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Precious fight

Radiolab, if you aren’t familiar, “is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”  Which, when translated, means a fascinating radio program that focuses mainly on scientific topics and how they relate to and affect people. It also translates science into language that non-scientists can grasp. Generally, it’s pretty family friendly and my girls love it, too. (Although you’ll want to preview the topics for your family. Different families have different comfort levels and standards.)

The most recent show, “23 weeks 6 days” is the story of a very premature baby.  In most of the shows, they take one topic and exam in through three different stories. This episode is different in that the entire hour is devoted to the one story, and it’s a “sit on the edge of your seat, bite your nails, yell at the radio when they break away at the climax” episode. Seriously, you need to listen to it.


Kelly Benham, the mom in the piece, is also a journalist. She wrote a beautiful series about her family’s journey from which the radio program was based. You also need to read it, but do have tissues and don’t be anywhere ugly crying would be a problem.

As a mama who has heard the frantic, fluttery heartbeats of her four babies, this about broke me:

“Our baby’s heart kept beating. I held out my iPhone and used its voice recorder to capture the sound, in case it was the only evidence of my daughter I would ever have.

“I’m here, it seemed to be telling us. I’m still here.”

And that’s only the beginning.
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Listening to this story, I knew that this family was fortunate that they live in the U.S. — because we have medical technology that many people in the world don’t have and because we have a presumption for life and a will to fight that even developed countries that have access to the same technology don’t have.  It brought to mind this story of a tiny baby in Britain who was saved because of a mistake. The ethics guidelines there state that doctors will not try to save any baby who weighs less than one pound. When weighed, little Maddalena barely registered the required weight, but she did make the one pound cut off, and so they fought to save her. After she’d been ventilated, it was discovered a pair of scissors had been  left on the scale, she didn’t actually meet the requirements to be saved. Little ones in this no-man’s-land at the edge of viability face so many dangers.


24 weeks
Baby at 24 weeks in her natural habitat.


Sometimes I’m reticent to discuss the troubling questions inherent in situations, mostly because I was blessed with healthy children with relatively little difficulty. But as beautiful as this story is, it raises questions. The chief of these is how one 23-week, 6-day baby can be fought for heart and soul, while another little one that same age will be killed by the abortionist her mother has paid. The only difference is “wantedness.” Our desires have become deadly tyrants.

At one point, Jad Abumrad mentions that people with disabilities have filed wrongful life suits. Actually, there may be one or two instances where that is the case (although I couldn’t find it), but the normal procedure is for someone (parents or guardians) to sue on behalf of the disabled person. That may seem a minor detail to most people, but, shockingly, people with disabilities — even “severe” disabilities — still believe their life has value. I realize that many times these cases are filed so that the families might be awarded enough money to pay for the many and expensive needs of their disabled family member. Still, the concept of “wrongful life” — that it is wrong that you are alive is unsettling and, well, wrong.

But the overwhelming message I get from these stories is that the will to live is amazing, that we are born fighting, and yes it is a hard fight all the days of our lives, but it is well worth it.

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