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At one time, I was the Section 8 Existing Housing Director for a small housing authority in the New York City suburbs.  My duties included dealing with landlords and tenants in private housing where tenants were getting a portion of their rent subsidized.

One day, I received a frantic call from a tenant.  I’ll call her Erica (real names will not be used in this post).  Erica was renting an apartment from Vladimir.  I had dealt with him regarding many apartments on the program.  He constantly looked for an angle so that he could get the maximum allowable rent for the minimum acceptable accommodations.  Erica had a one bedroom apartment that she shared with her infant daughter.  When Vladimir proposed changing the kitchen into a second bedroom, and putting a kitchenette in the hallway, she was thrilled to no longer need to share a bedroom with her child, while Vladimir could collect a higher rent for a two bedroom apartment (and in this case, the apartment justified the higher amount).

It was a win-win for everyone … until Vladimir changed the plans.  To save some plumbing costs, he moved the stove from the original renovation location to a spot in front of the only entrance to the apartment.  Erica was horrified that if a fire occurred on the stove or in the oven, she and her daughter might be trapped.  She tried to argue this with Vladimir, but to no avail.  I agreed to meet Erica at her apartment, and had Vladimir meet us there.

Getting there first, I looked around and sized up the situation.  When Vladimir arrived, Erica immediately jumped on him with the same arguments that failed before.  Vladimir continued to turn a deaf ear to them.

Then, an inspiration hit me.  I put two facts together that were totally unrelated to what Erica was arguing.  I knew that the spot for the kitchen table had been moved to where the stove was going to be.  And I was very aware of Vladimir being Russian.

Asking them to listen to me for a moment, I quietly but firmly said to Vladimir, “Would you eat right next to where you go to the bathroom?”  His demeanor completely changed.  He announced that they would go back to the original plans with the stove closest to the bathroom and the eating area closest to the front door.

Erica was dumbfounded.  All her logical arguments about safety were ignored over and over again, and in 15 seconds, I turned the whole thing around with something she considered relatively trivial.  I explained to her, it is more important to know what motivates people than what you or I might consider the best argument.  The Lord helped me to see what motivated Vladimir, and I used it successfully.

Fast forward 30 years: I am now hearing the story of a problem with a landlord, but in this case, it is one of my trans-Christian friends trying to convince her landlord (who knew her long before her transition), that her condition is medical, not a character or spiritual defect.

My friend, Stephanie, is very attractive.  She gets compliments on her appearance from strangers.  Before her transition, she brought the Gospel to many people.  She is a serious student of the Bible and can talk intelligently on most subjects of Christian theology.  She has a sweet demeanor.  But she has the problem of living in the middle of the Bible belt.  Any church would love to have her as a member … that is until she tells one of them about her background.  Then the odds are high that she will be asked to leave.  Very few people, whether friends, family or business associates have stood by her.

Like Erica, Stephanie has tried to reason with her Christian landlords about the true nature of her condition.  She presents all sorts of facts, figures, and evidence of the transsexuality being a medical condition from birth.  My guess is that the landlords (husband and wife) are suspicious of anything on the topic that doesn’t come from a Christian source, but what they tell Stephanie is “God wouldn’t do that to someone.”

I don’t expect to ever meet these landlords.  But you may have a similar situation.  And maybe Stephanie can even use this post with her landlords.  There is no point trying to butt heads over arguments that do not work.  Instead, we are going to look primarily at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website as they detail a number of very serious birth conditions.  A few other general information sources are used for supplemental information.  Warning: some of the images depicting birth defects may be difficult for some people to view.

(Note: it is not my purpose to debate whether God causes these defects or allows Satan to cause them.  Under either scenario, God uses them for His perfect purpose, and for His honor and glory.)

This post is about four times the length of my usual post.  But it does not work well when divided.  In the following descriptions of birth defects, there will be a lot of facts and figures related to each defect.  You do might not need to read every single detail to get the gist of the post.  I only ask that in these descriptions, you read the last line of each section that is set off with bold/italic type.  I also ask that you read the description of the last two defects.  Spina bifida relates to a situation that a close relative experienced in mild form.  Limb reduction relates to examples I give at the conclusion of the post.

anencephalyAnencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.  This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.  Almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth. CDC estimates that each year, about 1 in every 4,859 babies in the United States will be born with anencephaly (approximately 823 total per year at current birth rates).

Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Anotia and Microtia are birth defects of a baby’s ear. Anotia happens when the external ear (the part of the ear that can be seen) is missing completely. Microtia happens when the external ear is small and not formed properly.  Most of the time, anotia/microtia affects how the baby’s ear looks, but usually the parts of the ear inside the head (the inner ear) are not affected. However, some babies with this defect also will have a narrow or missing ear canal.  Depending upon the severity, mild to significant hearing problems result.

Because the mildest cases may go unreported, estimates range from 400 to 2000 babies born in the U.S. with one of these related conditions each year.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Baby with cleft palate.

Baby with cleft palate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate (orofacial clefts) are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy.  A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both a cleft lip and cleft palate.  Children with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate or a cleft palate alone often have problems with feeding and speaking clearly, and can have ear infections. They also might have hearing problems and problems with their teeth.  Surgery to repair a cleft lip usually occurs in the first few months of life and is recommended within the first 12 months of life. Surgery to repair a cleft palate is recommended within the first 18 months of life or earlier if possible.  Many children will need additional surgical procedures as they get older. Surgical repair can improve the look and appearance of a child’s face and might also improve breathing, hearing, and speech and language development.

Some children with orofacial clefts may have issues with self-esteem if they are concerned with visible differences between themselves and other children.  While surgery in developed nations is generally successful in remedying these clefts, in many third world countries, children born with this condition are left with a life of a severely disfigured face and associated problems listed above.  Before surgical skills were sufficiently advanced to treat the condition, every person born with orofacial clefts faced a life of ridicule and physical problems.  But advances in medicine bring new dangers.  In some countries, it is reported that late term evidence of these clefts during pregnancy is considered justification to perform an abortion.

CDC recently estimated that, each year in the United States, about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Congenital Heart Defects:  The CDC website lists ten different congenital heart birth defects:

– Atrial Septal Defect is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart. A hole can vary in size and may close on its own or may require surgery.  The hole increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs and over time, it may cause damage to the blood vessels in the lungs. Damage to the blood vessels in the lungs may cause problems in adulthood, such as high blood pressure in the lungs and heart failure. Other problems may include abnormal heartbeat, and increased risk of stroke.  CDC recently estimated that each year about 1,966 babies in the United States are born with an atrial septal defect. It can also occur with other heart defects.

– Atrioventricular Septal Defect is the existence of holes between chambers of the heart, and the valves that control the flow of blood between these chambers may not be formed correctly. This means that blood flows where it normally should not be able to, and extra blood flows to the lungs.  It exists in both complete and partial forms.  Problems associated with the complete form include: breathing problems, pounding heart, weak pulse, ashen or bluish skin color, poor feeding and poor weight gain, tires easily, swollen legs or abdomen.  Problems associated with the complete form include: arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs.  All AVSDs, both partial and complete types, usually require surgery.  Infants who have surgical repairs for AVSD are not cured; they might have lifelong complications. The most common of these conditions is a leaky mitral valve, which can make the heart work harder to get enough blood to the rest of the body and might have to be surgically repaired. People with an AVSD will need regular follow-up visits with a cardiologist to monitor their progress, avoid complications, and check for other health conditions that might develop as they get older.  CDC estimates that each year about 2,000 babies in the United States are born with AVSD.

– Coarctation of the Aorta is when a part of the aorta is narrower than usual. If the narrowing is severe enough and if it is not diagnosed, the baby may have serious problems and may need surgery or other procedures soon after birth.  The narrowing blocks normal blood flow to the body, making the muscles in the left ventricle work harder to get blood out of the heart. This condition can lead to normal or high blood pressure and pulsing of blood in the head and arms and low blood pressure and weak pulses in the legs and lower body.  If the condition is very severe, enough blood may not be able to get through to the lower body. The extra work on the heart can cause the walls of the heart to become thicker in order to pump harder. This eventually weakens the heart muscle. If the aorta is not widened, the heart may weaken enough that it leads to heart failure.  Even after surgery, children with a coarctation of the aorta often have high blood pressure.  It is estimated that about 1,600 babies in the United States are born with this condition each year.

– Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome is when the left side of the heart does not form correctly.  It affects normal blood flow through the heart.  The affected heart structures include: left ventricle is underdeveloped and too small; mitral valve is not formed or is very small; aortic valve is not formed or is very small; ascending portion of the aorta is underdeveloped or is too small.  Often, babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome also have an atrial septal defect (see above).  Within a few days after birth, babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome develop some or all of the following problems: breathing problems, pounding heart, weak pulse, ashen or bluish skin color.  Soon after a baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome is born, multiple surgeries done in a particular order are needed to increase blood flow to the body and bypass the poorly functioning left side of the heart.  Infants who have these surgeries are not cured; they may have lifelong complications.  If the hypoplastic left heart syndrome defect is very complex, or the heart becomes weak after the surgeries, a heart transplant may be needed.  Some babies with this condition also require medication to strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and get rid of excess fluid.  Some babies require extra nutrition or even a feeding tube.  CDC estimates that each year about 960 babies in the United States are born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

– Pulmonary atresia is a birth defect of the heart where the valve that controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs doesn’t form at all. In babies with this defect, blood has trouble flowing to the lungs to pick up oxygen for the body.  No blood can go from the right ventricle of the heart out to the lungs.  As a result, some or all of the following problems may occur: breathing problems, ashen or bluish skin color, poor feeding, extreme sleepiness.  Most babies with pulmonary atresia will initially need medication to provide alternate means for blood to get to the lungs.  Depending upon the severity of the particularly condition, various surgery technics are used to either repair the condition or provide alternate means of getting blood from the heart to the lungs.  Many people with pulmonary atresia will develop other heart conditions as they get older, requiring further surgery or other forms of additional medical care.  It is estimated that about 400 babies per year in the United States are born with pulmonary atresia.

– Tetralogy of Fallot is made up of the following four defects of the heart and its blood vessels: 1) A hole in the wall between the two lower chambers―or ventricles―of the heart [ventricular septal defect – see below]; 2) A narrowing of the pulmonary valve and main pulmonary artery [pulmonary stenosis]; 3) The aortic valve is enlarged and seems to open from both ventricles, rather than from the left ventricle only, as in a normal heart. In this defect, the aortic valve sits directly on top of the ventricular septal defect; 4) The muscular wall of the right ventricle is thicker than normal [ventricular hypertrophy].  This heart defect can cause oxygen in the blood that flows to the rest of the body to be reduced.  Infants with tetralogy of Fallot or other conditions causing cyanosis can have problems including: a higher risk of getting an infection of the layers of the heart; a higher risk of arrhythmia; dizziness, fainting, or seizures; delayed growth and development.  Tetralogy of Fallot can be treated by surgery soon after the baby is born.  As adults, they may need more surgery or medical care for other possible problems.  (CDC) estimates that each year about 1,660 babies in the United States are born with tetralogy of Fallot.

– Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return is where the veins bringing blood back from the lungs pulmonary veins) don’t connect to the left atrium like usual. Instead they go to the right side of the heart by way of an abnormal (anomalous) connection.  This causes the baby to get less oxygen than is needed to the body.  As in other congenital heart defects that reduce the body’s oxygen supply, TAPVR often has the following symptoms: breathing problems, pounding heart, weak pulse, ashen or bluish skin color, poor feeding, extreme sleepiness.  Babies with TAPVR will need surgery to repair the defect.  Infants whose defects are surgically repaired are not cured; they may have lifelong complications.  There are also instances where the anomaly is partial and not total, and therefore less severe.  There are no current statistics available for each one separately.  Taken together, about 400 babies per year are born with this condition in the United States.

– Transposition of the Great Arteries is a birth defect of the heart in which the two main arteries carrying blood out of the heart – the main pulmonary artery and the aorta – are switched in position, or “transposed.”  In transposition of the great arteries, the aorta is in front of the pulmonary artery and is either primarily to the right or to the left of the pulmonary artery.  The left position is extremely rare, so only cases where the aorta is positioned to the right will be discussed here.  As in many other congenital heart defects that reduce the body’s oxygen supply, TGA often has the following symptoms: breathing problems, pounding heart, weak pulse, ashen or bluish skin color, poor feeding.  Surgery is required for all babies born with TGA. Other procedures may be done before surgery in order to maintain, enlarge or create openings that will allow oxygen-rich blood to get out to the body.  There are two types of surgery to repair TGA.  In the more common and more effective method, the arteries are switched to their usual positions—the pulmonary artery arising from the right ventricle and the aorta from the left ventricle. The coronary arteries (small arteries that provide blood to the heart muscle) also must be moved and reattached to the aorta.  (The other, a simpler surgery, causes the right ventricle to work harder than normal and can lead to complications later in life.)  After surgery, medications may be needed to help the heart pump better, control blood pressure, help get rid of extra fluid in the body, and slow down the heart if it is beating too fast. If the heart is beating too slowly, a pacemaker can be used.  Infants who have these surgeries are not cured; they may have lifelong complications.  CDC estimates that about 1,250 babies are born with TGA each year in the United States.

