The news that an unborn child may have a disability or serious illness can be devastating. We all hope that our children will be healthy and grow up to lead fulfilled lives, but a diagnosis of disability or illness can shatter these hopes. Initially, parents may suffer grief and bewilderment. Parents may feel overwhelmed by the implications for the child and for the family.
Parents face special difficulties when their child's condition is said to be "incompatible with life", for example, anencephaly (an abnormality in brain development). These babies are usually not dying in the womb; their condition is only "incompatible with life" in the sense that they are likely to die at birth, or within hours or days of birth. These children deserve the same unconditional respect as any other unborn child. For their parents, the time leading up to birth, though marked by sadness can be a time of caring and bonding with their child, who will always remain precious in their eyes.
Parents in this situation need time to think, reflect, pray and to ask questions instead of being rushed towards making a decision. Support for parents at this time is crucial. It can also be helpful to make contact with people who can help to paint a more realistic picture about life with disability. With appropriate support, people with disability can and do live fulfilled and valued lives.
- Disability Projects Officer,Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life
- Researcher and Disability activist, Queensland University
Dr Lisa Bridle