Dear Annie: I am one of four sisters, all of us in our 50s. We are a close-knit family, although we no longer live in the same communities.
My niece, “Tara,” gave birth to a son while she was still in high school. A wonderful couple adopted the boy, and because the adoption was open, they have stayed in contact. The baby had some health issues, which they initially attributed to the lack of prenatal care. Two years later, Tara gave birth to her second out-of-wedlock son just as her first was diagnosed with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. There is no history of this in the family, and my niece was deemed a spontaneous carrier. Her second child has it, too.
When these two were diagnosed, the doctors explained that, barring a miracle, her sons would face an increasingly painful life and an early death. They also told her she could pass along the disease to future children. Tara didn’t care. Five years ago, she met a divorced man with three boys, and they have since had three more children together. Blessedly, two of the children are girls and will not develop the disease, although they could be carriers. The third child is a boy who, astoundingly, is healthy. But she plans to have more children.
No one can get through to Tara that she is playing genetic Russian roulette with her children’s lives. These are children, by the way, whom neither she nor her partner can afford, and we have no idea how she plans to care for a child who might become disabled. How do we continue to love and support her when we are all so upset with the situation? – Heartsick in the Heartland
Dear Heartsick: You sigh deeply and say nothing. Tara is a grown woman, and these are her choices, smart or not. Be a kind and loving great-aunt to these children, and try to keep your opinions out of it. That’s as supportive as you need to be.
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