Wednesday, 4 April 2012

We all want that

My friend Alison Miles wrote this lovely blog post about the genetic reasons for her children's hearing loss. And has made me think all over again about something that has been bothering me since having my daughter, which is the smug way people say, when pregnant, "As long as it's healthy I don't mind what sex it is."

Why does it bother me? Because we all want healthy children, that's why. I am sure people say it as a superstitious tic, worried that if they express a preference for something as trivial as gender then the gods will punish them in other ways, but to me it comes across as particularly irritating, suggesting that perhaps they think they are the only ones who want a healthy child, that when you ask something that illicits that response you are suggesting other concerns trump health.

Our daughter has some health issues, hopefully now resolved, the detail of which is nobody's business but ours, and the family and friends with whom we choose to talk about it, and when someone trots out the "as long as it's healthy" line I want to say to them "yes yes, that's taken without question, we all want that, do you think we didn't, do you think wanting it makes it happen, do you think you will love a child with health issues any less?"

But one can't say this to an expectant parent of course. Because they mean it nicely. They are trying to prove their suitability as parents, to others and to themselves. And though this phrase is my particular bugbear, I am not beyond superstition myself. Never in my life, before being pregnant and then being a parent, had I saluted a magpie. Now I can't bloody stop.


  1. I am so pleased you wrote this post. This phrase annoys me so much. I have never used the "as long as it's healthy" line when refering to my unborn child. Of course I really, really, really want a healthy child - doesn't everyone - but this phrase to me almost insinuates that you would love it less if it's not healthy.

  2. I have an hereditary condition, that I have passed on to all 4 of my children and they each have it to different degrees. I find it upsetting that pre-natal screening is offered without the warning that it won't mean your child won't have some other issue that can't be detected by screening. It cannot guarantee a healthy child. is there even such a thing as a 100% healthy child?

    I have to say I also hate the phrase "as long as it has 10 fingers and 10 toes". My second daughter was born with an extra finger, which was removed for medical reasons when she was 4 months old. That was also hereditary, from my husband's mum. As she had died when my husband was 12, this was really special for us and the midwives/consultants etc were taken aback by how it didn't bother us. She is 14 now and I know it upsets her when people say it - and when extra digits are used as a 'joke' reference for inbreeding.