I don't know where to begin with this story, so I'm just going to dive in. Seven years ago, a mom gave birth to a set of twin boys. One was perfectly healthy. The other was born with a rare disfigurement that has essentially given him only half a face. And now Henry and Oliver Machin's mom is sharing their photo with the world so she can talk about something pretty dark and disturbing.
For years, Charlene Machin said she did not love one of her sons. In fact, when she talks about her child, her little boy born with a left eye, ear, and nostril that never developed, she uses words like "waves of terror" and "grief."
Powerful? Absolutely. Machin's confession is an important one for parents of kids with special needs who feel like something is wrong with them as they struggle to balance that dream of a perfect child with their reality.
But I can't help thinking of the awful cost for that confession. Machin's two sons' names and photographs are now being paired with articles across the web about this subject. I myself debated long and hard before deciding to include their names, reasoning, sadly, that the worst harm had already been done.
Charlotte Machin already told the world that at one point, she could not bring herself to love her son. She has already laid that burden on both of her sons' shoulders. One has to deal with the reality of being "unloved" at one point, the other with the sibling rivalry inherent in families with a favored child.
My heart breaks for those poor kids.
I need to make an important distinction here: I am not criticizing her natural feelings. This struggle is more common than parents like to admit and it's not just with parents of special needs kids. Moms dealing with post partum depression, moms who give birth to a child of a gender other than the one they thought they wanted ... the list goes on.
Typically when a mother comes out with one of these types of confessions, it serves as a touchstone for those who are struggling. There's a need for moms (and dads) to talk about this truth.
But there's a right way to do it and a wrong way.
Would it have been less impactful if Charlene Machin had remained anonymous? If she'd opted not to share personal photos? If she'd written a pseudonymous blog post, perhaps? Or done one of those TV interviews where the subject's face is blurred, the voice altered?
Maybe it wouldn't have hit home in quite the way it has, but I'd have taken that risk for the greater gain: to allow a child to grow up without the knowledge that his mother felt "waves of terror" when she looked at him, to give a child a sense that he has always had the unconditional love of the person who is supposed to love him first and foremost in this world.
Would you be willing to let your child know you didn't love them at one point in their life? What do you think of this mom's confession?
Image by Jeanne Sager