In memory of my first born…and many others
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Every March 18th I must stop and breathe deeply. It is the anniversary of the birth of my first born, Bianca. She was born prematurely and passed away on the third day.
Each year I try, in various ways, to honor her birth. Last year I wrote a piece about the “underground” that exists among parents who have lost children, an “underground” that is rarely acknowledged, except by those who exist within it.
This year I found myself thinking less about what might have happened had Bianca lived, and more about the women who birth our children. I particularly found myself thinking about all that can go wrong in child-birth and how little our society—and many other patriarchal societies—actually care for the mothers. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to move the discussion away from the tremendous loss that my wife and I suffered 29 years ago. But I have been thinking about how risky it is to give birth, making me even angrier when I hear anyone talking about so-called parental choice when it comes to vaccinations against various illnesses, e.g., measles.
My wife got the flu immediately prior to the birth of our first born. Whether it was the flu that brought on the premature birth (which is one theory) or not, it reminds one of the potential consequences faced by a pregnant woman when exposed to any number of illnesses. In that regard, when parents choose to NOT vaccinate their children, they are not only putting other children in danger, but they are also placing pregnant women in danger. Exposure to measles can, for example, result in birth defects. The parent of an un-vaccinated child who has measles and infects a pregnant woman cannot simply apologize for that, or shrug their shoulders. There are consequences.
I have a sense of the consequences. I plummeted from a “high” of great expectations as to what life would be like with the birth of our first born (who was due the following June) to a misery and anger unlike any I have known, before or since. But what about parents who find themselves with a child who has birth defects because the mother was exposed to someone who had not been vaccinated? As I implied above, there are no amount of apologies to make up for such a decision, a decision that will force upon the woman and her partner, long term consequences.
At the end of the day, I will never actually know why my first born arrived prematurely. I can never forget the optimism which I attempted to hold onto, until the very last minute. But I can say that I can never wish that experience on anyone. Nor can I ever accept that anyone could ignore the consequences of a frivolous decision on the health of their own child that could have a dramatic impact on the health of so many others.