– Truncus Arteriosus is a relatively rare defect of the heart in which a single common blood vessel comes out of the heart, instead of the usual two vessels (the main pulmonary artery and aorta).  There are several different types of truncus arteriosus, depending on how the arteries remain connected. There is also usually a hole between the bottom two chambers of the heart (see ventricular septal defect next).  Instead of having both an aortic valve and a pulmonary valve, babies with truncus arteriosus have a single common valve (truncal valve) controlling blood flow out of the heart. The truncal valve is often abnormal. The valve can be thickened and narrowed, which can block the blood as it leaves the heart. It can also leak, causing blood that leaves the heart to leak back into the heart across the valve.  Infants with truncus arteriosus usually are in distress in the first few days of life because of the high amount of blood going to the lungs which makes the heart work harder. Early surgery is required. If untreated, truncus arteriosus is usually fatal during the first year of life.  Typical symptoms include: breathing problems, pounding heart, weak pulse, ashen or bluish skin color, poor feeding, extreme sleepiness.  During the surgery, the hole between chambers is closed, an aorta is created out of the existing single blood vessel, and an artificial tube with an artificial valve is used to connect the right ventricle to the arteries going to the lungs.  Some babies with truncus arteriosus also will need medicines to help strengthen the heart muscle, lower their blood pressure, and help their body get rid of extra fluid. Some babies with truncus arteriosus might become tired while feeding and might not eat enough to gain weight.  Some babies become extremely tired while feeding and might need to be fed through a feeding tube.  Most babies with truncus arteriosus survive the surgical repair, but may need more surgery or other procedures as they get older. For example, the artificial tube doesn’t grow, so it will need to be replaced as the child grows. There also may be blockages to blood flow which may need to be relieved, or problems with the original truncal valve.  There are about 300 cases of truncus arteriosus per year in the United States.

– Ventricular Septal Defect is a birth defect of the heart in which there is a hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers of the heart.  An infant with a ventricular septal defect can have one or more holes in different places of the septum.  The most common is when the hole occurs in the lower, muscular part of the wall.  VSD causes extra blood to be pumped into the lungs, forcing the heart and lungs to work harder. Over time, if not repaired, this defect can increase the risk for other complications, including heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs, arrhythmia, or stroke.  If the hole is small, it usually will close on its own and the baby might not show any signs of the defect. However, if the hole is large, the baby might have symptoms, including: shortness of breath, fast or heavy breathing, sweating, tiredness while feeding, poor weight gain.  Some children will need medicines to help strengthen the heart muscle, lower their blood pressure, and help the body get rid of extra fluid.  Some babies become extremely tired while feeding and might need to be fed through a feeding tube.  If the hole does not close on its own or if it is large, further actions might need to be taken. Depending on the size of the hole, symptoms, and general health of the child, the doctor might recommend either cardiac catherization or open-heart surgery to close the hole and restore normal blood flow. After surgery, the doctor will set up regular follow-up visits to make sure that the ventricular septal defect remains closed. Most children who have a ventricular septal defect that closes (either on its own or with surgery) live healthy lives.  CDC estimates that about 16,800 babies are born with VSD.

Praise God that surgical skills have been developed in recent years to at least provide some relief from these various congenital heart defects.  But in many cases, there is no cure and further complications are likely to occur down the road, a time bomb in one’s heart, if you will.  In all cases, the baby goes through a great deal of suffering in its early months of life.  And what of all the children born with these conditions before the surgical techniques were developed?  Would God do any of these to a person or allow it to happen?

Craniosynostosis is a birth defect in which the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early.  As the baby’s brain grows, the skull can become more misshapen.  The spaces between a typical baby’s skull bones are filled with flexible material and called sutures. These sutures allow the skull to grow as the baby’s brain grows.  In a baby with craniosynostosis, one or more of the sutures closes too early. This can limit or slow the growth of the baby’s brain.

