Two of my readers sent me links to this article in the Washington Post, about a married couple and their conflict over how to cope with a pregnancy. Emily at AfterAbortion has some commentary. Amy Welborn also noted it and discusses it here (Elsewhere, Amy also discusses eugenics, then and now). It's quite a article, often brutal in its honesty about how a prenatal diagnosis affected a marriage. I can't think of anyone who would have even imagined such a scenario ahead of time, let alone tried to discuss the issues of "what if?" and "where do we go from here?"
Marriage is tough under the best of cicumstances. Courtship should be a time to discuss values and issues, and to work to try to be on the same page about the important stuff. And yet, no one can forsee just what challenges life will throw into the marriage. Infertility, miscarriage, illness of one or the other of the spouses, a baby with inborn or acquired health problems - you can't go there until you are there, really.
I have a friend whose marriage dissolved under this kind of stress. The first child was hit by a truck and severely brain damaged. While he was still in a coma, his mom gave birth to this baby sister, who lived 3 weeks before dying suddenly (it might have been SIDs, it might have been an undiagnosed cardiac defect). This happened more than 20 years ago, and I can still hear the phone call in my mind. "Alicia, the baby died." me. "The baby? My goddaughter? not * (the toddler)?" "no, the baby. she was in her cradle and she didn't wake up to nurse and she was dead!" and the tears and sobs.
My friend, however, would not have parted with even one second of that 10 month pregnancy and 3 week babyhood. Even if she had known ahead of time that the baby would die, she still would have gone through it all. I have never known anyone who continued a pregnancy with a sick or dying baby who regretted that decision. I have talked to moms who prematurely ended their pregnancies (with this kind of situation) who were content with their decision, but also with moms who bitterly regretted not having more time with their baby, no matter how injured or damaged.
I did find it interesting that the medical professionals consulted gave such different estimations of the risks of pregnancy continuation to the mom's health and well-being. The real answer is to be found in the statements of the last doctor they consulted. We just don't know. Every pregnancy carries risks. So, for that matter, does going to the grocery store, driving on the highways, or getting medical tests done! In the days before we had all this sophisticated testing available to us, most pregnancies with these kinds of problems ended up in preterm previable births or in stillbirths. At the point of time when the pregnancy risks the mom's health, the baby would be born. Not always, but often enough.
The dad in this article found out what many men have found out before - that according to the laws of our land, (Roe V Wade included), the father of the baby has no rights until and unless that baby is born. The right to choose means both that that woman can choose to carry or terminate that pregnancy and he has no power other than persuasion or coercion. His choice ends with the choice to have the relations that led to the pregnancy. It's a two-edged sword.
The biggest reality that we all need to face when be become adults is that we are not in charge here. If I had been running my life to suit me, lots of stuff would have been really different. On the whole, I'm glad that I didn't get my way, but that is from a perspective of having lived half a century.