Holding fragile reality in my hands
By Rosalie Crestani
My previous article detailed my personal pain and grief of losing a baby 17 years ago. I also discussed the definition of potential, particularly relating to an unborn baby. Feel free to have a look at that article too. That story began with the day my baby didn’t make it but let me tell you about a further story of a baby that did….
I recall the day a family member was born only 29 weeks old. The startling reality of that age is that he only weighed 2 pounds, about a kilo! When he was a little older and his Mum, placed him in my arms, I was apprehensive, as he seemed so fragile that I thought I would break him. She had endured pre-eclampsia, causing her blood pressure to skyrocket during pregnancy, which led to an early birth.Even in the 90’s when he was born, medical advances still put 29 weeks at high risk of death, but this little fellow survived and thrived. He grew strong and eventually has grown tall with no hint of his premature birth. I just saw him recently at our family Christmas get together. He’s in his 20’s now, doing well, healthy, strong, and blessed with his own children.
Where did those couple of decades go? I will never forget that memory of holding him. He was a little human, not much older than the size of a 29-week unborn child, yet he was complete with arms and legs, ears, eyes and nose.
I recounted this story of the premature birth of my nephew to a man who called the Rise Up office about a month ago. This man, I will call Tom*, was insistent that I discuss Rise Up Australia’s stance on climate change. I gave him some information then in turn, I was insistent he also address the issue of the welfare of unborn children. My claim was that as a part of looking after the environment, we must also consider humans to be cared for as part of our environment. It wasn’t just one or the other, but both together. He was gracious and listened to my arguments. Our discussion was something like the following when I asked him:
“Tell me, how many weeks old would an unborn child have to be to be eligible for the same human rights’ protection as individuals who are already born?”
“I’m not sure”, he said.
“Ok, is it 12 weeks gestation?”
“More than that.” He replied
“Ok, then is the baby deemed human at 26 weeks?” I asked further.
“Hmmmmm” he neutrally mused.
Just injecting here with a fact of law that in Australia, a birth and death certificate can be legally issued for an unborn baby of 20 weeks or older gestation.**
I went on with the question, “Where do you draw the line between just a non-human baby and a human baby?”
A further non-committal comment escaped him.
“Ok let me ask this”, I continued, “If a pregnant women gets stabbed in the stomach, and, although the woman lives, her unborn child dies as a result, should the perpetrator be charged with murder or assault of the women….or both?”
“That’s a good question.” He asked. I was getting a little gobsmacked at his reserve.
“So, protection of law for the unborn child is only determined if the women wants the child?”
“I believe protection is only given once a baby is born.” Tom finally admitted.
“REALLY? Ok so a baby, at 40 weeks old in the womb, is not eligible for protection in your estimation?”, I had to ensure we were clear, that I had heard him right.
“So, to be clear Tom, a moment before birth the baby is not a human, but the moment after birth, the baby is a human?”
“Well yes, you know, right now you are making your case too good … you’ve got these figurative sticks and you are beating me around the head with them.’’ Tom humorously surmised.
“Also, Tom, what if someone suggests that because an unborn baby is abnormal, that suggests that it must be aborted, but we have duplicity in this country. We make great pushes to assist the disabled but that is only if they have been born first, and yet people want to get rid of a disabled unborn child.
“You see Tom, this bears resemblance to the days of Hitler, where someone determines who was valuable and who was not. It is called ‘eugenics’*** which formed a basis for his motivation when having the power to do so, Hitler killed off the weak, disabled, elderly, vulnerable and the rejected or minority in their society in order to create what they deemed a purer or better society. Is not killing an unborn child a form of eugenics?”
“Hmmmmm” Tom murmured
“Let me ask you this Tom, are you glad you still have a voice to discuss climate change, and that your Mum didn’t kill you before having the chance to do that?”
“Well yes. Ok, I see I’m not winning this one.” Tom finally admits.
I also mentioned my nephew who was born at 29 weeks gestation; he was blessed because his mother happened to want him.
Tom had resolved to lose the debate, but he didn’t seem to change his point of view. I’m not trying to be too hard on Tom here, but rather on the issue itself and how it has been shepherded into the realm of the imbecilic. The thin ice we are skating upon, and fragile reality we are grappling with is probably just too horrific to comprehend. Perhaps one continues to feel compelled to defend the position they always held, without fully understanding the reality of that position; or if they did, would it be to condone their position in defence of their human rights and choices. At this point, the curtain always seems to open on the ‘rape’ debate.
