I probably could’ve included this post in last month’s topics but it seems to fit better now than it would have then.
I have several friends who have birthdays within one week, at least 3 have their birthday on the same day. So you can imagine what it was like in college when everyone turned 21. We probably should’ve just had 1 big party and called it a day.
It’s around this time of the year that I usually think what would’ve happened if things had gone according to plan.
I haven’t always been this way; in high school I became aware of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. For one, girls around me were getting pregnant and people were becoming more in touch with their convictions. Does one have to do with another? For some people, probably.
Then there was one day in American Law (I’m still not sure how I ended up in that class) when the teacher decided that we would talk about the current court case dominating our local news.
A pregnant woman had been killed and her baby was delivered by emergency C-section. The baby lived on life-support for a number of days before dying. The person who killed the woman was in jail awaiting trial but now that the baby had died there was debate as to whether they should be changed with murder of one person or two.
We, as a class debated about it for a while before the teacher told us what the paper had published (because few of us, if any, had read it yet).
The person was only charged with 1 murder because the baby “was not alive,” according to the judge.
“So this judge is basically saying I don’t exist.”
I have this habit of saying things under my breath during class, but I usually sit in the back so it’s not the problem you would think, unless I was sitting in back of a friend who is keenly aware of this habit.
Babies are typically born between 37-42 weeks’ gestation. The baby in question was delivered between 38-39 weeks.
I was born at 32 weeks.
My friend knowing this, and hearing my comment, brought this to the teacher’s attention (and basically kicked the soapbox in my direction).
She and I also started a running debate, that continues to this day, over which one of us is older because she was born full term in March whereas I was born preterm in February instead of full term in April. I should be younger than her, but I’m not 🙂
Our teacher, wanting the class to be fully engaged in debate whenever possible tried to make the case that I was different than this now dead child, other than this baby had died and I was very much alive.
“But the baby needed oxygen”
So did I.
“The baby needed a feeding tube”
So did I.
“But the baby was sick”
“Well wouldn’t anyone be traumatized by what this kid had already LIVED through?” Thus causing distress than would translate into sickness.
“The baby wasn’t born at full term”
“Not according to any credible medical textbook ON EARTH”
Back then I was 210% pro-choice, but this really got under my skin. We had talked about how every court case has the potential to effect the outcome of future cases. Which this was apt to do given the “when is a person a person” debate. But this had another element to it.
A judge was, in a sense, saying that I don’t exist. Me, the person sitting in 2nd period American Law. A, then, senior in high school. Wasn’t alive. Wasn’t a person.
I don’t remember how class ended that day but I do remember saying “Well then don’t talk to me. I’m not here. I don’t exist,” and didn’t talk to my fellow classmates for the rest of the day. I’m not sure what point I was trying to make back then, nor do I think I made that point. But I made an effort.
I disagreed then much to the same extent that I disagree now.
That class, that particular day, still sticks in my mind, particularly around my actual birthday and my “should have been birthday.” It’s funny how thinking about someone else’s life made me really consider my own, quite possibly for the first time in my short life.
If things had gone according to plan would I be the same person I am today? Probably not.
For one thing I’d have to share my birthday with more people than I already do. I do like sharing my birthday, in fact I feel weird (and embarrassed) when all the focus is on me especially when everyone is singing “Happy Birthday,” but the idea of sharing a birthday with many more people freaks me out just as much.
I probably wouldn’t have Cerebral Palsy; therefore, I would probably need to work harder to standout (which could be a good thing some days).
I wouldn’t have the same opportunities in life.
If things had gone according to plan, I might not have the same stance on “what makes a person a person” that I’ve had, and have now.
I know many people wish that things had gone according to plan at least a few times in their life. I get it. I wish some things would have gone differently too. But I don’t think a lot of people think about what would have happened if things had gone according to plan.
If things had gone according to our plan all the time we’d probably find something wrong with that too.
It’s possible that things not going according to plan ends up being the better path. The life you got, even though you didn’t ask for it, is the best life for you. It doesn’t work out that way for everyone so take what you have, what you can get, and run with it.