Thursday, November 30, 2006


In a comment on my previous post, Ali asked "Do you ever feel your Herculean efforts to save these children are futile when you contemplate the futures they are destined for?" I know what she means, I think. She wonders if it isn't discouraging to realize that many of my patients will grow up to be "welfare moms" themselves, or drug addicts, or high school drop-outs, less than shining stars of society, just like their parents are. I do realize what they might be when they grow up, but nevertheless the answer to Ali's question is a resounding "No!"

For one thing, not all the kids will grow up to be just like their parents. Some of them will escape the depressing cycle of early single parenthood, inadequate education, lousy jobs, and poor self esteem. Some will make it through high school and college and become contributing members of society.

Even if they don't, though, I don't think we should judge a person by his or her station in society. People who are on the lower end of society - I don't really know how to describe them - even drug addicts, still have worth. They may be a drug addict with no productivity in life, but they are still someone's sibling, or child, or friend, and as such bring some pleasure into another human's life. They might not have a job, but they might have a great sense of humor and entertain their families at Sunday dinner, or have a good listening ear and bring comfort to another person.

But mostly, I don't mind taking care of babies who are destined for less than greatness simply because they are human beings, and I think every human being has some inherent worth. Humans are not just another animal. I can't explain exactly what makes them different from other animals, but something does, and we can never forget it. It's what makes us always take the loss of human life seriously. It's why we can never be flippant about decisions to remove life support. It's why every baby must be treated with dignity, regardless of whether they are perfectly formed or have severe defects like trisomy 18 or holoprosencephally. That doesn't mean we have to treat every baby born, even those with terrible birth defects, with heroic life support, but we have to take it seriously if we don't.

Ali, I know where you're coming from and don't mean to be hard on you in this post, but never for one minute do I think my efforts on behalf of any baby are futile.


Blogger Laura said...

i agree with you.
i am, myself, the perfect example that a child can break out of a negative cycle of teen pregnancy, domestc abuse, substance abuse and poverty.
i can also attest that it isn't easy as i am the only one of my mother's 4 children who did break out of that cycle.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

One of my colleagues, a well-known and accomplished physician, was the first person in her family to finish HIGH SCHOOL.

9:27 PM  
Blogger NeoNurseChic said...

Thanks so much for writing this post! That was beautiful and that's honestly a very good description of the way I've tried to live my life. Whenever somebody would make me mad growing up - in school or something, instead of getting mad at them and playing the "whose more popular than whom" game, etc - I would just think that every person has something to love about them. Everybody is somebody's family, friend, loved one. A person's worth is not measured by their status in society. All people have worth.

I think that's why I tend to have a good repuation with the drug addict moms. I can't tell you how many times parents from that population actually thank me sincerely and ask if I'll have their baby again tomorrow and thank me for taking the time to explain things to them. I'm not just talking about manipulative splitting behavior, either. I can find worth in every person. I don't have to like what they do or what choices they make, but they're still a person. They still need love and respect in order to get through life. We all make bad choices at times - yes, some choices are worse than others, but that doesn't mean we should write people off the face of the earth. I have to look at each person that way... I've often wondered why I see it that way when so many people do not, but I guess maybe it was the way I was raised or maybe it's just my personality. I dunno.

I just think everybody has something to love about them. If we all (no matter what we do for a living, or who we are) strive to find at least one lovable quality in other human beings, then maybe we'd all be a little more tolerant, a little less judgemental, a little less angry, a little more friendly, a lot more helpful, and a lot more loving. Of course, sometimes our ability to do this is tested. I don't know that I can look at a serial killer and see the lovable qualities - but somebody out there probably can, which is good because somebody should be able to do that. And I guess I'm that person who finds the good qualities in the drug addict moms and those parents that most do not want to work with very much. I don't condone the behavior - but I do believe they are people. I try very hard to treat people with kindness so that when they go home and make another choice, maybe, just maybe, something I've said will someday make a difference. Never know. :)

Great post - I loved it! :)

10:20 PM  
Blogger Dream Mom said...

I agree with you. You put it so eloquently. Nice job.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Flea said...

Amen, brother.


5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your observations and reflections are sobering and heartening.continue to shine neodoc.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Doris said...

Nice post. I used to not believe this - ah, how naive I was back then. My 2 year old daughter has Rett Syndrome and this whole year I have struggled with what it means to have inherent worth. I was brought up to think that it meant having some sort of contribution to society and I always thought it meant through work or other measurable good deeds. Then my daughter was diagnosed and I struggled in my darkest hours with what her inherent worth is. Is it worth being a less than a fully capable person? A new world has opened up to me because of Edda and she makes me laugh and smile and makes our family whole. That is enough to answer the question.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous neonatal mom said...

Thank you.
It was 16 months before my son was able to leave the hospital. And he's been back a few hundred times since.
In spite -- or maybe BECAUSE -- of everything, he is a most delightful human being.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Stacey said...

You never know what someone might turn out to be. Perhaps one of these babies could grow up to be a surgeon and save many lives. Perhaps they could be the person that warns a child they are about to be hit by a car. Perhaps they could be the person that drives a friend to the hospital after overdosing. The list could go one and one. It's a good thing we can't see the future because if we could I am sure that are many people that would want to weed out what they considered to be the insignificant people. But we are all significant in some way are another.

I was walking into my office building the other day when I saw a homeless man. As much as I wish I could help the homeless they scare me and I'm worried about whether they are one of the drug addicted or crazy ones. I fear for my safety. So as I passed him to go into my building I avoided eye contact and kept my distance. When I looked up he smiled at me and said good morning. Wow, how wonderful. A man unsure of his next meal with a home or bed of his own can smile early in the morning. We are so spoiled. I guess my whole point is that everyone, even the homeless, have worth.

1:21 PM  
Blogger ali said...

For the record, I don't feel like you were hard on me; I was sincerely interested in your perspective. I agree that every life is worth saving and I'm encouraged by the fact that you can maintain such a positive outlook in spite of all the not so positive things you see everyday.
Thank you for such a thoughtful response.

2:41 PM  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...


1:49 AM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad to see no one disagreed.

Carrie, keep on plugging away!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Nurse M said...

Great post doc! When I am taking care of babies I often think of how they will turn out. Is this baby going to contribute to society or be a burden? I think about it often, however it never changes my care. I agree... they are human beings and regardless of whatever their future may hold they deserve the best care available.

9:40 AM  

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