Today’s culture could accurately be called “confessional.” People share tell-all blog posts and videos spilling intimate details of their lives, opening up their innermost thoughts to the entire world. And while in some ways, this can be helpful or laudatory, in other ways, it’s deeply troubling.
An example of why it’s troubling is the trend of special needs parents opening up about how they wish their child with a disability never existed. Some of them file lawsuits for “wrongful birth,” blaming doctors for not diagnosing their child with a disability prenatally so the parents could have had an abortion.
Others write confessional-style blog posts, or release videos where they bemoan their lives with the child they so clearly see as a burden. One such video was just released by Stat News and then featured on Upworthy. Titled “The terrible burden of microcephaly, on a child, and his parents,” the video is nothing short of horrifying.
In it, parents Christine Grounds and Jonathan Mir, discuss raising their son, Nicholas, who was unexpectedly born with microcephaly. “We had no idea that, in utero, there was anything wrong with Nicholas,” Grounds recalled. But when he was born, she immediately saw that his head was small. The couple was told that Nicholas had microcephaly.
“You must have known that while you were pregnant,” Grounds remembered being told. But she didn’t know, and it’s for that reason that Nicholas survived the pregnancy. “I’m pretty sure no one would have been able to say conclusively that he has microcephaly,” she said. “But I would have terminated the pregnancy.”
“Think about, at least, the pictures that I’ve seen, it’s, you know, these new… they all look so young, mothers, with these babies that, you know, look just like Nicholas when he was born,” she said, crying. “And I think, oh my God, what are they going to do?” It is clear that, for Grounds, having a child with microcephaly is one of the worst fates that can befall someone. For her, these people are not deserving of life. It is better for them to be dead, than to live with a disability.
Meanwhile, the video shows Nicholas playing in a gym, going to school, smiling, laughing, and talking. Nicholas goes to a school for children with special needs, which his mother says he loves. He also participates in sports, both soccer and baseball. And Grounds explains how they are able to have help with Nicholas throughout the week, and on weekends, which she explained is needed.
“He has, you know, behavioral issues at home. And he has temper tantrums,” she said. “And he hits and he bites himself, and the thought of not having someone who can take over when I need a break— or when you need a break— I can’t speak to that enough, the importance of that.”
The subject then moves to their younger son, Alexander, and takes a depressing turn. Alexander was born “normal” and healthy. “We were very concerned that it would happen again with Alexander,” Grounds said. “But we were lucky.” As she speaks, footage of the two brothers playing enthusiastically together is shown, wrestling, laughing, and jumping on a bed.
What does Nicholas’ future hold? The couple doesn’t have high expectations. “It would surprise me if he’s able to live independently as an adult,” Mir said. “I don’t expect that to happen.” Mir continues by pointing out that this isn’t a life he thinks anyone would ever choose for their family. “But Nicholas is here, I would never undo that,” he said. “You know, our love for him is complete, like it would be for any child.” There are no such declarations of love from Nicholas’ mother, though.
“People are going to be critical of my saying I would terminate the pregnancy had I known for sure. And people are going to be critical of my saying how difficult it is to have a child with special needs,” she said. “But, you know, life is hard enough. Being a parent is hard enough. And growing up is hard enough. And we are managing, and we are living our lives; but the stress and grief, and all of the things that come with it, I wouldn’t have signed up for that.” The “it” she’s referring to is, of course, her son.
She concludes the video by saying that she hopes speaking out could help somebody else in her situation.
It’s incredibly difficult to hear a parent speak of their child with such contempt and disdain, and this is a clear example of where our confessional culture goes wrong. Grounds is not the first parent to publicly speak about her desire to erase her child from her life through abortion — plenty of parents have even filed wrongful birth lawsuits because they feel that they deserve money for not having the opportunity to abort their children.
Even more pen op-eds about it— or, like this couple, make videos declaring their regret at not being able to snuff out their child’s life while it was still legal. Regardless of how one may feel about abortion, this outlook is completely disgusting. How can any loving parent look at their child and say, “I wish I had aborted you?”
In the case of Mir and Grounds, their two boys will one day grow up and, if they ever Google their parents, find out that their mother wishes that one of them never existed. Having those feelings may, in fact, be valid, but they need to be worked out in the privacy of a therapist’s office — not on the Internet for the entire world to see.
But then, it’s another symptom of the narcissism that pervades our approach to child-rearing today. Children are not seen as independent human beings; they’re accessories to add to someone’s perfect life. And if the child is “defective”, then you can just get rid of it, because only perfect kids count, right? Imperfection in today’s day and age is not acceptable. Here is Grounds, clinging to her misery and resentment and contempt, openly saying that because her son has a disability, he shouldn’t be here. It’s ableist, discriminatory, and downright awful. Raising a child with special needs is indeed difficult. Speaking openly and honestly about those difficulties is not what she has done, though. She has painted a bleak, depressing picture of life with a child who is disabled, and openly wished she could make it to where her child was dead.
It’s because of people like her that parents of children with special needs have to defend their children’s right to exist.
This video was posted because of the Zika outbreak, and it’s potential link to microcephaly (which has still not been proven). More and more people have been pushing for abortion when women are infected with the Zika virus, to prevent babies with microcephaly from being born — even though this is grossly offensive to people with microcephaly. These are actual people, human beings with innate human dignity and worth. They don’t deserve to be treated as monsters who must be eradicated. They deserve respect and compassion, just like any other human being does.
And, for what it’s worth, microcephaly does not sentence families to a lifetime of misery, stress, and grief. There are plenty of families that include people with microcephaly that love their children, that find joy in them and want the world to know that — not how miserable their life is because of them. If only Grounds had taken the opportunity to speak out, and done the same. Then she could have actually done some good, as opposed to spreading an ableist agenda that says people with disabilities are better off dead than alive.