Thursday, February 2, 2012

Choice

I try not to get too political on this blog. I try to stay away from the hot topics in society... politics, religion, abortion, and so many more. However, last night I was directed to a website for children who "lost" their babies with special needs. Except that they didn't lose them. They killed them.

There was one section specifically for Down syndrome. The parents in this section wrote about how they found out their babies had Down syndrome prenatally and they decided they couldn't do that to themselves. They couldn't ruin their lives. A couple of these parents even spoke to other parents of children with Ds and heard the positive things, and they still chose to abort. Some of these parents induced delivery, held their sweet babies, who were born alive, and watched them die. They said it was the best thing for the baby.

Well you know what? Bull crap.

If anyone out there happens to be reading this post, and you've just received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, let me tell you a little bit of how it really is.

My daughter Kennedy is 7 years old. We did not know she had Down syndrome when I was pregnant and when she was born, we were shocked. We didn't know anything about Down syndrome. We didn't know anyone who had Down syndrome. And like you will probably quickly find out, many doctors pass along outdated statistics and little hope.

However, the internet can be a wonderful thing... book stores can be a great resource. There are tons of books and online groups out there negating the outdated info. These doctors, unless they specifically KNOW someone with Down syndrome, beyond the medical sense, have no idea what they're talking about. Let me tell you a bit about Down syndrome...

Kennedy started going to therapy when she was about 3 weeks old. There they worked on her low muscle tone and her fine motor skills to try to help her keep up with other babies her age. Yes, sometimes therapy was a pain... yes, it interrupted my schedule some days... but isn't that what being a parent is all about? If your child needs something, you do it. When you become a parent, your life is no longer yours.

Yes, Kennedy had some medical problems. She went through several surgeries. The first time I had to hand her over to the medical professionals and watch them walk down the hallway to the OR with her, I thought I was going to pass out. But the thing is, even with your typical children, surgeries can happen. You never know when they'll break a bone or need ear tubes for ear infections or something else. It's part of being a parent. You cry, you worry, you pray, and God willing the surgery goes well and you nurse them back to health afterwards.

Let me tell you about my 7 year old. She is in a classroom with her typical peers. She can read and write and do math. She can speak in complete sentences. Her favorite time of the day is recess, where sometimes she doesn't want to line up to go back to class. She has lots of friends and has been invited to several birthday parties and play dates. She loves several different shows on the Disney Channel... the same shows that many of her classmates like. She loves to play dress up, especially when she can match her American Girl, Charlie. Two afternoons a week, Kennedy goes to dance class, with her typical peers. She is in level 1 hip hop and she's on a competition team. They travel around the area to different regional competitions, and so far they've brought home two first place trophies. Kennedy loves to dance. She counts down the days to Monday and Thursday because she knows that those are dance days.

Kennedy adores her big sister. On the weekends they have sleep overs in her room, where I hear them giggling late into the night. She and her younger brother play well together. They are constantly making up new games to play and acting out shows. She changes her name often, as many little girls do. They have an imaginary friend named Max, who interestingly gets blamed for their messy rooms and food on the floor. ;) She looks up to her big brother who teaches her all kinds of fun (and sometimes naughty) stuff. She tries to mother her little sister, who is really only 2 years younger than her and does NOT like to be mothered. ;)

When Kennedy grows up, she wants to work with babies (or be Hannah Montana!). She adores babies and wants to take care of them. I can totally see her working in a day care center or in a nursery at a hospital. Also, despite popular belief, some adults with Down syndrome can drive, and I promise you that if anyone can do it, Kennedy can. I  have no doubt that she will go to her prom, she will graduate from high school, she can even get married if she so chooses. Her future is bright, the same way my other kids' are.

