Monday, October 13, 2014

To The Mom Who Claimed Down Syndrome Abortion Is The Merciful Choice

Dear Mom who posted that aborting your baby with Down syndrome was the most merciful (or kindest) thing you could do for your baby,

I don't write open letters. And I don't comment on other people's business. Because it is THEIR business. Not mine.

And yet here I am. Writing you an open letter about your business. I am breaking two of my rules. Why?

This is certainly not to talk to you about your decision. It is done. Anything I say to heap guilt on you serves absolutely no purpose. I can tell that this was a difficult decision- one that you honestly felt was made out of love for your child. I respect you too much as a human being to bury you in the "what ifs" when you obviously have cried great tears over lost possibilities already.

This is also not to judge you. I am not your judge. Let me say that again. I am NOT your judge- or anybody's judge for that matter. It is not my job to tell if you if you have done something right or wrong. It is not my job to met out sentences or punishments. I am just a broken mother just like you- trying to make the best decisions possible with the information that I have been given.

So why am I writing you?

Because of what you said about wanting to remove the stigma from aborting babies with abnormalities. Because of your loud encouragement out into the world that others should not be afraid to choose the more "merciful" choice of ending the child's life NOW before suffering begins. Because of the comfortable way that you shared your very personal story with the world in a way to tell other women that they too should abort their babies with Down syndrome- that it is a "good choice." Because of your descriptions and bias against Down syndrome that you shared as though they were fact.

I have a problem with this.

Some other broken mother is going to read your post. She has just gotten a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. She is feeling lost and vulnerable. She will read your words and then perhaps give into the voice in her head that is whispering "You are right. This baby WILL ruin your family. This baby WILL lead a horrible life. You should definitely get rid of this baby and try again for a 'normal' one. It's the merciful thing to do. This baby would suffer too much!"

And just perhaps reading your post, feeling justified by your post, and letting you make the decision for her will cause her to miss out on one of the greatest gifts that she was sent in this world.

How do I know this? I was once that broken mother with those dark thoughts swirling in my head. I was the mother who cried great tears over how her family was going to be ruined because I was just told that my unborn baby would have Down syndrome. I was the mother who questioned what this would mean for my child. Would she suffer? Was it even possible for her to have a good life? I was the mother who also heard dire predictions from a genetics counselor about my daughter's life potential- in regards to health and survival.

And you know what? My little girl was born with a lot of health problems. She was so, so sick for a long time as her body tried to adjust to this world. I suppose by your definition, she was suffering. That I am a cruel mother for putting her through this.

But by my definition? I was giving her a chance at life. By my point of view? She wasn't suffering. She was fighting. My baby was born with a weak body, but with the strongest spirit I know. She wanted to live. And she showed us this every single day since then as she has continued to fight.

I am beyond thankful that I didn't have your post to hammer in the points that my head wouldn't let go already. I am so grateful that your story wasn't on my radar when I went through that impossible time.

Because having my daughter with Down syndrome has been the single best decision I have ever made in my life. Is our family ruined? No. It is a perfect 3 piece puzzle of two rambunctious boys and a sweet little girl. Is she suffering? Not even a little bit.
I believe that God perfectly created my daughter. You saw your son as a mistake. I believe that God has a plan for my life, our family's life, and equally as importantly- for my daughter's life. You decided that your plan was better than God's plan.

I hesitate even writing those words. And I want you to know that I say that with the most love and greatest amount of gentleness possible. Because once again- I am not your judge.

But really, where does your reasoning "I don't want my child to suffer therefore I end my child's life" end? What if your child is diagnosed with something unexpected in a few years? Will you hire a hit man? What if your child is mercilessly bullied in school? Do you wish there was a prenatal test for that so that you could spare your child that intense pain? What if your child is in a car accident and suffers horribly?

The way I see it- our job as mothers is not to spare our children pain or suffering. Life is full of pain and suffering for everyone. It is all around us because that is life. Our job as mothers is to help our children through the hard times. To give them a hand to hold- a smiling face- a gentle touch- a presence that they can count on- a kind word to help through bullying- a persistence to fight through difficulties alongside their every step- a cheerleader to encourage their fight- a love that lets them know that they are our world.

