Thursday, August 14, 2014

As Long As It's Healthy

"Are you hoping for a boy or girl?"

It's a question that people often ask expectant parents, and it seems that the parents almost always respond with something along the lines of, "We'll love the baby either way, as long as it's healthy."

I realize that this response isn't meant as a jab toward people with illnesses or disabilities, and it's perfectly natural and more than okay that parents would hope for their baby to be healthy. After all, nobody wishes for their son or daughter to suffer. I get that, I really do.

At the same time, I wish that people would think about the implications of their words. As a child, I remember hearing people say that seemingly-innocuous phrase, and it hurt.  

They won't love their baby if it is born like me, I remember thinking to myself.

I heard them say "As long as it's healthy" to my mom, and I heard, "As long as it's not like your daughter. As long as it doesn't have to go for hospital visits and physical therapy appointments; as long as it doesn't have brain damage. As long as it doesn't walk funny."

It was more than clear to me that my parents loved me with everything they had, but hearing these words from other people was damaging and confusing. I felt as if I had done something wrong by simply existing, as if these people didn't care that I loved to make my brothers laugh and that I wanted to be a ballerina and that I was always careful not to eat all of the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms box. None of that mattered because I had spent the first two months of my life in the NICU fighting to breathe and unable to eat, and then my parents found out that I had cerebral palsy. If I were their child, they wouldn't love me.

On a related note, my mom and I were watching the "update" episode of Kate Plus 8 on TV a few weeks ago, and at the end of the show, Kate remarked that her sextuplets deserved their birthday party because it was a celebration that they were all born healthy.

"That's not a fair thing to say," my mom said, "because she's implying that if her children weren't born healthy, then they wouldn't have deserved that celebration."

All children, healthy or not, are worth loving and celebrating. Just because a child isn't "healthy" doesn't mean that he or she isn't living an amazing life full of joy and fulfillment. I just wish parents would take a moment to think before they speak, to take a look at the seven-year-old girl nearby who might be struggling to stand, a girl who might hear "As long as it's healthy" and misinterpret their words:

"As long as it's not you."

9 comments:

  1. Your mom sounds like the coolest lady! I agree. I am sure most of us have spit out that expression at one time or another and we shouldn't because you are right -- we don't WANT them to suffer but we don't love them less because they do suffer.

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  2. Wow - brave and beautiful. It's a phrase that just rushes out of our mouths without thinking through how it's received. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

    Heather

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  3. Amen! Now that I am a parent to a child with CP, I certainly don't belive the "as long as she's healthy" mentality. It is said so often without thinking...

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  4. As someone with CP I agree completely! :) People are not aware of how poorly they word themselves or how inconsiderate they may sound sometimes. But only through raising awareness, (through blogs like this one) can we hope to change it, so good on you for writing this! :)

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  5. Hi K! Do you mind if I post an excerpt and link to this article on Hellobee? I'm "Mrs. Tiger" on there (http://www.hellobee.com/author/mrs-tiger/), and am working on a post for World CP Day. Let me know what you think! Thanks! :)

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    1. Hi Laura!! I absolutely do not mind at all...that would be an honor! Thank you!

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  6. There are so many things that we do wrong due to our inexperience in life. I’m sure nobody who says that they’d love their child to be healthy intends to be rude or insensitive but, I just got a new and important realization after reading your post. I’ll definitely try to keep this in mind. Thanks for the insight.
    -Rose O’Reilly
    http://parenthood.guide/

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  7. I loved Kate + 8! And honestly, that phrase never bothered me until I was an adult and realized what it was implying...I never imagined a child being hurt by these comments but it TOTALLY makes sense that they would resonate :(

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