The thing is, I was devastated when she was born. Like you, my dreams for the daughter who I carried in my belly were shattered. But I learned to dream new dreams. I learned to adapt. I learned what unconditional love means. After all, that's what parenthood is about, isn't it? Her smile lights up our lives, and those of the lives around her. She loves life and loves us and we love her. I cannot imagine our family without her. Because of her, we went on to adopt her little sister, who also has Down syndrome, and though they are two very different children, they both bless our lives in different ways. Do I worry? Do I worry that she'll be teased? Do I worry about what will happen to her after we're gone? Absolutely. But I worry about ALL my children for those same things.

You may be reading this right now and thinking, "Well that's great for YOU, but I'm not you. I can't handle the things that you can." I promise you, when Kennedy was born, I didn't think I could handle it either. I didn't think I was fit to be a good mother to this precious baby who required so much, but I felt the same way when my first child was born. I was terrified that I would screw up and ruin her life. She is 12 now and she's still alive, happy and well rounded. In the same way, Kennedy and I have been navigating our journey as mother and daughter together. I have learned so much from her and from other parents. I have found that no matter what comes our way, someone has been there done that before us. I've learned that sometimes I CAN'T do everything on my own. And that's ok. I've learned that I don't always have to be strong... And that's ok too. I've learned to adapt, go with the flow and pray. A lot. I'm not the same person I was before Kennedy was born. I'd like to think I'm a better mother, a better wife, a better friend and a better person.

If you get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, abortion is NOT the answer. It's NOT the loving thing to do for your child. Having to lie to your family and friends about "losing" your baby is devastating, especially when you know you didn't lose him. You chose to end his life just because he wasn't perfect. And by doing that, you are truly missing out on the life God planned for you. You are missing out on one of the greatest blessings you will ever receive. You are missing out on a new "family" of other parents of kids with Ds. You are missing out on more than I can ever explain. Please please please give your baby a chance to live and be happy, to teach you what love really means, and make his mark on the world, whatever that may be.

36 comments :

jen32258 said...

Renee,

I hate coming across that. In fact, I haven't been on babycenter.com for years because of it. Those who have aborted HAVE to keep posting and blogging their reasons. Why? Because they need constant reassurance that they did the right thing. Truth of it is - if they truly realized what they had thrown away - how could they ever live with themselves? So they post. They blog. They say that our posts are just desperate "misery loves company" posts. They vehemently defend their actions...because how could they otherwise? They will never know and I ultimately I try very hard to be more sad for them than angry (I TRY). All we can do is to make sure our kids be the ambassadors that they all are. Can't deny the living proof, right?

stephanie said...

UGH! I was crying before I even read this. This makes my stomach feel like someone is twisting and twisting it. There are so many things I have encountered before , during and after the birth of Emmie, that have shocked me, and delighted me, but this just makes me weep. It rips my heart apart because people.. parents, are handed the most exquisite gift they will ever receive and they refuse to open it. They chose to throw it away without ever looking. I could not live without Em and yes there was also a time when i heard the prenatal diagnosis of Ds that I didn't think I could live with her! I was wrong! And every day I am blessed by her exquisiteness!

Ingrid said...

Thank you for having the courage to post this. I agree wholeheartedly and it gives me a little bit of hope for all unborn babies when I hear (or read ;) ) a voice like yours speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Thank you so much.

babyofsix said...

Beautifully written, Renee. I'm not a parent of someone with DS, but a younger sibling. I'll admit, talking about this topic specifically related to DS brings out a whole new set of emotions in me that other similar topics don't... it's a little "too close" to home for me. Everything you said about Kennedy I feel about my brother. He didn't have the health issues, hasn't had surgeries, doesn't speak well... but he's living "on his own" in a group home now, working 5 days a week, and although you may not understand him, he can communicate better than most people I know.

To all the new parents out there, please, ask questions. Send e-mails. Knowledge tends to erase fear. Those of us in this "club" would be happy to help.

Natalie

Kimberly said...

My opinion is harsh, but it's true. If you can't handle being a parent to a child with Down syndrome, then you shouldn't have any kids because you can't handle being a parent.

Jody said...

that site sounds horrific...this was very well written. i am crying!

Stranded said...

