My Baby Was Coded “Invalid” But Could Be The Next Elon Musk!

The place smelled like a combination of vinegar, mushrooms and bleach. The only smell that I am sure was accurate was the bleach. I fear the vinegar and mushroom smell was actually instead a combination of too many non-food odors mixed together. It was indescribable, thus I loosely say it was vinegar and mushrooms. But I’m positive it wasn’t like anything you would want to ingest. This was the ever-present aroma inside the Ukrainian orphanage my new son Alec, had been living with for 5 years.

When he saw us, he immediately ran to embrace us. I wondered how it was that he even knew what it meant to be in a family. He had been there his entire life. He had no visitors. He lived in a little sterile unit of the orphanage with 30 other children. When they read his medical papers to me they had to be translated into English by my Russian speaking facilitator, Vanya. I couldn’t understand any of the Russian words but one. In a sea of indistinguishable Russian words, the word INVALID  popped into the mix every 15-20 words. It was the distinguishable bleach of the conversation. I identified its waft in the lingual concoction of Russian medical terms. My son was labeled ‘invalid’ from the moment he was born.

Alec was born to a mom fully infected with AIDS in 2006. At 2 days-old, she abandoned him at the hospital. She never returned and her whereabouts are unknown.  Alec was perfect with one exception. He had a chronic but manageable condition. Thus he earned the code/label “INVALID” as a newborn.   The orphanage wing he was in held all of the ‘invalid’ children. In other parts of the orphanage where 270 more children under the age of 5 lived (isolated from the world), they were given different labels, codes and numbers.

I knew the word “invalid’ was historically used to describe people with handicaps or illnesses that caused them to be incapacitated.  Alec was none of these things. He was vibrant, active, funny and beautiful. Still, the word invalidated him and anyone else with that baby code. I was surprised to hear the word used at all. I thought the word had been eliminated from its use when referring to people. I certainly was surprised to hear it frequently mentioned by a doctor reading a thick medical file in 2011.

If Alec had been left in the Ukraine with that label he would have been stuck with the inability to work, get married, drive or go to college. The label was basically a death sentence.

We adopted Alec and he came home to receive a new name and family. His ‘code’ was erased. He is not an ‘invalid.’ He is a vital part of our world. And I can tell you life smells much better with the combination of words like ‘son,’ ‘brother’ and ‘friend.’ The stinky ‘invalid’ term is now bleached out of his life like the vinegar and mushroom smell from the orphanage. Alec wants to grow up to visit Mars and build spaceships like Elon Musk.

The term ‘invalid’ originated in Russia with the communists in 1917 to describe ‘unfit’ people. But I had to ask myself ‘why was he coded “invalid”?” Why was the label that threatened to destroy his future (if he hadn’t been adopted) still being used? I mean it was 2011 when we sat through the “invalid” report. Since then I have had friends adopt in 2013 and again in 2015 with the same “invalid” status on the paperwork for kids identified with the following conditions or diseases: HIV, Down Syndrome, Blind, Deaf, limb deformities, Hep C.

“In 1932 a disability classification was introduced (in Russia) that divided “invalids” into three groups based primarily on a calculation of one’s degree of ability to work. These categories are still used to designate disability status in present-day Ukraine and Russia. (Madison 1989:171-172).” Sarah Phillips report: “There Are No Invalids in the USSR!”: A Missing Soviet Chapter in the New Disability History*

In 1934 Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood wrote, “America Needs a Code for Babies.”  In it she suggests labeling children and following 8 articles which requires parents to be pre-qualified. She also mentions there needs to be a ‘better distribution of babies… to reduce burden of charity and taxation. ” She suggests that people with illnesses or disabilities should not be allowed to have children at all and should be isolated.  Here is what the Planned Parenthood founder suggested:

Article 1: Better distribution of babies/reduce burden of charity and taxation/protect society from the burden on the increase of the ‘unfit’

Article 2: Birth control clinics should exist and allowed to perform with government support as non-profits but be self-sustaining.

Article 3: Marriage licenses do not allow couples to have children. They would only allow them to have a household together.

Article 4:  Permits for parenthood would need to issued by government.

Article 5:  Parenthood Permits would only be received by couples who have no transmissible diseases, are financially sound and can prove they have the proper qualifications for raising a child

Article 6: No permits issued for more than one birth (aka China’s one-child policy)

Aricle 7:  Counties who don’t provide proper records or show too much of an increase in population are fined.

“Article 8: Feeble-minded persons, habitual congenital criminals, those afflicted with inheritable diseases, and others found biologically unfit by authorities qualified judge should be sterilized or, in cases of doubt, should be so isolated as to prevent the afflictions of breeding.”  

The Baby Code also points out the following: “The main result would be the creation of a strong community sentiment in favor of helping those couples who wish to prevent conception because they foresee that the children if born would be doomed to suffering. For the couples who are not willing to cooperate moral pressure would be brought to bear.”   

Pressure to unwed mothers and parents with the message that they are being more responsible by gaining permission from society, waiting until they are perfectly suited and making sure the baby is perfect and not requiring charity is clear in the baby code.   PRESSURE from society is part of the plan in an effort to ‘weed’ out children like Alec. But Ukraine is not the only country I’ve observed as an adoptive mom regarding children being ‘isolated’ or ‘institutionalized’ due to inheritable diseases. In China, where there is now a 2 child policy , babies are still abandoned and left in orphanages due to treatable conditions. My friends have adopted babies from rooms where they are left to cry and die for correctable and treatable conditions that are too expensive to correct.

My once invalid son Alec is 12 now. He has lived in our family since 2011. He is bright, handsome and looks forward to a long life where he hopes be an astronaut and become as rich as Elon Musk. If left ‘isolated’ due to his “invalid’ code so he couldn’t engage with other people in society, I wouldn’t receive texts like this one complimenting him on his compassion toward one of his best friends who has down syndrome. I also wouldn’t be celebrating his  just barely missing the honor roll in 5th grade.


Now I’m not saying that this baby code that was outlined by the founder of Planned Parenthood exists today in AMERICA. But one could suggest that elements of the message has seeped into our mindset and the massive amounts of babies aborted due to a diagnosis of down syndrome implies a discrimination and labeling still due to what some may deem ‘unfit.’ Abortion is clearly the ultimate in ‘isolation.’

In a recent TELEGRAPH article comparing down syndrome abortions to Nazi Eugenics, Mark Bratton, from the diocese of Coventry, said: “I think we are right to be concerned about the eugenic undertones and hurtful impact of some aspects of the debate.” 

Alec is clearly a blessing to our family. He will grow up go into business possibly giving Elon Musk a run for his money.

And I’m not saying that just because kids are still being labeled ‘invalid’ in other countries, or left in dying rooms because of cleft palates and port wine stains, or being aborted due to an extra chromosome, or women being pressured to avoid having a baby until there is a sense of approval by the government or society, means there is an actual ‘baby code’ in effect currently. I’m just saying that when I read this code it reminds me of that stinky walk down the orphanage hall, where bleach, mushrooms, vinegar climb up your nose like a rancid lie.  If you ask me what I think of kids still being labeled and coded in orphanages around the world, I would have to say that something just doesn’t smell right.


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