the ashley treatment: what we need is compassion and humility

should ashley, who may never develop mentally beyond a 3-month-old, grow up physically to be a woman, fully capable of bearing children?

you know what, i really don’t know.

i can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be ashley or her parents. for the parents – is it like living with a small mammal? is there a spiritual dimension of ashley’s presence that i would not be able to comprehend if i hadn’t spent lots of time with her? is ashley’s condition something that one can get used to?

see, even these three scenarios that i just came up with seem utterly inadequate.

and what might it be like to be ashley? i cannot conceive of that at all.

then it gets paradoxical. while i really can’t conjure up what it would be like to live the life of ashley and her parents, i agree with david that in the end, i am/we all are ashley. and we all are her parents. in so many ways.

we all experience moments of utter helplessness and dependence. we all are sometimes faced with responsibilities and decisions that seem utterly beyond our capabilities.

and as someone deeply influenced by buddhism, i really believe that in the end we are all one, and that what helps us grow – us, that’s ashley, her parents, her doctors, you, me – is compassion and love.

so, while i couldn’t help wading a little ways into the ashley discussion – with ben, a parent of a disabled child, and with david, a young man with cerebral palsy – i need to remember that the best i can do right now is to keep contributing to this world in the best way i can, be as humble as my imperfect tendencies towards know-it-all-ness allow me to be, and to open my heart in compassion towards ashley and her parents.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

6 thoughts on “the ashley treatment: what we need is compassion and humility

  1. healthybpm

    It’s a story that hurts Isabella. Nothing is in our hands. And still we live our petty lives with our petty misgivings and hope that some day we will do something meaningful.

  2. karen

    I admit I reacted harshly toward Ashley’s parents when i first heard about what they had done. But in digging deeper to the story when I covered it for an online magazine I write for, I was able to apply the knowledge I carry regarding my own disabled son, that sometimes parents make choices involving their children that they never thought would be anywhere close to their lexicon of parenting, simply because they were able to detach from that and to instead follow the lead given by the child. And then I was unable to judge them, because who am I? I am not living that life. I have a friend whose daughter died of medical complications from a similar massive set of issues. Who knows what choices she would have been faced with as her daughter aged, had she lived? This is such a wonderful lesson that we each walk only our own path, nothing more and nothing less.

  3. ClinicallyClueless

    This was very interesting since I had been working in the field of developmental disabilities for 17 years. I had very mixed feelings about her treatment and haven’t quite sorted them out. There are definitely two sides, her parents and the ethics and Ashley’s rights about the surgeries. There are many more issues. But, parents with a disabled child have so many decision and worries. It often ends up that the father fades out of the picture or divorces and that it becomes a “dysfunctional” family in that attention and decisions for the family are usually made around the child with a disability. Then, you add the on-going losses which many parents do not process through. At each developmental milestone is a loss of what could have been beginning from birth. Can you imagine grief on top of grief for the rest of your life. It may be minimal at times, but it is there and most parents do not acknowlege it. Not, to mention guilt and blaming, the siblings, etc… I loved my work, but I couldn’t work with the children too often because it was so heart breaking. Regardless of what Ashley’s treatment was, he parents had and will continue to have tough decisions. My heart really goes out to them and to Ashley, but I think she has the better deal because she looks and sounds so happy.

  4. isabella mori

    thanks for leaving this comment, CC.

    what you describe is one of the reasons why i don’t work with children. i can hear the most atrocious things about adults but children – no, i just can’t watch them going through this. and the parents … god bless them.

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