Thank you for this post. I absolutely loved it. God bless you!
And I cannot get over the "watched them die" bit - I did not even know that was possible medically - the things the law allows you to do shocks me sometimes.

Holly Fedele said...

I'm so glad it never came across a site like that. My heart wouldn't be able to take it.

Selfishness. How does a person KNOW they can't handle something? I didn't think I could handle losing my mom as a teenager, but I did because what else would I have done?

I didn't think I could handle having a child with Ds. I'm handling it fine because 1) he isn't much to "handle"...no different than any other child 2) I handle what is meant to be in all areas of my life. I don't run away from problems. If it was not meant for him to be here, he wouldn't be. It is not my decision to hand out death as though I'm God.

Selfish.

Moving on: Your daughter is beautiful!! I enjoyed hearing about her likes and dislikes. LOLed at her wanting to be Hannah Montana.

EmilyBumbaloughCox said...

Her Picture is beautiful!! Great post

Becca said...

AWESOME post, Renee. "If your child needs something, you do it. When you become a parent, your life is no longer yours." Absolutely. How selfish of these women. And what was the point of them posting on that site? Were they looking for justification? Forgiveness? Confirmation that they'd done the right thing? To asuage their guilt? Ugh. You're a brave woman to have read that. I hope anyone considering the same path *they* took is reading this post...

Liz said...

Renee,
I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I too was devastated and angry when my daughter, Lily, was born. We already had twins with autism so Down syndrome was not something I really wanted to take on. I now look back and can't imagine my life without her and thank God every day for the giving me my sweet girl. Although Lily is not overly social with others and prefers not to participate in many typical kid activities, she is perfect in her own way. She brings so much joy and love to our lives and it is heartbreaking to think of insane number of babies being aborted just because they have Down syndrome.

Patti said...

Well said, Renee. The lengths people will go to, to justify their actions...

ourjoyfulljourney said...

This brought me to tears..tears of joy and sadness. Sadness for those moms who have been told only terrible things about down syndrome that have been fed lies that made them believe they were doing the right thing. Tears for the babies that lost their life because of those lies and also lost their lives because of selfishness. But then there were good tears..because you and your family are so full of love. Because of you and God in you and your family, Kennedy and now Kellsey, will have FULL lives, lives Filled with love!
No child is "perfect" so how dare we tell God He made a mistake so we'll take over now..EVERY child is a gift from God and it breaks my heart that some are not seen in that way.
Good for you for standing up and speaking out for those who can't speak for themselves!!! :)

Anne B. said...

Beautiful post Renee! Thank you for "taking on" this issue. And the picture of Kennedy is gorgeous! Her eyes say it all....Look at me world, I MATTER!!!!!!(((HUGS)))!!

Regina said...

Thank you for putting into words what a lot of parents with down syndrome children feel! I couldn't agree with you more!

Zoey's Mom, Heather said...

I have always said that when we gave birth to any of our other children, we have/had, no idea what lay ahead : alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, a car accident that leaves them 100% reliant on the care of another ... the list goes on. With our children, born with a little extra something, something, we had a heads up,certain inherent truths we would not escape.But how lucky is that? How blessed are we to be surrounded by that build in family, filled with wisdom and support?

Zoey has been our greatest gift. Hands down. She has brought more joy and beauty into our lives, than we could have ever, ever imagined. We had a choice. At 22 weeks, I had just short of 2 more weeks to "decide" my path, our path.Her path. We chose life. Because in the end, there was the realization, plain and simple, that it was never our choice to begin with.

And, even give Zoey's extensive medical issues, I would do it again. In a heartbeat.

Great post Renee.

Notsopc said...

I love what you wrote.. I love hearing about all your kids.. I have written before about my Aunt.. She was born when these kids were called mongoloids and were told to let them die and if they didn't to send them to them away and don't look back.. My aunt has been gone for some time but my family wouldn't be the same had my grandparents done that. Oh she would have been a Kennedy if she was born today. I can't imagine what how her life would have been but when I look at Kennedy I guess i can. You are a great mom to all your kids and we readers feel your pride for them. Kennedy will make her mark on this world and the world will be better for it.. I hope anybody who reads your blog sees what the possibilities that await their child.. and you know you probably have a reader who will read this or has already read it and decided to take your path..

