A ‘fish’ with a future

Our son, Paul, was the first of our five children to marry. He and his wife, Fran, wanted to become parents soon after they had become husband and wife. That is to say, as soon as it was proper and reasonable. But children, of course, are not conceived to order. A couple of childless years passed and the hopeful couple began praying in earnest that their marriage would be specially blessed with new life. Then came the happy news that Fran was pregnant. The elated couple came over to our house soon after receiving the good news, with a video containing an ultrasound image of their child in the womb.

With evident pride, they inserted the tape into our VHS player and activated the play button. To our collective wonderment, an undulating, fish-like creature filled the TV screen. It was our initial glimpse of our first grandchild, a delicate being serenely oblivious to the maternal and paternal feelings she was stirring in her four astonished observers. She was entirely in the hands of nature. There was not much we could do to assist her, but pray that her development would go well.

The experience, naturally, strengthened our bonding with the child, a bonding that is often denied in our highly individualized and not-always-realistic world. I recall the famous Baby M case involving a “surrogate” mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, who decided, sometime during her pregnancy, that she was not a “surrogate,” but the real mother. Though she had given her word not to cultivate a motherly affection for her child, it turned out that her bond was stronger than her word. And why not? She had conceived the child with her own egg and was gestating it with her own uterus.

A New Jersey court, however, ruled that Baby M belonged to the commissioning couple. The same court appointed an ombudsman to be in the delivery room when the baby was born to prevent Mrs. Whitehead from nursing her child. The court did not want Mary Beth to bond with her baby, ignoring the fact that she had been bonding with Baby M very nicely for nine months.

The attempts to deny mother-infant bonding, especially during pregnancy, are not uncommon. Diane Eyer’s book, Mother-Infant Bonding: A Scientific Fiction (1993) was praised by the New York Times for punctuating the hyper-inflated mystique of mother-infant bonding invented by mothers, allegedly, who do not know the difference between science and wishful thinking. Barbara A. Herman, a specialist in child development at George Washington University’s medical school, claims that what was formerly called “mother-infant bonding” may actually be a form of opiate addiction. According to Herman, an infant’s closeness to the mother causes the baby’s brain to release a natural opium-like substance called “opioid.” These substances act on the brain, she states, much like opium derivatives such as morphine and heroin.

Other biochemists stress the importance of oxytocin (“the hormone of love”), dopamine and other substances involved in mother-infant bonding. Such an emphasis, however, often de-emphasizes the primary importance of the human-to-human bonding in favour of some form of chemical addiction.

Scientists can be most unscientific when they reduce human relationships to chemicals and then either deny or minimize the fact that there are human relationships. A mother’s love is not drug addiction. Opium-like substances do not inspire people to make sacrifices for others and to be concerned about their welfare over the course of their entire lives.

Radical feminism, because of the central place it assigns to individual liberty, finds any kind of bonding abhorrent. As Simone de Beauvoir, the intellectual matriarch of feminism, stated in The Second Sex, maternity is “one feminine function that is almost impossible to perform in complete liberty.” She also claimed that women who enjoy being mothers “seek eagerly to sacrifice their liberty of action to the functioning of their flesh.” De Beauvoir may not have denied mother-infant bonding, exactly, but she went a long way to undermine it. In fact, she made pregnancy appear disreputable.

The authors of “Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examination” (New England Journal of Medicine, 1983) are only too aware that showing a pregnant mother an ultrasound image of her unborn child facilitates bonding. They also know that women who bond with their unborn child this way are less likely to have an abortion. The authors express concern that allowing the mother to see an ultrasound image of her child might unfairly “violate” her “neutrality.” It may be said without fear of error, however, that being neutral toward one’s own child, born or unborn, is not a state that should be honoured and safeguarded.

Thomas Verny, MD, spent six years of intense scientific research in preparing his book, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. He corroborates not only maternal-infant bonding, but father-infant bonding as well. He discovered that, “In cases where a man talked to his child in-utero using short soothing words, the newborn was able to pick out his father’s voice in a room even in the first hour or two of his life (after birth).” Once Verny’s book was published, however, he was shunned by his fellow scientists and virtually barred from speaking engagements. “I wasn’t prepared,” he told the press, “for the anger, criticism and hostility of my colleagues.” The wisdom of nature far exceeds that of science and the wisdom of science far exceeds that of political correctness.

The politically correct wing of the medical establishment does not want to recognize that a woman’s unborn child is not only a human being, but one that is capable of participating in mother-infant bonding. Such denials are needed in order to smooth the way to abortion. Scientists are not always immune to the pressures of secular imperatives.

Thérèse DeMarco

Thérèse DeMarco

Little Thérèse is now six years of age. She plays the piano, sings in a choir, loves butterflies and knows some French. Not bad for a former “fish.” Her ultrasound image, remarkable as it is, has remained the same. There is something quite extraordinary that living things do that machines cannot do – they grow. Thérèse has a future; her image does not. Now she can look at the same screen that captured her when she resembled a fish and, sitting on her grandpa’s lap, watching Pinocchio, be thrilled at the ferocity of Monstro the Whale. She does not know as yet that her ultrasound image was the most ultra-captivating image that ever flashed across our TV screen. But even as adults, we are still growing and being formed.

Our growth has slowed down a great deal. The prodigious rate of growth of the unborn reminds us that we, too, must undergo further transformations. C. S. Lewis once said: “We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” Life means change and change should mean continued growth. For the unborn, there is no choice. Growth is mandatory. But the adult must choose to grow through love and a good place to direct that love is toward those who need it most – the unborn. The rewards will be everlasting.

 This article originally appeared in Celebrate Life and is reprinted with permission.

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