I try not to get too political on this blog. I try to stay away from the hot topics in society... politics, religion, abortion, and so many more. However, last night I was directed to a website for children who "lost" their babies with special needs. Except that they didn't lose them. They killed them.
There was one section specifically for Down syndrome. The parents in this section wrote about how they found out their babies had Down syndrome prenatally and they decided they couldn't do that to themselves. They couldn't ruin their lives. A couple of these parents even spoke to other parents of children with Ds and heard the positive things, and they still chose to abort. Some of these parents induced delivery, held their sweet babies, who were born alive, and watched them die. They said it was the best thing for the baby.
Well you know what? Bull crap.
If anyone out there happens to be reading this post, and you've just received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, let me tell you a little bit of how it really is.
My daughter Kennedy is 7 years old. We did not know she had Down syndrome when I was pregnant and when she was born, we were shocked. We didn't know anything about Down syndrome. We didn't know anyone who had Down syndrome. And like you will probably quickly find out, many doctors pass along outdated statistics and little hope.
However, the internet can be a wonderful thing... book stores can be a great resource. There are tons of books and online groups out there negating the outdated info. These doctors, unless they specifically KNOW someone with Down syndrome, beyond the medical sense, have no idea what they're talking about. Let me tell you a bit about Down syndrome...
Kennedy started going to therapy when she was about 3 weeks old. There they worked on her low muscle tone and her fine motor skills to try to help her keep up with other babies her age. Yes, sometimes therapy was a pain... yes, it interrupted my schedule some days... but isn't that what being a parent is all about? If your child needs something, you do it. When you become a parent, your life is no longer yours.
Yes, Kennedy had some medical problems. She went through several surgeries. The first time I had to hand her over to the medical professionals and watch them walk down the hallway to the OR with her, I thought I was going to pass out. But the thing is, even with your typical children, surgeries can happen. You never know when they'll break a bone or need ear tubes for ear infections or something else. It's part of being a parent. You cry, you worry, you pray, and God willing the surgery goes well and you nurse them back to health afterwards.
Let me tell you about my 7 year old. She is in a classroom with her typical peers. She can read and write and do math. She can speak in complete sentences. Her favorite time of the day is recess, where sometimes she doesn't want to line up to go back to class. She has lots of friends and has been invited to several birthday parties and play dates. She loves several different shows on the Disney Channel... the same shows that many of her classmates like. She loves to play dress up, especially when she can match her American Girl, Charlie. Two afternoons a week, Kennedy goes to dance class, with her typical peers. She is in level 1 hip hop and she's on a competition team. They travel around the area to different regional competitions, and so far they've brought home two first place trophies. Kennedy loves to dance. She counts down the days to Monday and Thursday because she knows that those are dance days.
Kennedy adores her big sister. On the weekends they have sleep overs in her room, where I hear them giggling late into the night. She and her younger brother play well together. They are constantly making up new games to play and acting out shows. She changes her name often, as many little girls do. They have an imaginary friend named Max, who interestingly gets blamed for their messy rooms and food on the floor. ;) She looks up to her big brother who teaches her all kinds of fun (and sometimes naughty) stuff. She tries to mother her little sister, who is really only 2 years younger than her and does NOT like to be mothered. ;)
When Kennedy grows up, she wants to work with babies (or be Hannah Montana!). She adores babies and wants to take care of them. I can totally see her working in a day care center or in a nursery at a hospital. Also, despite popular belief, some adults with Down syndrome can drive, and I promise you that if anyone can do it, Kennedy can. I have no doubt that she will go to her prom, she will graduate from high school, she can even get married if she so chooses. Her future is bright, the same way my other kids' are.
The thing is, I was devastated when she was born. Like you, my dreams for the daughter who I carried in my belly were shattered. But I learned to dream new dreams. I learned to adapt. I learned what unconditional love means. After all, that's what parenthood is about, isn't it? Her smile lights up our lives, and those of the lives around her. She loves life and loves us and we love her. I cannot imagine our family without her. Because of her, we went on to adopt her little sister, who also has Down syndrome, and though they are two very different children, they both bless our lives in different ways. Do I worry? Do I worry that she'll be teased? Do I worry about what will happen to her after we're gone? Absolutely. But I worry about ALL my children for those same things.
You may be reading this right now and thinking, "Well that's great for YOU, but I'm not you. I can't handle the things that you can." I promise you, when Kennedy was born, I didn't think I could handle it either. I didn't think I was fit to be a good mother to this precious baby who required so much, but I felt the same way when my first child was born. I was terrified that I would screw up and ruin her life. She is 12 now and she's still alive, happy and well rounded. In the same way, Kennedy and I have been navigating our journey as mother and daughter together. I have learned so much from her and from other parents. I have found that no matter what comes our way, someone has been there done that before us. I've learned that sometimes I CAN'T do everything on my own. And that's ok. I've learned that I don't always have to be strong... And that's ok too. I've learned to adapt, go with the flow and pray. A lot. I'm not the same person I was before Kennedy was born. I'd like to think I'm a better mother, a better wife, a better friend and a better person.
If you get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, abortion is NOT the answer. It's NOT the loving thing to do for your child. Having to lie to your family and friends about "losing" your baby is devastating, especially when you know you didn't lose him. You chose to end his life just because he wasn't perfect. And by doing that, you are truly missing out on the life God planned for you. You are missing out on one of the greatest blessings you will ever receive. You are missing out on a new "family" of other parents of kids with Ds. You are missing out on more than I can ever explain. Please please please give your baby a chance to live and be happy, to teach you what love really means, and make his mark on the world, whatever that may be.