Team Lando said...

Absolutely beautiful. We knew. And Ellie was already our daughter.

Ann Marie said...

First let me just say I've never commented on your blog before, but have been a reader for years. I've enjoyed each and every moment. Now, I'm completely sickened by these "ladies" and their attitudes towards their children. My husband and I have no biological children, for several reasons, one of which is that we truly feel the Lord has called us to adopt a DS child someday, probably from Eastern Europe. We pray for you and and your family each day. Thank you for standing up for the kids that no one else will stand up for!

Heather said...

I know, it makes me sick too. Physically sick. First of all, so many of us would WELCOME a child with Down syndrome. There's a freaking waiting list for domestic adoption of newborns with Down syndrome! So that whole "we can't raise a child like that" excuse is invalid anyway. If you can't feel like you can raise this child, fine - but there are PLENTY of people who would love to. Second, you never know WHAT your child will be. These parents who are killing their children (and yes, I also believe that's exactly what it amounts to), are totally missing out. How many bright, beautiful, dancing stars like Kennedy could there have been? In each class, how many empty seats are there? It's sad. It's beyond sad.

I don't know if you've read the story about Tim, a little boy in Germany whose mother found out that he had Ds and chose to abort him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldenburg_Baby Tim LIVED through the abortion and now lives with his adoptive family. His birth mother committed suicide. While I would not wish that on anyone and DO believe that there's healing after abortion, it goes to show you that abortion HURTS. It's not just the destruction of tissue; it's the death of a child's body and the mother's spirit. Not only does abortion hurt babies, it hurts women too.

Okay, rant over. :) Your soapbox is my soapbox too.

Island Baby said...

I'm sorry you had to see that site. I can only imagine how it must have upset you. We must remember however, that abortion is a women's choice and we must not judge anyone else's choice in what is best for their family just like you wouldn't want anyone to judge your choices for your family. There are many reasons why someone may choose to terminate a pregnancy and I would like to think that I would respect their choices.

Evil Stepmother said...

I have lost a baby. And not by my choice. I've tried so hard and so long, and all I have to show for it is a picture of my empty uterus. I would give anything to see a baby on an ultrasound, to actually hold one in my arms. It makes me ache how much I want this. I wish more people understood what it's like. Maybe then they wouldn't take their miracles for granted.

shayneswife said...

I love this post and fully agree. I knew my daughter had Ds before she was born. The geneticist was cold and explained my window of opportunity to legally abort my child. She had an office with her beautiful, typical kids beaming from fancy picture frames. I was so mad. I knew my baby was a girl. I chose to hive her life. Seriuosly, the choice shouldn't be mine. God chose to give her life at conception. I can't respect other peoples choices in these cases. If someone choses to harm another - what's respectable about that?

shayneswife said...
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shayneswife said...
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gwen said...

I don't believe that blaming these women is the answer. There are reasons they ended up making the choice that they did. Our society is not supportive of people with disabilities and there are limited financial resources for those people. As many of us know, mothers are often given little to no info about DS upon diagnosis. I think the best we can do for new moms is to make great lives for the kids who are already here. Advocate for them and others with disabilities, get involved in an outreach program for new moms, offer help to those in need, etc. Please don't take offense, I just think there is more to this argument.

Holly Fedele said...

@Island Baby, I agree that there are many reasons why someone would choose to terminate a pregnancy, but from what the OP said, I think the only reason these women gave for their choice was because the child had Ds.

At least 90% of prenatal diagnoses of Ds end in abortion. That, to me, is more like a genocide or a holocaust, rather than a simple choice. There is a push to end the population of Ds.

