In the news this week there has been much made over the full-body scanners at airports. People don’t want to be violated by enhanced pat-down, but they also don’t trust the safety of the full-body scanners. I’ve encountered one of those scanners exactly one time – at the new airport in Indianapolis in July of 2009. I was directed through during a slow time for security and chatted it up quite a bit with the TSA lady about the new technology, etc., never questioning the safety of the machines themselves (or that they equate to super-hero X-ray vision for someone in another room). That was right around the time that I got pregnant with Nathan – literally within a few days. Although I’ve always chalked up his diagnosis to just being a lucky winner of the Down syndrome lottery, seeing this story on the national news this week did give me pause. What if the full-body scanner caused this? There’s no reason to think that’s a possibility, but given that Nathan’s diagnosis is mosaic Down syndrome (a relatively rare form of Ds), it does make me wonder. Just a little bit.
What would have happened if….?
Sarah Kate was born early because of a placental abruption – known risk factors are trauma during pregnancy, drug use, high blood pressure, etc. (many cases are of unknown cause). I had none of the known risk factors. What I DID have, however, was a child with a chromosomal disorder that was, as they say in clinical-speak, “incompatible with life” three years before she was born. The baby died in utero, but I was induced to deliver her and I had quite a few complications (read: trauma) involving my internal female parts that day. The experience still haunts me in so many ways – partly because of the loss of that child, but that’s not all. I often wonder if the events of that day are the root cause of Sarah Kate’s premature birth (and therefore the cerebral palsy). Should I have done things differently? Should I have insisted on waiting until the baby came on her own? Would it have made a difference? For almost eight years, I’ve had this nagging feeling that if I had done something differently, I could have changed Sarah Kate’s life, saving her years of pain and hard work.
What would have happened if…?
Once or twice, I’ve had a fleeting thought that maybe I was being punished. I know that’s not the case, though, because I don’t believe that a loving God would inflict lifelong disabilities upon my children in order to teach me a lesson. To think otherwise would be incredibly narcissistic, and it’s not about me. Mr. Andi has had these thoughts much more often than I have (yes, honey, I just called you narcissistic!) He was the mean kid when he was growing up – the one who made fun of kids with disabilities. As an adult, he has felt guilty about what he did as a child, so in his mind Sarah Kate’s cerebral palsy was punishment for his bad deeds. Today, though, Nathan has helped cleared the fog for him and shown him that maybe he was given these two special kids because he had lots to teach the world about What Not to Do. As I type this post, he is sitting in Montgomery for a council meeting for the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities – appointed by the governor to be an advocate not just for our two children, but for all citizens in our state with developmental disabilities and their families.
What would have happened if…?
I’ve never seriously considered anything that’s happened to be punitive, but I do often fret about whether or not I could have changed things (which I guess makes me a control freak instead of a narcissist). I know that I can’t turn back the clock and that there probably isn’t a single thing I could have done differently that would have produced “typical” children. Mom Guilt lives on, however, so I don’t know that I’ll ever let go of those thoughts completely. When the dark thoughts creep in, however, I am quick to ask myself “If you knew what you did or didn’t do would have made a difference, and you could go back today and change it, knowing that your children wouldn’t be the same people that they are today, would you?”
And the answer is that no, I don’t think that I would. They are who they are in part because of the way they were made. I love who they are – little people with larger-than-life perfect personalities inside small imperfect bodies – and I wouldn’t risk changing that for anything in the world.