This article that came out today was difficult reading. Any story about aborting a baby with Down’s Syndrome is bound to strike a nerve. Mainly because I could have been that woman.
I didn’t find out that Xavier, now five, had Down’s Syndrome until he was two months old. I had a blissful pregnancy, an easy-ish birth (or so my mother tells me), and a beautiful healthy little boy. That changed when he was two months old and was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. The whole world changed.
I was thirty-five when I had Xavier, however my tests were all fine, and there was nothing to be found wrong with my baby. If there had been, I can’t say in all certainty what I would have done but I was a single mum from the word go and, I know that with my perception of Down’s Syndrome, I would have found the decision incredibly difficult. I often think I wouldn’t have had him, and that thought fills me with dread.
But please don’t think that means I am judging. I am not. I support any parent’s right to choose and do what is right for them and their family. I understand the hell that anyone must feel making this decision, I am guessing it is a similar hell I found myself in after I received Xavier’s diagnosis. Oh boy, there is no way that I would judge anyone in this situation. I am the last person to do so and my heart goes out to the parents.
But what I will say is that the decision the family in this story took wasn’t just about Down’s Syndrome but also pre-diagnosed health problems which it seems were incredibly severe, if not life threatening. A very hard call as no parents wants their child to suffer any pain. However, it needs to be made clear that Down’s Syndrome itself is not something to be ‘suffered’, people with Down’s Syndrome can live very fulfilling and increasingly long lives.
Xavier was born healthy. He breasted, he was active and gorgeous. His only health issue was his thyroid which is manageable by a tablet a day and has no effect on his life. His hearing is fine as is his vision. His heart has never been a problem for him, thankfully.
Make the decision you need to, but ensure you are making as much of an informed decision as you can. Not all children with Down’s Syndrome have terrible health problems, I know because mine does not. He is the healthiest child with the best attendance record in his mainstream school.
My child has Down’s Syndrome and I can’t pretend that doesn’t mean anything, or present extra challenges because sometimes it does. However, above all Xavier is an individual just like any child with Down’s Syndrome, and any child without it.
If faced with this situation I will never tell you what to do. But I will also not tell you what kind of child you will get. Just because I have a child with Down’s Syndrome doesn’t mean I know.
The thing about parenthood is that there is always an element of the unknown. It is full of surprises, and they’re not always good. But my five year old is proving to be a great addition to this world and I am so happy that I have him.