They say that a large percentage of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome have an abortion.
But I will not point my finger at the women who have given their babies back to God without ever holding them in their arms. Why? Because I understand. I know how they felt. Although abortion was never an option for us, I still wrestled with the exact same feelings these women had. I cried bitterly wondering why we had been given a “broken” baby. I didn’t want Nichole. Deep inside I wanted her to die. Can you believe that? I wanted my baby to die because I was scared. So scared.
I had more questions than I had answers, and everywhere I looked Down syndrome seemed like a life sentence for my daughter…and for me.
When you are pregnant, and your baby has a possibility of having Down syndrome, doctors respond. Their response, sadly, is not a welcoming one. Most do not offer up-to-date information, or to connect you with other parents that have children with Down syndrome. Most doctors do not talk about Down syndrome beyond their medical experience. They talk about how Down syndrome will affect your baby – a doomed medical condition – in which your child will suffer greatly, because so many things could go wrong. No. What they talk about are more tests. Many talk about a “choice,” and they talk about making that choice now! They throw out inaccurate information, claiming 90-94% of women chose to have an abortion, as if we should terminate our babies because everyone else is doing it. That statistic has been inaccurately used and taken out of context.
Before I had Nichole, I was ignorant about what Down syndrome meant. All I knew was a stereotype, and the stereotype I knew threatened my family, my unborn baby, and me. Professionals, somehow, seemed to confirm these fears.
Nichole’s birth is stained by the many tears and emotional distress I had over her diagnosis. That small extra chromosome had enough power to knock me down multiple times a day. I believed I was not qualified to be the mother of a child with special needs. I wondered, in my fear, if I would ever be able to love Nichole.
The fear, the questions, and the anxiety were moved to the side. I held a baby in my arms. A round faced, soft skinned, button nosed, bright-eyed face that captivated me. It was as if she had power over my heart. Love, joy, and peace became evident in my life; their aroma filled me with a strength I never knew was in me. She challenged me in the things I held as important, as valuable in life. Nichole transformed me.
Nichole is so much more than her medical diagnosis. She is so much more than any limitations she might have because of Down syndrome. She is an individual, with unique gifts, talents, and abilities. Her life has meaning, it is valuable, and it is hers.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
A sentiment that resonates with most parents of children with Down syndrome.
Because what, exactly, determines the value of a life? The value of a child, any child?
Should the value of a child’s life be reduced to their academic performance? Then why is the life of a child with Down syndrome held to this standard?
Should the value of a child’s life be reduced to their medical conditions? Then why is the life of a child with Down syndrome held to this standard?
Should the value of a person’s life be reduced to the job they will have? Then why is the value of a person with Down syndrome held to this standard?
What makes our hearts beat? To love and to be loved…unconditionally. To celebrate life. To experience joy in everyday moments. To have a heart that overflows with thankfulness. Isn’t this what we all long to experience in life? Wouldn’t the challenges be worth the rewards if we discovered that we had loved to our fullest, that we had given unconditional love, and that we had celebrated all of life?
Nichole has changed me. She has given me a new outlook in life. And that life is beautiful. That life is rich. That life has been an unexpected gift.
If you have been given a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and you are considering abortion, there is something I want you to know about what your life could be like…
You will experience shades of color that you never knew were possible. Your heart will expand a thousand times over .Your tears and fears will be replaced with gratitude for the child you have. There will be so much love.
We are living and loving life with Down syndrome.
Some food for thought:
- If you want to adopt a child with Down syndrome in the United States, there is a waiting list. A long waiting list. For every child in the United States born with Down syndrome that is given up for adoption, there are instances where 300 families have stepped forward wanting to adopt that child!
- Each year hundreds of children with Down syndrome are adopted internationally. Hundreds!
- Not all doctors respond in a negative way when there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. There are wonderful doctors that offer support, up-to-date information, and connections for those receiving a prenatal diagnosis.
For more thoughts on the statistics for termination rates and Down syndrome, read the International Down Syndrome Coalition’s post (IDSC).
For a great on-line Down syndrome community, check out the IDSC Facebook page.
If you are a mom dealing with a prenatal diagnosis and you are not sure where to turn, do not hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to walk with you during this time. If you had an abortion and need support to deal with grief, know that I am here for you too.