With fewer babies born, the parents that choose not to have an abortion will have to fight all the harder for equal rights for their children because the children will be such a minority.

Also, while it is perfectly legal to have an abortion, that does not mean that any of us have to agree with it...whether because of religious values, moral values, or simple opinion.

I respect the woman's LEGAL right to choose, but I do not respect the choice...just as I do not respect a person's choice to drink and drive, steal, lie to a friend, date a married man, spend their utility money at the casinio, etc. Not all choices are good ones, even if they are legal.

Furthermore, if the woman makes the choice to abort a baby with Ds going off of outdated data and pressure from a doctor while simultaneously doing no research, meeting somone with Ds, or going to a support meeting, her choice is, at best, an uninformed one.

Some people buy cars with more updated data and research than making the decision whether their baby lives or dies.

Lynn said...

This makes me sick to my stomach!
Know that you're always in my thoughts and prayers!
Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Prayer Bears
My email address

mom2natnkatncj said...

You never ever know what is going to happen. Just like your prenatal test said all was fine, someone else's could be wrong in the other direction too. Nothing is guaranteed in life and even that so called "perfect" child might have problems. What do you do then? What do you do when you find out your child has autism? Do you give up? That's just not the answer. It's such a shame that people think it is. I refused in all of my pregnancies the prenatal testing for Down Syndrome because I knew it would just make me worry and it wasn't like we were going to abort anyways. You get what you get and you love your child in spite of everything.

.emma.stormy. said...

Beautifully written as always. I am completely and totally Pro-LIFE, in ALL circumstances, period.

bakersdozen said...

ALL are perfect in His sight-even the DS ones:)

6b576422-4f2a-11e1-a8d6-000bcdcb2996 said...

The only thing I have to say about this is: What are you TALKING about? They may not be "perfect" in society's terms, but they are more perfect than any one of us "normal" people!!

Ann said...

This article just came at the right time!!! My sister's friend has a co-worker who is expecting and tests indicated that Ds was a high possibility. She and her husband planned to terminate if the amnio confirmed Ds. Having 4 kids, with the youngest having Ds, I reached out to her and sent her an email stating trying to get them to understand that Ds is not to be feared. I sent photos and stories of how our everyday life is really no different than if all four of our kids were 'typical'. They are not Christians and really do not have any belief system, so I was very careful to not turn their ears off with talk about morals and God giving them a gift of a child. I could not get them to understand what they would be missing. She kept saying they wanted a perfect baby. The last time I spoke to her I told her we all want that, but no one really gets one, because no one is perfect. My first child was born premature and had many problems and surgeries, which I learned to deal with because I had no choice. I certainly could not walk away! The amnio showed the baby does not have Ds and they are relieved. I worry about what they may do when other things may be wrong. There are SO MANY other things that are WORSE than Ds!!

JennaJennJenn said...

Just wondering, is there any significant medical benefit to knowing that a baby has DS before they are born? If not, I think the test should be illegal. It's no different than parents aborting babies in India when they learn they are having a girl.

Heidi Ehle said...

AMEN!!! I've been writing a mini-series geared towards these same families who just received a prenatal diagnosis on my own blog. Its so important! And that is what I am doing in honor of World Down Syndrome Day....I can't think of anything more vital to the DS community than educating people on the reality right now!
Excellent job!

Heidi Ehle said...

Oh and JenJenJen. There IS significant knowledge to be had by having a prenatal diagnosis...however there ISN'T for having it earlier in the pregnancy, as the new tests allow. By us knowing prenatally, we were able to plan for our daughter's birth, including delivering in a hospital several hours away from us due to their close proximity to the children's hospital with a more advanced NICU, which she didn't end up needing. Also her heart defect was found at 22 weeks and knowing she had DS allowed the doctors to be fully prepared for other issues should they occur (which again they did not). Better safe than sorry, I say.
It also gave us, as her parents, time to grieve and get over it, which I for one am thankful for......I got to simply enjoy my girl without any of the sadness or shock that comes with a diagnosis.