Last night was a night I was not prepared for. Last night, thousands and thousands of eyes were intimately undressing me. Removing layer upon layer, seeing the parts of me I don’t so carelessly show, taking in each and every private detail, and once I was fully exposed, they informed me they did not like what they saw. Last night the world at large discussed if Oliver was worthy of life. Yes, you read that correctly. People all over the world opened their smart phones, logged onto their tablets, got on their desktops and climbed their high horses to give their unwarranted two cents about a segment on 60 minutes Australia that discussed a test that could all but eliminate Down syndrome. Strangers calling me cruel for bringing Oliver into this world, comparing Down syndrome to rectal cancer, wishing for a world where my son does not exist. I spend most of my days telling other parents and loved ones of people with Down syndrome to speak up and be strong. Last night I was not strong. Last night I was weak. Last night I held my child with tears running down my face. Last night I walked away from social media in fear of what I would read. Instead, I spent the night cuddling what I see as sheer perfection questioning the world we live in and wondering how so many people are so uneducated about what it means to have Down syndrome. How in Australia 9 out of 10 women chose to abort? Why? It all starts with what happens after the prenatal test is given.
I chose to be tested when I found out I was at risk for having a baby with Down syndrome, not for termination, but preparation. Let me be clear, I will never tell a woman what to do with her body, but what these women, these parents, are being told in these cold, quiet doctors’ offices is all but forcing them to chose termination.
We are living in a world where prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses go hand in hand with a list of the closest abortion clinics. They tell mothers to be that if they keep their child, their lives will be ruined. They tell couples their marriages will be destroyed. This stigma has to end. The fear has to stop. We need to educate what life really will be like. That for some of us, we will have children who don’t have heart problems, or stomach issues. Delays will be minimal; they will go to regular school. This idea that we can stop the difficulty of raising a child with special needs before they are even born is asinine. Children are born with unexpected issues every day, there are accidents all the time, do we eliminate those children too? What happens when we can begin to pre natally test for autism, cystic fibrosis, cancer risks?
For those out there whose children developed illnesses and disabilities after they were born, are your children less worthy of life to you? Would you have “eliminated the risk” from the get go?