The Special Needs Child
Others will surly think me extreme, but I'll weigh in in favor of being open to life--trusting God to give the couple nothing more than they can handle--one more soul for His Kingdom (damaged or not--after all, we all are)--challenging researchers to unravel the mystery--inviting the Christian community to assist in caring for the child and the family--or grieving with the family.
I didn't think of this when I started this response, but two days ago was the 12th anniversary of our last child's birth. Joseph's amniotic fluid sac ruptured at 20 weeks. Mom Vivian spent the next almost 3 months at Wright-Patterson AFB Med Center trying to pool fluid for Joseph's lung development. (His genetic problems were severe, though he
looked quite normal.) That never happened and he was delivered by CS,baptized by me, and quietly expired in our arms. A week later friends, family, care-givers, and meal providers gathered on the Feast of the Assumption for viewing and funeral. Later that day we put him in his little casket, dug the hole in the family plot at St. Paul's Cemetery, and laid him to rest near his older brother.
The whole experience enriched our family, parish, friends near and far, medical personnel, and all who Joseph touched in some small way. To have aborted him (as was suggested) would have denied all of us the blessings of his short life and our long memory there of. To have intentionally avoided conceiving him would have denied him the beatific vision for all eternity, and our experience of knowing him in the new earth to come.
So, if we had known that Joseph would be (or had a high probability of being) genetically incompatible with life, would we have (should we have) used NFP to avoid his life? I say NO! What does it say about people with genetic-induced problems if we do our best to avoid them--either before or after birth? Did God give us ultrasound and blood tests and genetic screening so that we could eliminate the handicapped? Either by abortion or contraception or NFP? Or did he give us these tools to give us a head start on being prepared for the challenges, and give the medical community an early shot at
correcting the problems? I think he has given us new knowledge because he trusts us to do what someone made in His image and likeness would do--trust Him!
ONE MORE SOUL
To deliberately conceive a child that will be known to be "damaged"? Could that be the sin of presumption? I think there are TWO presumptions in the question itself. First- how do you absulutely know ahead of time what the outcome will be??? You don't. There is always a "percentage," a "number," a "possiblility," a "likelihood,"-- Then there is God.
Secondly, WHO is to say WHAT "DAMAGED" means?? Is it our human definition? Is it because one child has a lower IQ than another? One is a girl rather than a boy? One will be paralyzed or have Cerebral palsy or be missing a limb? In God's eyes, is there such a thing as "damaged"? Is it possible He creates something or someone that is "damaged"- or is it that
He creates perfection and it is our vision that is damaged? (Is the cup half full or half empty??)
I suppose it depends on how one looks at things. I have a gorgeous grand-daughter who is 4 years old and needs total care. She has a variety of "diagnoses" and "problems". To my daughter, she is the light of her life. Yes, she is never ending work, sleepless nights for almost the entire 4 years of her life, but the smallest things give her joy. She is pure innocence-something we don't often get to see in this life. She touches everyone who sees her- and yes, sometimes she disturbs them greatly. Just by virtue of her existence, she makes them think of things they don't want to acknowledge and reminds them of their vulnerability.
Children or people that are seen as less than perfect by our world "ground" us. They teach us what it is in life that is really important. They make us change our focus. Perhaps they are to be the very catalyst for someone to find and embrace God. In that, there is surely perfection. I think the beauty of NFP is that we DO let God have the final say.
Nancy Sandrock, RNC, CNM, MSN
Creighton Model Fertility Care System