their experiences were the complete opposite of mine.

Although my faith in Christian Science had been badly shaken I worked with a CSP during my second pregnancy, while I am a “former” CS, I still feel CS holds some helpful truths (at the time of Kid2’s gestation I was still mostly on the fence about CS). I told her about the birth experience with Kid1. I was upfront about how I planned to “schedule” Kid2’s c-section. I did not feel the need to “demonstrate” over my fear and attempt a “natural” birth. I’d already worked hard to overcome my fear of a second pregnancy and the very real fear about the possible return of life-threatening third trimester complications.

How did I “work” to over come my fears? I talked extensively to the obgyn and the midwife she worked with who had worked with me in the hospital following the arrival of Kid1. I talked to Kid1’s pediatrician. I read peer-reviewed medical papers (most of which were beyond my comprehension), and a few books. I systematically addressed each fear, with logic, facts, and the occasional CS platitude.

I found that CS articles from people who had been stationed in Iraq were far more helpful than the fuzzy birth stories I’d encountered with my previous pregnancy. They dealt with pain, fear and flash backs – all things I was dealing with.

The flash backs were not part of the reality I was currently experiencing. The more I worked with my obgyn the more my fear subsided: we had a plan and a team in place to help deal with whatever came up. I felt more prepared. I had been through hell, and I wasn’t going back.

The days leading up to the arrival of Kid2 were rather surreal. We went out to dinner the night before and the waitress asked us when I was due to have the baby. Tomorrow around 9 am. The drive to the hospital and waiting in the pre-op room was no less surreal. I am willingly undergoing major abdominal surgery, in an hour or so I’ll have a baby.

Although the what-ifs bounced around in my mind I knew this time would be different. My obgyn had run every test she could think of, my blood pressure had remained steady, I had a team in place to help after Kid2’s arrival. It was going to be different.

I held it together until I had to walk into the operating room and lay on the table. One of the NICU nurses who had cared for Kid1 came in and introduced herself. Hi I’m L-, I’ll be taking care of your baby. I lost it and burst into tears. I knew exactly who she was, Kid1 spent two weeks with her. I can’t handle going through that again. The thought was too much for me to handle. Thankfully, my midwife was there and after a hug, she changed the subject and we chatted about how we’d gone out to dinner the night before.

The surgery went smoothly, Kid2 was fine, my recovery was quick, I had ample assistance and thanks to carefully regulated medication the pain was minimal.

The biggest difference for me was not that I was attempting to radically rely on Christian Science and shun western medicine as I had with Kid1 and the idealized home birth. Instead, I worked to find a balance between western medicine and my then level of Christian Science* understanding.

***** ***** *****

*While I have since totally “left” CS (and generally rejected the Judeo-Christian construct of God) I still find myself occasionally reminding myself that a situation is “unreal” or “not part of me.” I also continue to be good friends with the CSP who worked with me during the pregnancy. While I have somewhat gotten over my previously crippling fear of Doctors, I still have to have a hugely irresolvable problem before I willingly visit one. Interestingly, I have no problem hauling the kids in for their well-baby/child exams and getting them vaccinated.

moralizing pregnancy, abortion & premature babies

I wrote this post a little while ago, but held off sharing it until now. Since writing it, a woman in Ireland has died because she was denied an abortion. Why? Ireland is “a Catholic country.” A commenter at Feministing summed it up nicely:

Pregnancy is not religious phenomenon. It is not a moral idea. It is a biological event, and one that comes with many, well-known, well-documented risks. You cannot moralize biology. Morality is for human action, not processes that are beyond our individual control, like my ectopic pregnancy, or a dying fetus that, for whatever reason, does not miscarry properly,or for a fetus that will not survive after birth and will only know agony in its short moments or few days of life. Nor is such moralizing appropriate for social and personal circumstances that an individual cannot overcome by their own choices alone, like a woman who has been disadvantaged all her life and cannot have another child without being forced into even deeper poverty, or a woman who struggles with depression and cannot cope with a pregnancy or caring for a new child, or a woman who has to flee an abusive partner whose behavior she cannot change. The only place morality has in these equations is what *we* can do for the woman. Help her or don’t help her. And the morally right answer to that is a no-brainers for any clear-thinking individual…. You don’t play bullshit morality games around the option for the woman to choose to end such pregnancy. That’s not just and that’s not merciful. You make damn sure that option is available to her, so she may be spared the worse of such unfortunate circumstance.         (emphasis mine)

Pretty much.


I strongly feel a woman should have a wide range of options when it comes to family planning issues. No woman should be forced/coerced to carry a pregnancy to term (or death, or spontaneous premature labor, or an induction), and no woman should be forced/coerced to terminate one against her will.

Then there are situations like this one (made extra sensationalist by the Daily Mail): The miracle baby who will never walk, speak or read, born after family refused to terminate pregnancy despite three per cent survival rate

The overwhelming religious “logic” is what struck me the most:

‘God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good,’ he added.
The couple are members of The Village Chapel in Hillsboro Village, a nondenominational church.

This couple is in a no-win situation, had they terminated, they would have been labeled “selfish” by their ultra-religious peers for not wanting to “deal” with the “burden” of a seriously disabled child, instead they have a seriously disabled child who may not last the year, mounting medical bills, and two other children to take care of on top of it. Instead, cynics will label them “selfish” for bringing such a life into the world: a feeding tube, daily seizures, a seriously compromised immune system, an undeveloped brain, and like-minded individuals will praise them for being compassionate and taking the hard road but “doing the right thing.”

The situation breaks my heart.

Having a child in the NICU is incredibly tough even if the child is “healthy, just a little under weight” the strain is often overwhelming. I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to deal with a seriously ill infant in addition to two healthy ones.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t think “God” had anything to do with it. This may be in part because I don’t believe in “God” but also because if I did, I’d like to think that “God” isn’t an asshole who was “testing” my faith, straining my family, causing mounting medical bills, and causing a premature infant to endure multiple complex medical procedures to stay alive for a few more moments.

I feel sorry for the children, for Baby Pearl and her extensive medical needs and her older siblings who will most likely be left to the care of well-meaning family and friends while their parents deal with the ultra-high-needs baby. The parents had a choice, the children did not.

On one hand we have been given the technology to detect early fetal abnormalities, on the other, in some cases, we also have the technology to allow people born with such abnormalities a chance at a more “normal” life. Ethicists have been debating this one for years: quality of life, quantity of life, it is not a debate I wish to wade into.

Stories like these touch on a number of dangerous issues: eugenics, selective breeding, assisted suicide, who gets to decide who is “worthy” of living, of reproducing, of controlling women’s bodies/reproductive capabilities, of becoming a member of society? I don’t know if what they did was the right thing. I’m sure in a few months the DM will have a follow up article about either the continued life, or early death of Baby Pearl.

I’m going to go cry now.