|William Blake, Songs of Experience|
I first heard the expression pillow angels, I think, in an issue of People Magazine (correct me if I'm wrong because I don't have the time right this second to check). Basically, the term refers to those children whose disabilities are deemed severe enough to their parents and doctors that they are given hormone treatments to attenuate their growth and thus make "it easier to care for them" and "give them a happier life." They are described as "angels" because they're pure and innocent, their little heads resting on pillows to the end of their days.
I'm the type of person that has immediate and very intense instinctual reactions to things, and when I read about Ashley, and her parents' decision to attenuate her growth, to give her hormones to stop her growth, nip her breast buds to keep them small and remove her uterus and ovaries in a complete hysterectomy -- well -- it made me nearly sick to my stomach. The expression pillow angels is particularly repugnant to me, having that sort of treacly sentiment that drives me insane (think Welcome to Holland, God only gives you what you can handle, everything is a blessing and a treasure and all that jazz).
I like my angels fierce.
Suffice it to say that while I dreaded the onset of puberty for Sophie, I never once considered removing her uterus to spare her the pain and inconvenience of menstruation. Why not, some might ask? Like I said, this feeling, this knowing, comes from a very deep, instinctual place, and I don't mess with it. I honor it. It's easy and natural to fear what we don't know; I have found that when we reach what we've feared, it's never as bad or as difficult as that unknowing.
The Ashley Treatment has sparked much controversy in the disability community, and better minds than mine have argued unceasingly about it, but when I read this article yesterday in The Guardian newspaper, I decided to state my own feelings about it. I've actually been asked, on numerous occasions, by well-meaning people why I wouldn't give Sophie a hysterectomy.
And this is why, and it's pretty simple: I believe it to be barbaric. I also think that cutting your face up to make it look younger verges on weird, too.
If I were a truly good Buddhist, I would strive to do so, but I don't feel a whit of compassion toward these people who would do such a thing to a child. I am stunned into wondering whether it's one of those impossible conundrums -- there are some people that agree with shit like that and others that don't, and despite the cajolings, good intentions and explanations on both sides, neither side will meet. For that reason, I'm not sure these kinds of things should be legislated, so while I deplore a hospital like Seattle Children's that condones and actually performs growth attenuation, I don't necessarily think it should be made a criminal act. But again, better minds have argued for this sort of legislation, and I might be persuaded.