NQP | November 2011 Book Club "Expecting Adam" by Martha Beck at From Left to Write

Being pregnant while in graduate school is no piece of cake and even more stressful when you learn your unborn child has Down syndrome.

In her memoir Expecting Adam, Martha Beck battled almost everyone over her decision to continue her pregnancy. Join From Left to Write on November 10 as we discuss Expecting Adam. We'll also be chatting live with Martha Beck at 1:00 PM Eastern on November 10 on From Left to Write.

*Disclosure: I received a free copy of Expecting Adam to read as part of From Left to Write. As always, the thoughts shared in this post are entirely my own.

************************************************

If you know me well in real life (or maybe from my other blog), you know I am a mom who loves a good deal. 

One of my favorite retailers for my family is Lands End; not only do they make pants for tall dudes (Knute is 6'4"), they make quality kids clothes that wear well and last long enough to be handed down to a younger sibling. 

Whenever we need a new school uniform piece or swimsuits or just a pair of jeans, I head over to check out what's on clearance at Lands End.  And while I'm there, I always click around the sale section known as NQP -

Not Quite Perfect.

As the name states, this is the section where LE sells their items that just didn't meet their standards for some reason.  Most of the items are fine; I've had luck buying them in the past. They simply weren't, well - perfect.

As I read Expecting Adam by Martha Beck, those initials - NQP - kept popping up in my head; a troubling thought since the book wasn't about a pair of poorly hemmed pants but about a child who, as Beck related so eloquently, was NQP in the eyes of the majority of her Harvard colleagues.

I shared in this post (more book reviews; yay!), recent studies show an extremely high abortion rate for pregnancies where genetic testing indicates the child has Downs Syndrome.   While in this decade (Beck's son was born in the 90's) we have more social programs, more educational interventions, more outreach programs, more medical interventions to help improve the lives of children and adults with Downs Syndrome, we don't necessarily have more children born with Downs Syndrome.

Because those children were determined to be NQP, they simply aren't here.

During my own three pregnancies, I (respectfully but firmly) turned down the triple screen test when it was offered early in the second trimester.  While I can understand the point of view that knowing is half the battle, that knowing the worst outcome, while terrifying, at least gives you the opportunity to process the information, to prepare yourself and your family, to grieve the loss of the dream of a QP (Quite Perfect) baby. 

I get that.  I really do.

But from my point of view, the triple screen test was simply a door propped open, one that once opened, couldn't be shut.  Once I walked through that first door, others would follow, and behind those doors lie who knew what - doubt, fear, despair?  Redemption and relief?

Maybe. 

But the foreboding feeling I had as I sat looking at the paperwork, my pen slowly scratching through the NO box, was that eventually, all the doors led to the same destination:  a generic physician's office where I sat, mute with grief, listening to my OB/GYN discuss my options.

Or, in their opinion, my last and final option.

And that was a discussion I never, ever wanted to have.

Reading Beck's memoir, I couldn't help but think about all the children I know who are NQP. 

Cystic Fibrosis? NQP.

Juvenile Diabetes? NQP.

Cleft Palate? NQP.

Heart valve malformations? NQP.

Weird ear growth and life threatening asthma? NQP.

The reality is that all of us are NQP.  Maybe one person's flaws and weaknesses and potentials for illness or serious medical issues aren't as readily observed as the next but they are still there. 

Which leads me to my final thought (and I am oh so tired as I type this so please bear with me as I try to frame my words): what is our goal as parents?

To make our kids perfect?

Or to love our kids - despite all their flaws, because of all of their flaws - as perfectly as we can?

I myself struggle to deny the first question and embrace the second.  It's not easy.

But in the end, knowing my own imperfections, my own failings, my own brokenness, my inherent weaknesses and my own mortality, how can I do anything but love them just as they are?

And be thankful for the chance to do so.