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Test or No Test

Posted Jan 27 2009 6:30pm

Let's start a new question, shall we? To test or not to test for chromosomal abnormalities? As a believer in Pro Choice and as a mother of a child with a little something extra, I have tried to stay out of this debate. However, I went to a forum today where a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant and received a prenatal diagnosis of T21 was given the "one week to decide" option of termination.

According to ACOG, the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, all women regardless of age should be offered the option of a prenatal test to check for such abnormalities. I, myself, chose to get tested. Aiden had a very significant heart defect and I wanted to know why. Was a diagnosis going to change the way I felt toward my child? Or even change that I loved my child? No, but I wanted to know.

When I went in for the amniocentesis, I was scared. I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't. I was worried also. We knew from the level 2 ultrasound that there wasn't a physical abnormality. I laid on that table while my ob/gyn stuck a long needle into my belly. All I could think was "Please don't hit the baby".

In my mind and my heart, I knew that Aiden was going to be "special". I was given the option when I found out that I was pregnant to terminate. But something told me that I couldn't. I would accept whatever God was going to grant me.

When the results of the amnio came back, I received a call from my ob/gyn. She asked if I knew what Trisomy 21 was. I kept trying to visualize the pregnancy book I had bought. I knew the term, but for the life of me could not remember what it was. When she told me it was Down syndrome, I sat silent for a second. Then I responded with "OK".

The diagnosis of Down syndrome wasn't a life sentence. It meant that I had a child who was here to teach the world something. Children with Down syndrome are special in their own way. Have you ever met someone who didn't smile when you met? A child with Down syndrome isn't that way. No matter what, you always smile when you meet a child with Down syndrome.

In August, the NDSC held their yearly conference. At this year's conference a seminar regarding the validity of prenatal testing was conducted. Now, I'm not saying that a prenatal diagnosis is wrong regardless, but let's determine how most pregnancies are handled on a short term following the initial diagnosis.

The majority of doctors would give the option of termination. In a way, I can understand why. Having a child with Down syndrome isn't easy. But who is to say that my child isn't perfect? Certainly not some doctor who sees me once year for an annual exam. To tell a parent that a child with any chromosomal abnormality isn't perfect is ridiculous. Define perfection. I dare you. Are your kids perfect? Is everything that child of yours does the epitome of perfection? I highly doubt it.

I'm talking the type of perfection where you have not once thought "Where did you come from? I know you did not come from me" The type of perfection where you never looked at your child as if he grew a third head. The type of perfection where you have never been ashamed to take your children to the grocery store because of the "fiasco" you know will ensue. The type of perfection where everyone on God's green earth would want to be you. Never having to tell your children to shut a door, eat breakfast, eat vegetables and fruit, do your homework. That kind of perfection. The type of perfection all parents wish for, but we ourselves were cursed at one time by our own parents - "One day you will have a child just like yourself! And when you do, I'm going to laugh!!" If you can answer yes, please tell me what drug you are taking. Admit it, your children have given you times of grief, sadness, heartbreak, and headaches. That's what children do. As much as we as a whole would like to think, we do not live in Utopia.

To terminate a child simply based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome is totally absurd. If ADHD was capable of being diagnosed prenatally, would you terminate? Or how about pretesting for cancer? Think about that for a second. Everyone has the cancer gene, but whether it chooses to rear it's ugly head is a mystery. Would you terminate? What about dyslexia? Then there is deafness... What about testing for the possibility that your child will not be one who sleeps all night long? Of course, none of these things are tested for. But, why separate one disability from a wide range of conditions that can not be controlled? If you think about this for a moment, Einstein was mentally retarded. Should he have been terminated? He was a mathematical genius, but he could not tie his own shoe.

Instead of only offering the choice of abortion, why don't doctors also offer to contact a mentoring (or support) group? How about adoption? Well now, there is an option. If you do not think that you are capable of giving a child with Down syndrome the life he/she deserves, there are families out there waiting to love your child. Do you love your child enough to give him the best life possible?

After all, it's not how this diagnosis affects you, but how you affect the diagnosis.

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