Thursday, May 15, 2008

Could I Even Produce A Normal Baby Anyway?

My Iconic Cousin recently alerted me to the possibility that we may be missing some universal brain enzyme, some protein that makes people value fitting in and being "normal". This had never occurred to me, honestly. I mean, I don't really like to be thought completely socially unacceptable; I do shave my legs even though I hate to and see no reason for it except to avoid harsh comments and ridicule, and for the last year or so I've consistently worn a bra into public despite finding them to be very uncomfortable. I think perhaps I have, at most, a slight case of Asperger's. Like maybe I have Asperger's from before it was called Asperger's, back when it was just considered socially retarded rather than actually suffering from a syndrome. But whatever it is, syndrome or chemical deficiency, it has apparently affected my maternal instincts.

The pregnancy boards are full of posts from worried mothers looking to have their minds put at ease. Many of these women have had bad news thrown at them: holes in miniature hearts, hydrocephalic babies, severe clefts in fetal palates, and I feel so bad for them and understand their concerns. But then there are the ones I don't understand, like the lady freaking out because her ultrasound showed a possible extra finger. First off, have you ever seen an ultrasound? Half the time they can't tell a penis from an umbilical chord and they're doing finger-counts on a woman who is only 5 months pregnant? Second, it's just a finger! It's not like the kid will be born predestined to be run through by Inigo Montoya! Sure, it'll be hard to buy gloves, but how hard can it be to make a freaking glove? Trace the hand on fabric and sew the outline shut. And in some cultures people with extra fingers are worshipped. I think it would be cool to have a baby with an extra finger(s) or toe(s). Maybe not one with an extra boob or eye or something, but how many people do you meet where you would even notice anyway? I don't count people's fingers or toes so unless it was an extra thumb or if they had their flip-flop strap moved over and I happened to glance down, I wouldn't even spot it. But if it were my baby and it were a functioning digit, not just a floppy piece of meat to get caught in the play-pen netting, I wouldn't have it removed.

I don't really like the idea of performing unnecessary surgeries on babies, especially not cosmetic ones. For one thing, there are risks to putting a baby under anesthesia. How many times have you read or heard about parents who had their conjoined twins separated just so they could have a "normal" life, even if it meant they would be on dialysis or in wheelchairs forever, only to have one die from the surgery? And I have seen enough documentaries to know that if a baby is born with genitals that look to be neither here nor there, that most of the time doctors recommend rebuilding them into whatever's easiest to make with the tissue they have, regardless of chromosomes or reproductive organs. Micro-penis and undescended testicles, or enlarged clitoris and fused labia? The diagnosis often depends on what would be easiest to sculpt, with a warning from the doctor that "these babies have a 50% higher chance of being gay later on", which is code for the fact that doctors have a 50% chance of being wrong right now. I say let the kid grow up and tell you what they are and then go from there.

Yes, fix a cleft palate. Fix bowel obstructions and cleft palates and heart defects, sure. Install shunts for hydrocephalus and feeding tubes if needed and remove parasitic twins, of course. But when it's just to make a kid "normal", just to try to ensure that your baby meets your standards and expectations of what a baby "should" be, then I think you need therapy more than your kid needs surgery because you are just setting yourself up for disappointment and your kid for the pain of never living up to what you want. Because NO child will ever live up to all your dreams and wants for it. They might have a learning disorder that keeps them from getting into the college you picked for them, they might be uncoordinated and unable to fulfill your dreams of athletic achievement, they might be gay and challenge your visions of the perfect wedding and grandchildren. But certainly, at the very least, they are going to one day look at you in all seriousness, with venom in their gaze, and tell you they hate you. And if this child's purpose, surgically reinforced in infancy, is to reflect well upon you and live up to your goals rather than their own, then your world will shatter at that moment.

Really, though. Removing extra fingers? Lasering birthmarks away? What's next, nose jobs and hair plugs for babies too?

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