Beyond abstinence, neither my mother nor my great-grandmother had choices. No gene had been identified. No test had been devised. Not until a decade after my brother’s birth would scientists announce that they had discovered the location, on the galactic genomic map, of the HED mutation. Thrilled to tears, my mother called my college dorm room with the news: Women could find out whether they were carriers. Mothers could discover whether their fetuses, or even test-tube embryos, would suffer from the disorder.

But on the day she called with this good news, there was something that neither my mother nor I fully understood. Now, each carrier faced a quandary. Even doing nothing was now deliberate. In preparation for her ethical test, such a woman might learn the stories of her forebears, assigning the events of those lives perhaps undue weight, and then using them as a prism through which to imagine the many possible lives of her many possible children. Eventually, she would need to speak her most private feelings about life and body and motherhood. And later, whether to a doctor or a mother or a brother or a partner or her own child, she would have to answer for her choices.

Listen to Bonnie reading on Live From Prairie Lights.

Hear an excerpt from Carrier at the 4th Annual Mother Words reading.

Read an Carrier excerpt here, from Portland Family Magazine.

Here’s a new excerpt, on The Nervous Breakdown.