It is estimated that 90-94% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome have an abortion.
The number is staggering.
But I will not point my finger at the women who have given their babies back to God without ever meeting them. Why? Because I understand. I know how they feel. 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 so scared.
I was 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 is not a welcoming response. They do not offer up to date information, or to connect you with other parents that have children with Down syndrome. They do not even talk about Down syndrome beyond their medical experience. No. What they talk about are more tests. They talk about a “choice,” and they talk about making that choice now! In addition, when they talk about Down syndrome and how it will affect your baby all we hear is a doomed medical condition in which our children will suffer greatly, because so many things could go wrong.
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.
But love her is exactly what I did.
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.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
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 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 been given unconditional love, and that we had celebrated life?
Nevertheless, there is that 6-10% that wants you to know something about having a child with Down syndrome.
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.
And there are more statistics.
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!
Why? Because some families have discovered what it is like to live life every day, every single day with someone who has Down syndrome. And that life is beautiful. That life is rich. That life has been an unexpected gift.
You don’t have to be one of the 90-94%
You can be one of those who discover these precious mysteries in life.
We are living and loving life with Down syndrome.
(Note: Not all medical professionals approach a diagnosis of Down syndrome in a negative way. There are some who offer expectant parents resources and connections before assuming the pregnancy will be terminated)
If you want to know more about our journey and diagnosis with Down syndrome, you can read about Finding Nichole. An article I wrote for Thriving Families magazine where I share about becoming the parent of a child with special needs.