During my follow-up meetings with the nurse who is monitoring my pregnancy, my husband and I have been advised to do a series of genetic testing to determine whether we are carriers of abnormal genes - the nurse also expressed sincere puzzlement as to why we haven't done this before we were married.
You see, some Jews used to live in very small communities, which usually contributes to rate of genetic abnormalities. So now, when two Jews of similar descent marry, it is considered more high-risk - almost as if they are related - and they are advised to do genetic testing. But for heaven's sake, my husband's parents came from North Africa, and my family is from Europe! You can never know, but certainly there's no reason to act like we're in grave danger for genetic "defects". And besides, we're already married. Even if it turns out we are carriers of an abnormal gene, what would be the solution? Divorce? Have no children?..
We were also pressured into doing all kinds of expensive prenatal tests - as soon as we were done with one, we were sent to another. So, my husband put his foot down and said we are not doing the genetic testing - and there's no way we're going to travel every few weeks for expensive prenatal tests, either. If it meant possible better treatment for me or the baby, we wouldn't care about the time and money. But we realize that every test done right now, has a definite purpose: offering us the option of "terminating the pregnancy" if something is found to be wrong. It isn't an option for us, so there's no point really. So we decided to do, from now on, only those tests that can be done in the local clinic, without unreasonable costs (in terms of both time and money).
Please don't get the wrong impression: I think prenatal tests have their place; I don't think doing them is wrong, or indicates lack of faith. Some expectant mothers are very anxious, and doing the tests just to see that everything is fine can be very reassuring. But since it means lots of time and money for us (we live in a rather remote area), and not much can really be done right now, we might consider doing only those tests that are done in more advanced stages of pregnancy and might actually - if necessary, and we hope we won't need that - enable intervention that can help the baby.
One thing to remember is that tests aren't always accurate, and can result in a double tragedy if the mother decides to end her baby's life because she is told something is terribly wrong: not only the horror of abortion, but also the realization that this monstrous decision was brought upon by medical mistake. The danger of this is especially grave when we are talking about women who are under-educated and/or illiterate, and the doctor in question is arrogant enough to play God and doesn't bother to explain the reality of all possible risks, chances and complications.
My friend told me her neighbour was assured by doctors that her baby would be born without limbs, and was strongly advised to "terminate". Incidentally, she was a poorly educated black woman, and no one talked to her about odds, chances and risks. She was simply told: "Your baby won't have arms or legs. Go and end this now." Being a religious Jew, she refused, but you can imagine the grief this poor woman and her family went through during the next few months. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and after the joyous shock wore off, she brought her precious son to the doctor who had been monitoring her during pregnancy. "Here's my baby", - she said, "He has two arms, two legs and ten fingers and toes." The doctor went mute, and I really hope he learned a lesson and will think twice next time he advises a woman to have an abortion.
Also, this policy of making a healthy young woman feel as if she's in grave danger or seriously ill, while she is simply pregnant, really irritates me. I also have a gut feeling that since it's going to be our first baby, it makes us an easy target for brainwashing, since we might not have all the information of more experienced parents.
What stands behind this? Why are we sent to do any possible test? Where does our hard-earned money go, and who benefits from it? We pay a lot of money - surely it goes somewhere? I don't want to sound paranoid, but sometimes I feel we are manipulated to do many expensive and complicated tests which aren't really needed, don't help us and won't affect our well-being. Is our money used to support the horrific scheme of "weeding out" unborn babies who aren't "perfect"? Something to think about.