Even on the very low percentages of cases of rape, should a woman be automatically expected to kill the unborn child? Every woman should have the support of the health system if she wants to keep the child or opt for adoption.
It was around the late 1980’s when I was attending a very small conservative Christian high school in Upstate New York in the U.S. The sister of a friend, who wasn’t a student that time, had sadly been raped and a pregnancy resulted. She was supported by her family and she made the choice, her choice, to see her pregnancy to full term and put the baby up for adoption. Apparently, it wasn’t an easy choice for her at first, but I recall it being said she was happy in the end that she made that choice. It is not a choice usually offered to women with unplanned pregnancies.
It is my understanding; local adoption rates are very low in Australia. We can learn from women who have had abortions and those who have chosen adoption. I personally know more women who have had abortions and only that one friend’s sister who has opted for adoption. Their stories are very different. All the women I know who had the abortion regretted it in some way; But that one lady did not regret the adoption choice. All the women I know who had the abortion suffered some sort of depression, regret, shame, longer term anxiety and or suicidal thoughts following.
Interestingly, one of our own team, when adopting her first child found out that the mother, sadly, had been raped. Jacki,* has recounted the pain of yearning for a child of her own but for years was unable to have one. That is when she turned to adoption and was delighted to receive and care for a baby that was her own. What an amazing outcome. Even a very harrowing situations can result in a positive outcome.
Another story is of a 16-year-old young woman, we’ll call Beth*, who became pregnant. She was referred to our church about four years ago. The team of support were ears to listen to her and see what else they could do in the way of practical care. Beth mentioned how she had broken up with her partner in the days before. She was feeling upset and vulnerable and was considering aborting the baby, who was then at around 34 weeks gestation. As the state of Victoria allows for abortions up to 40 weeks gestation of a baby’s life, (full term baby), healthy or otherwise, Beth could have requested her 34-week baby be aborted. Beth had contact with our team a few times. The team recognised that she needed a safe place, a kind and merciful ear without judgment, and one that also gave her the support she needed to look after her emotional care as well as other needs. Beth was recognised as vulnerable at that time. After all, she was young, perhaps alone in some ways and having just gone through the emotional trauma of relationship breakdown, was confronted with a future alone with a child to care for. The team continued to support Beth in the weeks that followed.
Beth decided to have her baby and gave birth to a little baby girl. Interestingly, Beth and her partner reconciled their relationship around that time, and they returned after the birth together to show the team their baby. Beth and her partner were so overjoyed with their little girl and so proud. Beth even said she was so glad she decided to keep her baby and couldn’t imagine life without her. Her partner was there supporting her. Beth didn’t know this happy outcome a couple of months before, as she was in an emotionally vulnerable state. Because Beth could get some counselling at a very crucial and vulnerable time, she had the support she needed to get her through to an outcome that she may not have considered otherwise but was later glad she chose.
Based on these stories alone, why shouldn’t all unplanned pregnancies be eligible for counselling assistance to look after women’s health, particularly because this is a vulnerable time, and options should be available as part of this counselling to all women broadly, on a state and national level?
If we truly care about women’s health, we would assist her first and foremost in her hour of vulnerability. Furthermore, never and I mean, NEVER, should a health choice be presented to a woman to benefit the profitability of the health provider.
Here we are dealing with both a vulnerable woman and a vulnerable child. So, our first and foremost duty of care upon us, on governance and on our health system is of double importance.
When we are able to care for the foundations of a healthy family, we are on the right path to enabling a healthier society.
What I am continuing to convey to you, our reader, is this fundamental understanding of the value of an unborn child, no matter the age or stage of development of that baby. This principle has formed a strong basis for why I have stuck with Rise Up Australia, even after we transitioned from a political party to an action/advocacy group.
As mentioned in the first article, a new initiative in our ‘Options Plus Care’ arm of Rise Up. Options Plus Care gives pregnancy crisis counselling to women (and their partners if needed). This new initiative is to ‘sponsor an unborn child’, which is supporting the mother in an unplanned pregnancy. How cool is that: To sponsor an unborn child and be part of supporting the mother in the journey to birth in what is sometimes the most vulnerable time of a women and her baby’s life.
More details to come.
Keep a look out for Part 3 in this series of articles titled ‘Unplanned Potential’, ‘Tears’
*name changed for privacy reasons
**Birth and death certificate for unborn babies of 20 weeks gestation, https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/pregnancy-and-birth/pregnancy-problems/when-a-baby-dies/legal-information
***Eugenics: the science of ‘improving’ a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. AKA ‘Unnatural’ selection. Based in evolution theory,(Charles) Darwinism