You can post that it was "merciful" to end your child's life before it even started. But I disagree. How about standing by your child through life no matter if life is 2 difficult hours or eighty happy years? Not giving up. Forging ahead. Fighting. Loving.

To all of those other broken mothers with a brand new diagnosis out there reading that post on "mercy aborting" your child with Down syndrome- just know. There are two sides to every story. Yes, by today's standards, you absolutely can abort your baby with Down syndrome and perhaps have people even pat you on the back for your selfless sacrifice. For eliminating "suffering." You can write a long essay about your personal journey- outlining your pain and show the world how you made the "best decision for your family even though it was hard."
Or you could really do the selfless thing and love. You can step out on faith, and give your baby a chance at the most basic of rights- life. You can evaluate what being a mother really means. Does it mean accepting and loving only babies that were in your plan- babies that will for sure be healthy?   Is healthy and smart all that matters in life? Really? Does it mean that the rules of motherhood are different if surprises show up in prenatal testing?
I think that motherhood is about acceptance. A delicate balance between accepting who your child is and pushing her to do her best, all the while loving unconditionally.

So if Down syndrome isn't "suffering"- what is it? What does it mean to motherhood?
After four and a half years, this is what I see Down syndrome as:

It is kisses before bedtime after a long day of adventure. It is holding my hand and then refusing to hold my hand and then holding my hand again as we walk to the car. It is sweet lips calling me "Mama". It is long hugs on the couch while we avoid folding laundry. It is eating family dinners while she asks for "more" and "ice cream." It is a little girl playing energetically with her brothers. A little girl begging to help "roll" out the pizza dough and pie crust. It is taking an exited girl to school who has begged for her aide all weekend. It's talking about her coloring sheet from school and asking her what she drew. It is messes in the kitchen when she and her brother dump a box of cereal from the pantry. It is picking up toys as a family and learning to run the broom and vacuum. It is settling down with a box of flashcards and quizzing herself. It is watching a show and asking for a snack. It is climbing out of her room and sneaking herself in with her baby brother. It is constant pleas for "Papa's House!" It is learning to draw a circle and yelling "I did it!" after using the potty. It is infectious giggles and face swallowing smiles.

Yes, there are tough times- just as there are hard times in parenting any child. But truly, having a child with Down syndrome isn't about the delays, dire predictions, or health problems. It is about the little moments of each day. Loving, enjoying, simply being- whether your moments are a lifetime or merely a few days.

And as a mother of two other children as well- I see very little difference between the 3 in this area. They are all different. They all require different things from me at different times. But the one thing that is constant- that I can count on- that holds motherhood close to my heart- is the love that they all require from me.
Loving my daughter even as I wait in the waiting room to hear if she survived another surgery. Loving my daughter as I pack our schedule full of therapy. Loving my daughter as I take her to school every day even when it is difficult to do with both boys. Loving my daughter when she works so hard to develop her vocabulary. Loving my daughter even when she is stubborn. Loving my daughter when she fights with her brothers. Loving my daughter through the thick and thin.

Because she is worth it. Her fight is worth it. Her life is worth it.
So to you-  mother who chose to end your child's "suffering" because he had Down syndrome- I am so sorry for your loss. Truly, truly I weep for you. I hope you find peace as you continuously struggle with the guilt that you posted about. I hope you find the love of a Savior who defined "mercy" far differently than you did. But I beg of you- please stop spreading "facts" about Down syndrome that aren't true. This is a scary enough subject to many without even more misinformation out there. I don't share my daughter with you to guilt you. I share her with you so you know why I am begging you to stop spreading this "mercy killing" philosophy. It is not mercy. It is not anything like mercy. Down syndrome does not equal suffering. Not at all.

And to those of you who are struggling with a new diagnosis.. Please consider the side of the story where life was chosen. Please consider the option of love. Please. 

Another Broken Mother Who Chose To Give Her Daughter A Chance

p.s. it has been worth it. every single bit of it.

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