“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34)
My youngest son was born just three months ago and before he was born my husband and I decided not to find out what gender he was. With our other two children we found out the gender at 20 weeks but this time, because we already had a boy and a girl, we figured that it would be a fun surprise. I was really fine with not knowing the gender until I hit 24 weeks. I was having a really hard time feeling like this baby was “real” and I didn’t feel like I could bond with it at all. Unlike my other pregnancies it was hard for me to sing or talk to the baby and I didn’t even call it by it’s “womb name” (which was “Apricot”). Looking back now, I realize that because I’d had a miscarriage at 13 weeks with my pregnancy before I was having a hard time allowing myself to get attached to this baby. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep this one either and I didn’t want to get my hopes up again. Yet at the time I couldn’t see that and I was really struggling. I constantly worried that I might not be able to love this child.
When I was about 31 weeks pregnant I spent the afternoon crying into my pillow. I poured out my fears to God and asked him if He would please let me know what the gender of my baby was. I told Him that if I just knew if it was a boy or if it was a girl then I would finally be able to bond with this baby, that I would be able to envision a place for it in my family, and I would be able to open my heart. I cried and I cried and when I was finally done I waited for an answer, for a vision, for a feeling, for… anything. But nothing came. I got up off my knees and started down the stairs feeling empty and sad. Then as my foot hit the bottom stair I felt a wave of peace envelop me and these words penetrated my soul, “ God is no respecter of persons… he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female…all are alike unto God.” (Acts 10:34 and 2 Nephi 26:33)
Those words took my breath away and as I stood stunned on that bottom step I knew that it didn’t matter if this baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl. I felt the distinct impression that in God’s eyes the worth of the baby I was carrying wouldn’t change if it was male or female. All the souls were the same to Him. At that moment at the bottom of the stairs I felt, so clearly, the immensity of God’s love for ALL of his children. It overpowered me and I from that moment on I chose to open my heart to this baby, no matter how it came—male, female, handicapped, healthy, gifted, or autistic. There was room in my heart and in my home for whatever spirit God was willing to send me.
Yet over the next several months I began to see that the world around me didn’t see things the same way. It was very obvious when reading the newspaper or listening to the conversations going on around me that the world was a “respecter of persons” . So often I heard things that made my heart ache.
One afternoon I read an article about how there are over 90 million females “missing” from the current expected populations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan because the sex-selective abortion of female fetuses is so common. In fact, in some countries it is actually illegal for a nurse or doctor to tell prospective parents the sex of their fetus after an ultrasound because abortion of females is so prevalent. Some of these countries are now even facing major shortages of marriageable aged women.
This information made my heart ache. Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized, that with my obsessive need to know the gender of my baby in order to “love” it, I wasn’t all that different from those Chinese and Indian parents. Somewhere inside of me I placed value on gender and I determined the worth of person based on things that they could not control. I thought back to how when my husband and I were shocked, and bit devastated, when I went in for an ultrasound with our first baby and was told that it was a boy. We’d been convinced, and secretly hoping, that it was a girl. My husband had been planning on going out and buying a pink shirt to wear to work later that day. After the ultrasound we stopped at the store and he went in to buy a blue shirt to wear instead, but all the enthusiasm was gone. It really bothered us that we were reacting this way. Shouldn’t we be happy with whatever gender our baby was? Why the disappointment?
I very much understand hoping for a boy or a girl, and I don’t think that is an unrighteous desire, but I think that sometimes ultrasounds often give us skewed sense of reality. They turn a living, kicking, individual child of God into a TV screen image that has no passions or feelings; something no quite real and not quite a part of you. In fact, sex-selective abortions were a rare occurrence before the latter end of the 20th century. Yet due to ultrasound technology, and the wide prevalence of it, determining the sex of a fetus is now much easier for parents to determine if they want the child or not. Before ultrasound technology the only option to parents who didn’t want a girl baby was infanticide, and even though in some societies female infanticide has been commonly practiced, it was not nearly as widespread as sex-selective abortions are. Mostly because, like I discovered as I held my first born son in my arms, there is something much less scary and “unwanted” about a child when you are actually holding him in your arms than when you just see a picture of him on a screen.
It is easy to look at parents in China and India with condemning eyes and wonder how a society could be so unequal that they would systematically deny life to a portion of their civilization. Yet I was appalled to learn that in the United States the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome is 90%, fetuses with spina bifida is around 50% and, in general, abortion rates for fetuses with any sort of malformation or genetic disease is on rise. Our society’s attitude towards the disabled isn’t all that different from the attitudes of societies who selectively abort females.
Recently I read the book “The Year My Son and I were Born” by Kathryn Lynard Soper and was so touched by her experiences about giving birth to a son with Down Syndrome. Soper often remarked throughout the book how she hated it when people told her that she must be a really special woman to have God send her a child with a handicap. I love her perspective, she said:
“ I wasn’t special. I’d bet none of the other Down Syndrome parents considered themselves to be special either. And what about all the mothers throughout history who were so frightened of Down Syndrome that they abandoned their babies to institutions, or left them to die outside village walls? How about modern-day moms who chose abortion. Nothing special, just a bunch of scared women…
… Having a child with Down Syndrome didn’t automatically grant those women compassion and goodwill. Whether the diagnosis came prenatally or postpartum, each of them had to decide whether to welcome her baby into the family. Each of them had to decide whether to open her heart to change, to difference, to hidden beauty, and unsung warmth. And each of them consciously or not said yes. Yes, we will love him. We will love her.
… Maybe some parents of children with Down Syndrome have the key to life. But if so, the club is hardly exclusive. Everyone who walks the earth faces the same choice: to love, or not. And everyone who chooses love receives the same rewards, although it comes in different packages. Mine happened to be a slightly cross-eyed little boy sitting in the center of our family portrait, which hung in the center of our hearth, which stood in the center of our home—right where we wanted him to be.” Pg. 309-310
I was also so touched by what Tristan, whose 7th baby was recently born with severe spina bifida and club feet, said. She reminded me of how limited our view often is, “So many times before during a pregnancy I’ve said “I don’t care what the baby is, just so long as it’s healthy.” Admit it, you’ve said it too, haven’t you? Now that we’re faced with a baby who is not healthy I see just how limited my view was. We’re thrilled to have Mason and it doesn’t matter that he’ll be bringing health issues out of the womb. His life is precious, healthy, sick, or otherwise.”
God is no respecter of persons. Each life, no matter how it comes, is precious to Him. As followers of Christ it is our challenge to become more like Him and choose to open our hearts and homes to all of God’s children—male, female, black, white, bond or free. When learn how to give our love unconditionally we gain a greater portion of His spirit and become just a little bit more like Him. It is a choice we all must make.
After all my nights of pleading with the Lord to know the gender of my baby I was surprised that my husband’s announcement “It is a boy” meant nothing to me. At that moment, and all the moment’s since, I didn’t care what gender of my baby was. All I knew was that he was just a precious life, with a divine mission to fulfill, given to me by God to teach and nurture. Once I met him I knew that I couldn’t trade him (or send him back) for anything in the world.
“For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” 2 Nephi 26:33