Monday, August 20, 2012

Letter to My Baby

Dear Little Statesman,

When we learned that your body might be missing a few parts, or have some parts that shouldn't be there, or have some parts that weren't working quite right, we were horrified. It scared us. But we were also skeptical. After shedding a few confused, worried tears, we ultimately settled on denial as our preferred reaction. After all, as a diabetic, I know that all kinds of medical testing is not always necessary, nor is it reliable, and even if it tells you that something is "off," it may very well not have any practical consequences to one's health or treatment. After your birth, we were told, we would know much more. We hoped that the prenatal ultrasound was just smoke and mirrors. We hoped that the patron saint after whom we had chosen to name you would come through with a miracle. We hoped that it might go away during the last few weeks in utero, or that it would resolve shortly after birth.

But now, denial is no longer possible. One of your kidneys just doesn't work. And so, since you are so fresh out of my womb, where I was responsible for nearly everything that happened to you for nine months, I ask, what could I have done differently? Why did this happen? And the only answer I hear ringing around my head is: "The children of type I diabetics have an increased risk of birth defects."

It kills me, because I will probably never know. Did my diabetes do this to you? Did I neglect my blood sugars, or take too many risks? With my food? My exercise? Should I have taken my endocrinologist's advice, been grateful that I had two healthy kids, thrown in the towel, and never given life to you at all [difficult thought experiment that makes me alternately repulsed by the horror of you not being alive and confused by the fact that you didn't actually exist just a short year ago]?

It also drowns out all the other things that I hear somewhere in the background: "I did my best." "There is no known correlation between this problem and diabetes." "Women with normal blood sugars have children with this condition, too." "Neither this man nor his parents sinned,...but this happened that the works of God might be displayed in him." "It could have been worse." "My A1C was the best it's ever been."

It's true that very little of your life will be different than the life your brothers have. In fact, one of your aunts tells a wonderful little story about a man with whom her mother worked. A sonographer by profession, he was giving his son's high-school class a tour of the hospital. When he pulled out his probe to show all the students how the ultrasound machine worked, and pulled his son over to demonstrate, he discovered, for the first time, that his son was missing a kidney! His son had never known, and probably wouldn't have ever known except for the odd showcase. After I told her, a friend of mine who is also missing one of her kidneys joked to me, "I still tinkle with the best of them!" Your grandmother, after hearing the news about you, looked at me and said, "I don't know for sure if I or any of you kids have both kidneys. Maybe it runs in the family!?"

So your cross will not be heavy. Contact sports are out, you won't be able to follow your grandfather's footsteps in military service, and you will never be a kidney donor.  But your life will almost certainly be rich, full, and rather normal.

But still, wouldn't life be better with two kidneys? Isn't it just better to have all the parts that a body is supposed to have? Just as I might be able to live happily and comfortably with diabetes, and it doesn't feel like a problem, isn't having one kidney bad? Of course it is. And so I, as your mother, don't want just what's functionally the same as what other people have for you, my son. But I want what is actually the most complete, best, and perfect for you. I want your little body to be perfect. I want you to have all the best things in the world, including two kidneys. A body that is whole and entire.

So it may be my fault, or it may not be, and for whatever fault is mine, I'm sorry. I will probably never know, and with no additional evidence to prove the contrary, I'm going to take an agnostic position on it for the sake of my sanity. But I can only hope that your sorrow over your loss, if you have any, will be your gift from God, a cross perfectly fit for you, and a force to impel you towards the completeness that can only be found in Him. I hope that your life may actually be rich and full because of your cross, not just in spite of it. And I hope that for whatever I lack as your mother, and whatever you lack at my hand (kidneys included), you will be consoled and aided by graces from heaven.

We love you, little boy.

Yours always,

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