The prenatal test that doctors are recommending to detect Down syndrome has me running horrified to the keyboard.
My son has Down syndrome and I am afraid the tests, which doctors want all pregnant women to take, will end the lives of individuals before they begin. And it's all out of fear.
This is not a pro-choice, anti-abortion issue to me. I am fairly liberal in my thinking and would never condemn a woman for her choice to end a pregnancy. This is about my love for my son and the way some may perceive him.
I never had a prenatal test, since I was barely 28 when August was conceived. There were no indicators that anything could go but normally for the pregnancy. I was young, healthy and had no family history that would suggest a genetic anomaly. I was also a long-distance runner, ate spinach, didn't smoke or drink and kept every single prenatal appointment.
An ultrasound at 28 weeks showed short limbs for his gestational age, but that wasn't a red flag for further tests.
So, yeah, when he was born and the doctor pronounced the verdict - Down syndrome - it was a diagnosis that shocked me and my extended family. I was raised Roman Catholic, and we received more Mass cards after his birth than one would expect following a death in a family.
I knew nothing about Down syndrome except those fear-provoking characteristics even current articlesoften predict: mental retardation; a broad, flat face and small head; and, often, serious heart defects.
It was a dismal period, to say the least.
Nearly 20 years have since passed and I've come to learn some fairly profound lessons about life and what it means to be human. August has pushed me into seeing a world that I, too, feared those many years ago.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that August's loss is my gain. It is terribly hard to raise a child with a disability and not because of how it affects my life directly. This is about August and the things I project are missing.
I could go into my biases about the way society treats people with disabilities, but it's enough to say that August will not have the same opportunities for friendship, lifelong companionship, jobs or housing that those without a physical or cognitive disability tend to take for granted.
Those are the losses - August's losses - that hurt.
But that doesn't mean August's life is any less important, or that there isn't a life here for him. He's a valuable human being, a unique individual and one of the best Bryan Adams imitators you will ever meet. He goes to school and he is learning job skills. He is the acolyte in popular demand at the Episcopal church we attend.
Does he like what he sees in the mirror? You bet he does. And that's why these prenatal tests have me worried.
To not know August would be a far greater tragedy.
He is my son and I could not have asked for a finer human being. I look into his eyes and see the depth of my love for him and the trust he places in me, an equally fragile and vulnerable human being.
He's much more than a prenatal test could suggest, no matter what a doctor recommends.
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* CHRISTINE FRAIZER'S son has attended a school-to-work transition program of the Murray School District. Fraizer also writes for The Tribune's Closeup section.

date Monday, January 08, 2007

4 comments to “ARTICLE”

  1. Kim
    1:29 AM

    Wow. I truly hadn't thought about the testing being an "earlier prediction" so that some would make a decision to terminatae without also making the same effort to learn about Ds. Maybe because I am new to this journey plus the fact that we chose not to have any prenatal testing. We were surprised we were expecting and felt blessed. We still feel that God has a plan and will see us through, even when things are difficult. Wow I will be praying about this a lot differently now. Thank you for sharing this article.
    Kim

  1. jotcr2
    5:18 AM

    I find it difficult that the prenatal test only look for T21 and T18. It makes DS seem like the disability that no one wants, when infact it is often not as bad as other genetic conditions that are not tested for.

  1. Christina
    11:06 AM

    Thanks for the article... makes you think a little.

    By the way, I have tagged you, check it out over on my page.

  1. Brandee
    11:46 AM

    Such a beautiful article. Thanks for sharing it here.