Today was first going to be my new angels. Then they were going to be tomorrow because I need to show you a photo of where they’re going to be saved and cherished. So today was going to be my agony over rumors of Sanjay Gupta’s Surgeon General appointment.
I changed my mind again. I had to look for an op-ed piece that was published a little while ago. Given my chemobrain situation, I figured once I found it, I should go ahead and share it here:
This morning I sat at Mass with my family. I was a bit distracted by my six month old, George,who was trying to get my husband’s attention with his newest tricks… grabbing noses, blowing bubbles, trying to sing (or at least that’s what we call it…) When George does all those regular baby things, we rejoice more than we did with all his older siblings, perhaps, because George has Down Syndrome. After the doom and gloom prognosis we were given for him, it’s wonderful as we realize each day that he’s overwhelmingly more LIKE his siblings than different from them.
But anyway, I sat in Mass today wondering where all the other Downs babies are. Last week we were at a violin concert, and there was a happy, busy four year old with Downs sitting behind us, anxious for the concert to be over so that he could resume our conversation about going to kindergarten. In May, I was at a homeschooling convention, and at one point there were three other babies with Downs in one room while I was there with George.
So where are the Downs babies at my church? There’s a wonderful young man, Nathan, who has Downs. He was in my Sunday school class several years ago, but he’s on his way to middle school now. In my eleven years of working with every First Communicant at our parish, he’s been the only Downs kid to celebrate that precious sacrament. Nobody I’ve asked has been able to think of a Downs baby baptized at our church in the past few years, other than our George. I can’t think of any reason that Catholic moms wouldn’t conceive just as many babies with an extra chromosome as the rest of the world’s women… so where are the babies?
90 % of all babies diagnosed with Downs prenatally are aborted. From personal experience, I can tell you that the obstetrical care system is a strong force and truly a challenge for even the most passionately pro-life families. It starts with early prenatal care and screening, which is valuable and positive for many reasons… but as soon as there is even a remote possibility of a problem detected with the baby, all the relationships change. It’s called Poor Prenatal Diagnosis – or PPD. When obstetricians diagnose PPD, the system goes from one geared towards investing in the health of mother and baby into a fast-paced, frightening, very negative organization.
When our family learned that our baby likely had Down Syndrome, we made it absolutely clear to everyone that we would keep our son. We had lost a baby a few years ago to complications from amniocentesis, so we refused that, too. It amazed me, though, how much time and effort it took to go against the flow. Wouldn’t you think that when a family is struggling to deal with a problem with their baby, these professionals would try to support them, not make life harder? Things got more difficult when we had additional pregnancy complications that required a specialist. Finding a maternal fetal medicine doctor who would work hard to bring our son into the world in as healthy a state as possible required so much time and grief.
We managed to resist the force, and we got to keep George. He was premature, and he has Downs, and he brings joy to our family. But do you remember Newtons’ Third Law from high school physics? “Every force has an equal and opposing force?” Well, maybe there aren’t any other Downs babies in my church because the force of the fast-paced, frightening, non-pro-life obstetrical industry isn’t being met with much of anything to oppose it.
How can we create a force, equal in speed, strength and power to that of the medical system, to support families dealing with bad news about their baby? Our force must be positive, peaceful, honest, and gentle. Families in this situation are so vulnerable. It must be visible and immediately available. Often medical things happen so fast that if parents don’t know about supportive options ahead of time, it might be too late. And finally, it must be integrated fully into a culture of respect for life, no matter how brief, no matter how handicapped, in every aspect of our faith community.
Tomorrow, angels, then Friday, Sanjay Gupta. Unless I get distracted again.