When a suture closes and the skull bones join together too soon, the baby’s head will stop growing in only that part of the skull. In the other parts of the skull where the sutures have not joined together, the baby’s head will continue to grow. When that happens, the skull will have an abnormal shape, although the brain inside the skull has grown to its usual size. Sometimes, though, more than one suture closes too early. In these instances, the brain might not have enough room to grow to its usual size. This can lead to a build-up of pressure inside the skull.  Sometimes, if the condition is not treated, the build-up of pressure in the baby’s skull can lead to problems, such as blindness, seizures, or brain damage.

In one study, CDC estimated that craniosynostosis affects about 4 in 10,000 live births.  That translates to about 1600 babies born with this condition in the United States per year.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

d-syndromeDown syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome.  Even though people with Down syndrome might act and look similar, each person has different abilities. People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children.

Many people with Down syndrome have the common facial features and no other major birth defects. However, some people with Down syndrome might have one or more major birth defects or other medical problems. Some of the more common health problems among children with Down syndrome are listed below:

  • Hearing loss (up to 75% of people with Down syndrome may be affected)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition where the person’s breathing temporarily stops while asleep (between 50 -75%)
  • Ear infections (between 50 -70%)
  • Eye diseases (up to 60%), like cataracts and eye issues requiring glasses
  • Heart defects present at birth (50%)

Other less common health problems among people with Down syndrome include:

  • Intestinal blockage at birth requiring surgery
  • Hip dislocation
  • Thyroid disease
  • Anemia (red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen to the body) and iron deficiency (anemia where the red blood cells don’t have enough iron)
  • Leukemia in infancy or early childhood
  • Hirschsprung disease (a condition where the nerves in the colon and sometimes elsewhere in the intestines fail to develop, leading to problems with bowel movements such as blockage and constipation.

Down syndrome remains the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States. Each year, about 6,000 babies born in the United States have Down syndrome. This means that Down syndrome occurs in about 1 out of every 700 babies.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Intellectual Disabilities: in addition to Down’s syndrome, there are many other causes of intellectual disabilities in a baby.  The general definition is a person with an IQ lower than 70.  Some of those causes could be attributed to the actions of man, such as a mother not taking care of her physical condition during pregnancy, famine or other dietary deficiencies in various parts of the world, or the baby not being delivered properly.  Those causes have been omitted even though they are most certainly not the fault of the baby.  However, it might be argued that they do not fit the pattern of being caused by God (although He still allows them to occur, regardless).

One of the most common causes is DiGeorge syndrome and related conditions where a small piece of chromosome 22 is deleted.  In addition to a low IQ and learning disabilities, it often also causes congenital heart disease (40%), hyperthyroidism and associated hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels) (50%), significant feeding problems (30%), and renal abnormalities (37%).  There are also many other possible occurrences of physical problems of lower frequency.  It is one of the possible causes for orofacial clefts.  It is estimated to occur in 1000 to 2000 births in the United States each year.

Other genetic conditions: sometimes disability is caused by abnormal genes inherited from parents, errors when genes combine, or other reasons. Besides Down or DiGeorge syndromes, the most prevalent genetic conditions include Klinefelter’s syndrome, Fragile X syndrome (common among boys), Neurofibromatosis, congenital hypothyroidism, Williams syndrome, Phenylketonuria (PKU), and Prader-Willi syndrome. Other genetic conditions include Mowat-Wilson syndrome, genetic ciliopathy, and Siderius type X-linked intellectual disability (OMIM 300263) as caused by mutations in the PHF8 gene (OMIM 300560). In the rarest of cases, abnormalities with the X or Y chromosome may also cause disability. 48, XXXX and 49, XXXXX syndrome affect a small number of girls worldwide, while boys may be affected by 47, XYY, 49, XXXXY, or 49, XYYYY.  (Note: Klinefelter’s and many of the other syndromes listed here are related to abnormalities in the sex chromosomes.)

Still another cause of low IQ is absence of the arcuate fasciculus.  This is a portion of the brain that is normally significantly larger in humans than in other primates.  While how this part of the brain works is still being researched, it has already been associated with language skills and short-term memory.  Nine out of ten people with tone deafness have been found to lack a portion of this part of the brain’s right hemisphere.

