So I'll admit to being a little (just a little) bit disappointed about the "it's a boy" news. Not because of an inherent preference of girls over boys, I don't think; I am pretty sure I was kind of rooting for my daughter to get a sister, which she doesn't have yet, that's all. It will go away eventually, probably long before the birth, certainly by VERY shortly after.
Hannah said that it's different when you find out the gender at the birth -- there almost isn't a possibility of real disappointment, because at the same moment as you discover the sex of your baby, well, there's a BABY! A real live one right there in your arms! (Or maybe you don't know until even a few minutes after that.) And there he is! (Or she.) And beautiful! And perfect! A whole little person, and how could you want anyone else?
The photographs, and even the wriggling live image on the tech's screen, are beautiful too, but there is an element of unreality about them. I can't look at those pictures as pictures of a person I really know, not yet; it's like a photograph that arrives in the mail. You open the envelope and think, "There he is;" but no, there he isn't, it's just a picture, it's not illuminated from within with a memory and a knowledge (connaitre) of a person, with the reality of someone making themselves known -- a voice that shoves the air around like he means it, limbs that kick and elbow and make room for himself, winks and smiles and snarls, picking things up and putting them down where he wants them to be. The squirming creature in my belly (who really is the baby, though unseen) is already doing that, shoving my insides about and kicking me in the cervix. It's hard for me to connect him with the photographs in any deeply felt way.
Not much strikes us as unusually callous about, "Gosh, I was hoping for a different sort of picture to arrive in the mail." But it would feel wrong, maybe even impossible, to hope for a different real person when the real person is really right in your arms. When he is there he is himself, and himself is the sweet baby, you know?
It led me on to contemplate the nature of prenatal testing in general. We had news that "everything looks fine," lucky us so far. Some don't get that. What a difference it must be for those who get Bad News after, or right at, birth, compared to finding out while the baby seems little more than images on the screen. It's not quite the difference between hearing sad news about a stranger, and sad news about a close friend; but maybe a little like that?
I hear people say that it is helpful to know Bad News ahead of time because it gives time to prepare. Maybe that is so. I can see it giving time to prepare for living with Bad News. I don't think, though, it can prepare for knowing and loving the little person, the person who lives (for however long) with the reality that the Bad News represents imperfectly.
There's a terminology called "person-first language" for speaking about people who live with disabilities and conditions of one kind or another -- it's occasionally derided as politically-correct, and not all people want it used about themselves, but as a matter of respecting human dignity I use it as my first choice at least when it is not linguistically awkward. It's the difference between "a cancer patient" and "a person with cancer," between "a Down's kid" and "a kid who has Down's." Instead of putting the disease or disability first, it reminds us that people are first and foremost people. It is a slight difference, but I think a difference that makes a difference.
Prenatal diagnosis of disorders of one kind or another has utility. I see that. I do. I think though that it can't help but put the disorder, disease, disability, dis-whatever before the person, because you can't help but know it outside the context of knowing the person; the person is still secret, hidden, inside. It's a trade-off. That's all. There may be consequences. Almost no new good thing is without them.
This is not my story, and there is a twist of irony about my writing it; here I am writing about people who receive Bad News, and imagine its effect on their lives, before they can the whole story, the whole person, the wholeness of the effect on their lives; and of course in writing it I am imagining how I would feel if it were me, even more imagination. I can hardly fault imaginary people for imagining things. Silly blogger.
The whole thing should teach us all to avoid, or sharply curtail, imagining how things must be in the lives of other people we can't really know. It's not true that we can't make judgments about ought-to and should; but we really cannot judge how things must be and how experiences are lived. Including how people live in circumstances we think we would find intolerable. Many real people are imaginary to us, and when we move their little avatars around in our minds it's good to remember that the avatars are just that, imaginary; the real people are somewhere else, making their own moves on a distinctly real field.
But all that is beside the point today. I have a new little boy to get to know. This is not he, not exactly, but it is a picture of him: