Recently I have been following the story often referred to in the news as the Bucket List Baby. On facebook, Prayers for Shane has become something I check regularly. Prior to Shane's birth it was a page I checked daily to keep my own priorities and emotions in focus as I navigate my own bumpy pregnancy. But I also continued to check it both before and after his birth because the intensity of love and beauty in Shane's family deeply touched me.
I found myself reading the comments one day and several people indicated in one series of replies about their own refusal to have medical testing done in pregnancy in honor of Shane. These parents-to-be wore their no testing status as a badge of honor, firmly stating testing would make no difference in what they would do, so they didn't want to have it.
While I am a firm believer in "to each his own" I have to say I disagree with those people, but perhaps not for the reasons you'd think.
At ten weeks pregnant the option for a blood test was offered to my husband and I. This blood test could detect a great number of things I never knew was possible so early. By seeking out the fetal blood in my own blood stream they could determine the chromosomal health of my unborn child.
I honestly was both amazed and terrified.
My knee jerk reaction was: Nope. Don't want it. Like the people on those prayer threads and replying with genuine good intentions on that beautiful facebook page I asserted that knowing would make no difference.
But my husband, ever the practical non-emotional-knee-jerk kind of guy gave me pause.
What would we do IF we knew.
Usually the darkest of options is what pops into our heads here. If something were horribly wrong, knowing gives you the chance to terminate. However, we wouldn't. It wasn't a possibility we would consider, this why I didn't want the test. Why I thought it was not valuable to us.
But there is more to life than black and white. There are a lot of grey areas.
What if knowing meant we'd be prepared, emotionally? Shane's astounding parents were prepared, this the amazing acts of love and devotion in giving their son a lifetime before he was even born. He only was on this earth for less than five hours, but there was no shock and confusion int that time. Just love. What an overwhelmingly beautiful gift his mom and dad and other family members were able to give him because they knew.
Beyond the most tragic of possibilities there are other things knowing can gift a family with. Time to emotionally prepare, research, seek treatment options, discover early interventions that can be taken ... ask parents of any child with special needs of any degree, these things are priceless.
While my children are overall quite healthy their lives have not been without medical challenges. None of their challenges would appear on any of the screenings I am aware of in pregnancy, but I know what it is like to give birth and have the terror of things not being what you expect.
Anything to remove or lessen the possibility of that is utterly priceless.
So we had the blood work. A week later we were told that as far as the test could tell, our child has been graced with health and no chromosomal abnormalities.
While I will be scared until I see this baby, and likely some lingering fear thereafter, it is one less worry. And that is priceless.
So I don't judge parents who opt to not know, I urge those who do so to know that it isn't fear or dark motivations that prompt all parents to know. Sometimes knowledge is power, the power to face whatever it is that life may hand you in a way that is both dignified and prepared. That is a powerful gift, not one I will turn down.