Intellectual difficulties were previously known under the term “mental retardation”.  This succession of terms is known as “euphemism treadmill”, indicating that each time a term has been applied, eventually it becomes commonly used in an insulting or pejorative fashion and a new term is invented.  People with low IQ are not only faced with a lifetime of major limitations in the basic functions of human life, they also are subjected to scorn and ridicule by many people.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

L-PC238551-beforsrgEncephalocele is described as a sac-like protrusion or projection of the brain and the membranes that cover it through an opening in the skull.  It appears as an opening in the midline of the upper part of the skull, the area between the forehead and nose, or the back of the skull.  When located in the back of the skull, encephalocele often is linked to nervous system problems. Encephalocele usually is seen with other brain and face defects.  Other problems can include lack of coordination in using the voluntary muscles, developmental delay, vision problems, intellectual difficulties, retarded growth, and seizures.

Surgery, general performed in infancy, is the only known treatment, but is not successful in all cases, especially if a significant amount of brain tissue (rather than brain fluid) is in the sac.  It is estimated that 375-400 babies are born with this condition each year.  While it is relatively rare, would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

GastroschisisGastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. The hole can be small or large and sometimes other organs, such as the stomach and liver, can also stick outside of the baby’s body.  Soon after the baby is born, surgery will be needed to place the abdominal organs inside the baby’s body and repair the abdominal wall. If the gastroschisis defect is large (many organs outside of the belly), the repair might done slowly, in stages. The exposed organs might be covered with a special material and slowly moved back into the belly. After all of the organs have been put back in the belly, the opening is closed.

Babies with gastroschisis often need other treatments as well, including receiving nutrients through an IV line, antibiotics to prevent infection, and careful attention to control their body temperature.  Even after the repair, infants with gastroschisis can have problems with feeding, digestion of food, and absorption of nutrients.

CDC estimates that about 1,871 babies are born each year in the United States with gastroschisis.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Hypospadias is a birth defect in boys in which the opening of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) is not located at the tip of the penis.  The type of hypospadias a boy has depends on the location of the opening of the urethra:

Subcoronal: The opening of the urethra is located somewhere near the head of the penis.

Midshaft: The opening of the urethra is located along the shaft of the penis.

Penoscrotal: The opening of the urethra is located where the penis and scrotum meet.

Boys with hypospadias can sometimes have a curved penis. They could have problems with abnormal spraying of urine and might have to sit to urinate. In some boys with hypospadias, the testicle has not fully descended into the scrotum. If hypospadias is not treated it can lead to problems later in life, such as difficulty performing sexual intercourse or difficulty urinating while standing.  Most cases of hypospadias will need surgery to correct the defect.

Note: while hypospadias is not an Intersex condition, it is another situation where there is a birth defect affecting genitalila.

It is estimated that about 10,000 boys per year are born with hypospadias.  Would God do this to a baby boy or allow it to happen?

pic14Omphalocele is a birth defect of the abdominal wall. The infant’s intestines, liver, or other organs stick outside of the belly through the belly button. The organs are covered in a thin, nearly transparent sac that hardly ever is open or broken.  This is similar to gastroschisis (see above), except with that defect, the organs protrude through a hole next to the belly button.  The omphalocele can be small, with only some of the intestines outside of the belly, or it can be large, with many organs outside of the belly. Because some or all of the abdominal (belly) organs are outside of the body, babies born with an omphalocele can have other problems as well. The abdominal cavity, the space in the body that holds these organs, might not grow to its normal size. Also, infection is a concern, especially if the sac around the organs is broken. Sometimes, an organ might become pinched or twisted, and loss of blood flow might damage the organ.

If the omphalocele is small (only some of the intestine is outside of the belly), it usually is treated with surgery soon after birth to put the intestine back into the belly and close the opening. If the omphalocele is large (many organs outside of the belly), the repair might be done in stages. The exposed organs might be covered with a special material, and slowly, over time, the organs will be moved back into the belly. When all the organs have been put back in the belly, the opening is closed.

CDC estimates that each year about 775 babies in the United States are born with an omphalocele.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

709-32_defaultSpina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth.  It can happen anywhere along the spine.  The backbone that protects the spinal cord does not form and close as it should. This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.  Spina bifida might cause physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe. The severity depends on: the size and location of the opening in the spine; whether part of the spinal cord and nerves are affected.

