I had a strange Not Me! out of body experience today when the nicest phone survey person EVER called from the Utah Department of Health. We recently received a packet inviting us to participate in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. It arrived in a bright blue folder made of flimsy stock featuring a blue-toned daisy on the cover centered right under the word "defect." The contrast of the particular variety of flora usually reserved for discussions on feminine freshness under that ugly word made for a strange combination. I cringed. Me? Participate in a defect study? Ughh. It was not a reality for which I was willing to accept eligibility. Not me!
Why do we use such an ugly word to describe a perfect little boy who came with some unique plumbing? Is it really a defect? Sure, his anatomy doesn't look or work like yours and mine, but it is evidence of the body's strong will to find a way when there is none. Whatever messed up information my DNA passed on to his little and rapidly dividing cells so many months ago made for more than a slight variation on normal--generic--mundane. However, his body's will to survive was so strong it compensated in many, many, complicated ways to make up for what his heart could not do. I think it's all pretty ingenious really. His body that is. So as I continue on with this story I prefer to think they were calling to study the ingenuity of my son's anatomy. Yes. That's much better.
I answered the world's nicest phone survey woman with my consent to participate in the study. I soon learned that it has been ongoing for 11 years now and is focused on narrowing in on the potential causes of birth defects (read: anatomical ingenuity). I answered, "Yes" "No" Never" Always" "Once a Week" "Twice a Month" and on and on and on for almost an hour.
THE QUESTIONS WERE SO INTERESTING...
Aside from the expected litany of inquiries about whether or not I or the baby's father (I find it amusing that throughout the entire hour they dared not ask if I were married, divorced or single--seriously you just sent me a packet telling me I am in a computer somewhere labeled as having a defect and you might offend me with something so personal as my marital status?) had engaged in any sort of recreational drug use, drinking, or applied pesticides as a vocation, they asked some suspicious questions about cereal and drinking water and food groups I had never considered.
Q: For the three months prior to and throughout your pregnancy did you consume cereal? What kinds? How frequently did you consume each kind?
A: I rarely stopped eating cereal. It's all that sounded good. Cocoa Pebbles. Cheerios. Shredded Wheat. Life. Mini Wheats. Five times a week. Twice a week. Three times a week. Twice a week.
Q: For the three months prior and throughout your pregnancy did you consume milk on a regular basis? Skim milk? Whole milk?
A: Yes. Skim. As if in an IV--please reference the above answered question.
Q: For the three months prior to and during your pregnancy how many glasses of drinking water did you consume on a daily basis? Filtered water at home? Water away from home? Bottled water?A: Because I do not keep track in any written way of all my beverage consumption, I guessed. But it's a lot of all of the above. Who doesn't?
I didn't really get weirded out by all the information I was sharing until she started using McKay's name. I never shared it with her, but she knew it. I didn't like hearing it on a stranger's lips; and especially not in this context.
Has anyone out there participated in something like this? When McKay is president is my participation going to come back to haunt him? Of course, we were assured of complete confidentiality--right up to the point when she let me know the next phase of the study would be completed when my cheek cell sample collection kits arrived in the mail. Hmmm.
I'm torn. Do I want the research to march on and find the cause and cure for all of the craziness I see in the bodies of the tiniest among us each time we visit Primary's? Yes. Am I 100 percent confident all of this information will be used for good and true purposes? Mostly. Am I concerned anything I share about my cereal loving ways could come back to haunt us as far as insurance goes in the decades to come? Very.
So this Not Me! is about how I would never be selected to chat about what I could have done to precipitate this challenge for my baby. No, not me. Not after every doctor I've seen up to this point told me this was just one of those things--nothing could have been done to cause or prevent it. I couldn't have been made to feel that drinking too much water or eating fresh fruit on an above average basis could result in consequences on par with drug use and inhaling pesticides on a daily basis. No, not me.
The truth is life is fragile. Life is miraculous. Life is not a gift we give our children, but a gift we accept from God. And no study, no matter its success in figuring out if all of the things we are putting into and around our bodies are now conspiring to backfire will ever get close to uncovering His greater plan.
I firmly believe we need to get to the bottom of anything that makes our children less than whole, or well, or delirious with the joy of being alive. That's why I answered those questions. That's why I'll probably insert that sterile little stick into the chubby little cheek of my prince when it arrives in the mail next week. But I'll do it right after I swab mine. And Matt swabs his. Because ultimately he is us and we are him and we are all in this together. And the truth is when it comes to getting to the bottom of the lessons offered in the big things life puts us through, I'd do better to quit saying Not me! and start trying to understand Why not me? I think we all would.