A lot of stuff factors into the decision to have a tubal ligation. Getting your tubes tied is not for the fickle, and when you’ve decided to do it — either for health reasons or because you are dead set on not having any (or anymore) children — you go into it knowing you’ll come out the other side with one of the most effective types of birth control there is.
So when it turns out to be a little bit less than effective, it goes without saying that it upends your entire life. That’s exactly what happened to a Michigan woman who underwent the procedure only to find herself mother to a special-needs child at 50. Now she hopes to hold responsible the doctor who told her she was in the clear.
Lori Cichewicz had a tubal ligation in 2008, with the repeated assurance of her doctor that she would not be getting pregnant anytime soon due to the bang-up job he did on her innards. You can imagine the surprise she felt when, three years later, she learned she was pregnant with a child who had Down syndrome.
She’s suing for something called “wrongful conception,” a close cousin to other medical malpractice cases like wrongful death and birth, which claims that her doctor was negligent when he performed the procedure. To put it simply, the doctor told her she had “no chance” of becoming pregnant. That was clearly horse foofie considering that, at 50, Cichewicz is a mother to a preschooler with Down syndrome.
There’s always a bit of uproar when someone seeks relief through the courts for something involving a child. After all, who doesn’t love little babies? How could you possibly be angry that you’ve got one? Language like “emotional distress” doesn’t really help us sympathize, since it conjures up images of frivolity and crybabies. But it is completely valid, and Cichewicz should not be judged for seeking the justice that she frankly deserves.
Pregnancy and parenthood are not fun little diversions. Together, they are a serious medical change in your health, followed by a lifelong commitment to providing for and raising another human being. We often chastise people for not giving it enough thought before going condom free. Don’t believe us? We submit every single season of Teen Mom as proof.
Cichewicz did not want to become pregnant. We don’t know why, and we don’t need to. Believe it or not, finding out you’re pregnant after having the idea that you’re sterile isn’t the cause for celebration and plucky bootstrapping that Lifetime movies will have you believe. Instead, you pretty much run the gamut of terror to disbelief, even if you wanted to be pregnant, which Cichewicz didn’t. To find out that your child will also have lifelong special needs that you might not even be alive to help them with is pretty emotionally distressing, to say the least.
People make logical jumps. You hear that a woman is suing over her baby’s existence, and you think she’s a monster. But from what Cichewicz has said to local news outlets, it sounds like nothing could be further from the truth. She worries for her daughter. She’s devastated that she may not be there for her in the long run, and not in a “we’ll all die someday” kind of way, but because her daughter may not even have the benefit of her mother at, say, her high school graduation. We don’t doubt for a second that she loves her daughter immensely.
Having a baby — particularly a baby with Down syndrome — requires planning and preparation, two luxuries Cichewicz didn’t have. When a doctor tells you that your chances of getting pregnant are nil, you take him at his word. If that word turns out to be garbage, you ought to have some way of holding him responsible, and that’s what’s happening here.
Just because you never wanted a baby doesn’t mean you don’t want and love the child you have. But loving a child you never expected does not negate the responsibility that Cichewicz’s doctor had in making sure that the mom would never have to sit across from her daughter and wonder if she’ll ever even see her go to college.
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