When people talk about spina bifida, most often they are referring to myelomeningocele, the most serious type of spina bifida. With this condition, a sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby’s back. Part of the spinal cord and nerves are in this sac and are damaged. This type of spina bifida causes moderate to severe disabilities, such as problems affecting how the person goes to the bathroom, loss of feeling in the person’s legs or feet, and not being able to move the legs.

A less severe form of spina bifida occurs when only fluid is found in the sac, but none of the spinal cord or nerves are present in it.  There is little or no nerve damage and relatively mild disabilities caused by this form.

The mildest type of spina bifida is a small gap in the spine, but no opening or sac on the back. The spinal cord and the nerves usually are normal. Many times, this type of spina bifida is not discovered until late childhood or adulthood, and usually does not cause any disabilities.  This sounds similar to something my dad was discovered to have when he was in his late 50’s.  According to his neurosurgeon, it is almost unheard of to have it dormant for that long, as most cases are discovered by the time a person is in their 30’s and more often in their 20’s.  In my dad’s case, a congenital pinhole in the spinal cord was discovered in the neck area.  The nerve damage started to paralyze his vocal cords, leading to a raspy voice.  It also affected his hands, leading to loss of feeling, strength and motor control.  To show the severity of it, one time he burnt his hand with a soldering iron and didn’t feel it.  Coincidentally, my dad’s birth defect became problematic around the same age that mine did, although they were totally different.  Like dad, like daughter!

Spina bifida can range from mild to severe. Some people have little or no noticeable disability. Others are limited in the way they can move or function. They even might be paralyzed (unable to walk or move parts of the body).  Each year, about 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

Upper and Lower Limb Reduction Defects occur when a part of or the entire arm or leg of a baby fails to form completely during pregnancy. The defect is referred to as a “limb reduction” because a limb is reduced from its normal size or is missing.

Babies and children with limb reduction defects will face various issues and difficulties, but the extent of these will depend on the location and size of the reduction. Some potential difficulties and problems include: difficulties with normal development such as motor skills; needing assistance with daily activities such as self-care; limitations with certain movements, sports, or activities; potential emotional and social issues because of physical appearance.

The overall goal for treatment of limb reduction defects is to provide the child with a limb that has proper function and appearance. Treatment can vary for each child. Potential treatments include: artificial limbs, splints or braces, surgery, rehabilitation (physical or occupational therapy).

CDC estimates that each year about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with upper limb reductions and about 750 are born with lower limb reductions.  Some of these babies will have both upper and lower limb reduction defects.  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

There are other debilitating birth defects that occur that are very rare.  Not too long ago, there was a story in the news about a teenage girl who was not aging.  This fountain of youth was no paradise.  She still had all of the mental and physical attributes of an infant.  Researchers are hoping to find something about her genetic code that may someday lend a clue on how to slow aging in the human population.  But what about this girl?  Would God do this to a person or allow it to happen?

*****

The point is, these severe birth defects do happen many times a year just in the United States alone.  We haven’t added in the statistics of their occurrence in the rest of the world.  In many third world countries, many of the babies born with the birth defects described here would not survive infancy.  Either the level of medical care is not developed enough, the parents don’t have the resources to pay for the necessary treatments, or society would declare such a child and outcast and abandon care.  The fate of children born with these birth defects ranges from mild to severe to horrific.  And yet the facts are incontrovertible.  They do happen.  Either God causes them to happen or allows them to happen.  As a Christian, I cannot accept the possibility that God’s sovereignty does not extend to such matters.

Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic

Why would God allow such things to happen?  We always have to start with the concept that all things happen for God’s glory.  Perhaps you have heard the testimony of Nick Vujicic.  It is a hard story to hear until you get to the praise report at the end.  Nick was born without arms or legs due to a rare cause of limb reduction known as tetra-amelia syndrome.  For most of his childhood, he struggled mentally, emotionally and physically with his condition.  But eventually, he came to terms with his disability and has overcome the mental and emotional struggles.  At 17, he started his own non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs.  He gives motivational speeches around the world, focusing on life with a disability, while being able to find hope and meaning in life. Nick tells his audience that God can use any willing heart to do his work and that God is big enough to overcome any disability.

