Since Lamps and Mirrors is a speculative fiction blog, I thought we could engage in a little speculation exercise today.
Imagine, if you will, a world where the single most common birth defect is a horrible, debilitating disorder. This irreparable defect manifests itself in many ways. For some, it results in physical deformation; sometimes slight, sometimes significant. For others, it results in crippling mental disorders, including developmental delays and mood disorders. This defect prevents the sufferers from understanding cause and effect. Their mental age is roughly half their physical age, and that’s at the most.
For the most unlucky, it results in a combination of physical and mental defects.
There is no therapy to make this defect go away. No surgery to correct it. No treatment will ever repair it, not even the most advanced technology there is.
Imagine also that this birth defect, while impossible to repair, is one hundred percent preventable.
You might be imagining a world like that in the movie Gattaca, where people can order genetic designer babies with absolutely no defects. No, this scenario is much simpler than that. Instead, imagine that doctors have developed technology that will guarantee that no baby will ever suffer this particular birth defect. It is the simplest thing in the world: all that a pregnant woman has to do is carry a small, powerful box that prevents the defect.
She has to carry it with her every day. She has to have it on her person at every moment, from conception to delivery. As long as she has this box, she will be guaranteed that her baby will not develop this devastating disorder.
Imagine further that this technology is provided to women absolutely free of charge. There is no cost. There’s no excuse not to get one of these anti-defect boxes, because there are free anti-defect box vending machines spaced every three feet no matter where you are in the world.
It’s practically a paradise; a world where mothers have total control over protecting their children from this one particular birth defect, no matter what.
Now imagine that there is a woman who decides not to use one of these boxes. It’s scientifically proven that her baby will be born with this disorder if she does not carry the box with her at all times. Even if she puts it down for just one day, her baby could suffer serious consequences.
But she doesn’t want to use this box. None of her friends have to carry a box around. Life is so much more fun without the box. Still, she feels guilty about not using the box, so she tries to use it at least occasionally. This still won’t protect her baby. Every time she goes a day without the box, her baby becomes worse and worse. Even hours without the box can hurt the baby.
She doesn’t like the box. She can’t take it to parties. Plus, being pregnant is stressful, and not using the box helps her to relax.
Imagine this world. This world where the single most common birth defect is the only completely preventable one. Now imagine that mothers everywhere are refusing to do what will prevent it, for whatever reason.
Open your eyes. This is not the Twilight Zone. This is not speculation.
This is our reality, and it’s our reality today. The only thing speculative about this is the anti-defect box. In reality, the answer is not a magical box; it's abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the single most common birth defect in the world. It, and birth defects caused by other substance abuse, are the only birth defects which are one hundred percent preventable.
The only ones.
And all that the mother needs to do is not drink any alcohol. It’s totally free. There is no excuse for drinking while pregnant. Not because it makes you uncomfortable at parties, not because drinking relieves stress, not because it’s inconvenient.
Everywhere, women know that drinking hurts their babies. Everywhere, there are women who still choose to drink while pregnant. Everywhere, babies are being born into a lifetime of disorder and distress because their mothers couldn’t stop drinking alcohol for forty weeks.
September is FASD awareness month. And even though we are moving into October, this is something we cannot forget during the rest of the year. Encourage the women in your life not to drink while pregnant. Tell the women (pregnant or not) who suffer from alcoholism or other substance addiction that they can overcome their addictions. Help and support them. Encourage them. They can’t undo the drinking they’ve done already during their pregnancy, but they can prevent their baby’s FASD from becoming worse than it already is. Tell them that they are valuable and loved, and that you will help them while they struggle against their addiction. Help them get through their pregnancies without one more drop of alcohol, one more puff of marijuana, or one more line of cocaine.
For those women who have FASD children, whether biological or adopted, help and encourage them in their struggle to help their child have as normal a life as possible. For the guilt-ridden woman who drank during pregnancy, offer forgiveness and aid. Befriend any children and adults who suffer from FASD. Let them know that they are valuable and loved.
Together, we can prevent FASD and be a balm to the hurt of those who already suffer.
It’s not speculative.
Please help me spread awareness of this important issue by sharing this post on your favorite social network.
In the comments, give a shout-out of support all those who suffer from FASD and addiction.
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