This morning I happened to see a segment of a popular morning talk show (hosted by a middle-aged guy and a blonde -- is there any other kind?) I'm not much for TV, especially in the morning, but their conversation drew me in. It seems there have been some interesting developments in the world of genetic science, something even the audiences of mindless talk shows need to know about. It is now possible to create a designer baby, one with all those nasty genes that cause muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis and maybe even bad breath conveniently removed. We can even request the color of the perfect little darling's eyes and hair, and instill a love of Beethoven and a dislike for, I don't know, mindless talk shows. How wonderful, right?
At one point the hosts called it a "no-brainer." Everyone wants a world without disease, right? Who would want a child to suffer with imperfection and illness? The smug "infertility doctor" on their panel of experts, charming with a soul patch and expensive haircut, paled when asked if he was playing God. "This is about science, not religion," he announced, obviously annoyed. He spouted lots of nonsense about choice and how all can agree that any "imagined" negative consequences arising from the creation of a baby from the eggs of two women and one man were nothing compared to the positives: people can have the babies they want, when they want them, and perfect babies at that.
The ethicist on board, predictably nerdy and uncomfortable in front of an audience, spoke clearly to the ideas of right and wrong so easily put aside by the doctor making lots of money from the parents of those perfect babes. He had a tough task in front of him. How do I get them to buy the notion that right and wrong even matter? You could see his frustration as he tried to explain foreign concepts like natural law to a group of folks accustomed to hearing that what matters most is what they feel at any given moment.
The child psychologist, placed uncomfortably close to the woman next to her who had "designed" a lovely little girl for herself, brought up a pertinent point. What if those perfect children don't turn out so perfect? How disapointed will those parents be when little Mozart detests music and Picasso doesn't paint? Is it fair to create children with such high expectations? On another note, is it right to deny children the opportunity to know their parents? (In this case, all three of them?)
The conversation ended without resolution, as all conversations of talk shows must. They asked the audience to vote with a show of hands. Does this bother any of you? About half of the hands went up. On to the next segment.
I turned off the TV. I didn't need to ask myself if it bothered me. I was bothered, all right, but mostly by a question that had remained unasked. Do we really want a world inhabited only by the perfect?
I am most definitely not perfect, and neither are you. Last time I checked, there was nary a perfect specimen in sight. If we decide to literally play God and design children in our image, whose image do we choose? Some would say (as the hosts of the program did) that eliminating disease and illness is a no-brainer. But is it?
I have given birth to seven children. In the world's eyes, the first six were in good shape -- "perfect" babies. They were born well and remain in good health. They are not only healthy but attractive, intelligent and talented. (I swear I am being at least somewhat objective.) My seventh child was not so "lucky."
My seventh child, my third daughter, Celeste, was imperfect. She was born with a severely damaged heart, one corrupted and malformed by Ebstein's Anomaly. When she was four months old, we discovered that her brain was now imperfect as well. Dramatically damaged by a series of strokes, it was now so bad that she could not receive the heart transplant she needed. After a life filled with suffering, pain and imperfection, she died in my arms.
If I could have, would I have "re-designed" Celeste, healing her imperfections?
I wanted a healthy, "perfect" baby. I wanted a little girl to love for many years. Like all mothers, I wanted a child that would not experience any of the negatives of our fallen condition.
But if given the chance, I wouldn't change a thing.
God knew what He was doing when He created my daughter, and He did not make a mistake. Her tiny body and her pure soul were knit together by Him with only love. She was imperfect in the eyes of many, but to her Father in Heaven she was perfection: beautiful and worthy, sent to us as a gift.
I would not send back this gift, not for all the "perfect" babies in the world.
In my conversations with other parents of "imperfect" children, I have come to a conclusion, one I doubt they'll reach on a morning talk show any time soon. Children with special needs, those who are not "perfect" in their minds and/or bodies, add to the world's beauty with unimaginable power. They love purely. They teach us. They allow us to love them, training us to serve.
I am thankful such technology was not available to my parents (not that they would use it in a million years.) Maybe they could have saved me from my illnesses, addictions and faults. Maybe they could've given me the blue eyes I've always yearned for. But I would not be the person God wanted walking in my shoes. And that person is good enough for me, even better than I deserved.
People ask me if I'm angry at God for giving me an "imperfect" baby. Are you kidding? I didn't deserve her either. But thank God for His generosity, his patient blessings to His selfish, imperfect children.