Nick has found a way to more than survive or even live with his disability.  He thrives with it.  And yet, he still allows room for God to work a miracle healing in his life, should the Lord choose to do so.  He keeps a pair of shoes in his closet.  If God chooses to work that miracle, it wouldn’t surprise me if those shoes are the right size!

Scroll back to the last category of birth defects, the one that Nick Vujicic suffers from, limb reduction.  Note that one of the potential difficulties and problems that the sufferers from this birth defect (and many others that have a visible component) deal with is social problems.  How often do we see people point and stare and whisper at people with birth defects – or worse, they are laughed at?  Perhaps you have told your own children not to do such things.

Here is a second reason that God may cause or allow such birth defects to happen.  They provide an opportunity for people to show compassion.  And many parents have testified that their lives have been enriched by the presence of a special needs child in their lives, and it has enriched the lives of that child’s siblings as well.  In fact, to the surprise of some, parents choose to bring these children into the world instead of aborting them, confident that God will bring a blessing into their lives with the presence of this child, whether he or she lives a few days or into adulthood.  Hopefully, extended family, friends, neighbors and others in the community will learn some of the joys of showing compassion as well.

Out of compassion and in the name of Christ, many medical facilities have been built and many medical mission teams have reached out to the needy in remote parts of the world.  Out of compassion, many doctors and nurses have spread the love of Christ by going above and beyond the call of duty to bring healing.  In response to that selfless, loving witness of healing, many people, both patients and their loved ones have seen the light of Christ and come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Scott Coren once described himself as a “militant atheist”.  Then his daughter was born in 2012 with a birth defect of the heart.  Scott’s daughter’s condition is severe enough that she will need further surgery, although a positive outcome is anticipated.  Meanwhile, Scott must stay up with his daughter all night and she cannot be left alone for even a moment.  She can go from doing well to being in critical condition within 30 minutes.

Rather than blaming God for his daughter’s condition, it brought him close to the God whom he previously denied.  It was the beginning of his becoming a Christian.  One factor was that he saw the nurses caring for his daughter and other severely ill children as “human angels”.  In addition, the reason and logic that led him to atheism no longer made sense.  In a world where some children are born and survive for only a short time, the only thing that makes sense is that there has to be something beyond this earthly existence.  Scott has written a novel the parallels his journey to Christ through this difficult period.

Here is a link to a story on Scott Coren: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/15/author-and-former-militant-atheist-reveals-what-led-him-to-christianity/

Are we beginning to see some of the reasons why God would cause or allow birth defects to happen, just as He allows trials to come into every life at one time or another?  Indeed, we have just scratched the surface.

Think once more of that long list of birth defects that affect that brain, the hearing, the heart, the spine, the organs of the belly and the limbs.  Compare those severe and sometimes fatal conditions to those born with intersex or transsexual conditions.  (See the links page for more information on being born with intersex conditions.)  Are not these birth conditions that affect the sexual characteristics of a person far less severe, far less health threatening?  If God would cause or allow the types of birth defects featured in this post, is it so hard to imagine Him to cause or allow someone to be born with ambiguous genitalia?  Is it so hard to imagine Him to cause or allow someone to be born with the brain of one gender and the body of another?

I remind you once more that one of the problems faced by those who suffer from the birth defects discussed here is the need to deal with social problems.  For those of us who are born transsexual, that is pretty much the only problem.  Yes, we may need to take some medications and undergo some surgeries.  And the longer it takes to be treated the more difficult it can be to treat.  But by and large, the number one problem we face is social.  We not only wonder how we will be treated and accepted, we hear about the horror stories of violence experienced by other transsexuals.  Are there any of us who do not have stories of being ridiculed in public, or hassled by authorities, or being rejected by family, friends, employers, churches and so on, or even being victims of violence ourselves?  Only those who are deep in the closet and haven’t come out in any real measure have escaped social problems.

Instead of rejection, we seek acceptance.  Instead of ridicule, we seek respect.  Instead of harassment, we seek peace.  Instead of violence directed at us, we seek compassion.  In other words, we seek what every member of the human race seeks.  So why wouldn’t God do this to us or why wouldn’t He allow it to be done to us?  After all, it isn’t all that difficult to deal with from a physical standpoint.  By far, the worst problem is dealing with those who hate us.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. – Matthew 5:7

God bless,

Lois

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