A response to Beauty in the Unexpected

Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for their comments and support – the response to the last post was overwhelming and we are so humbled and grateful. Thank you to all who read it and took time to share or comment on it, we were blown away by the response and are so thankful for the support you all have shown for our family and our baby boy.

There was one comment on the last post that raised some interesting points about the abortion issue that I thought was important to address. This is an issue that I am passionate about – although I got a bit too passionate writing a reply and it became so long that it became more like another blog post! So, here it is.

In this comment, they raised the point that not everyone has the resources or support needed to raise a child with disabilities, and that for many prospective parents it is a difficult decision that they should not be judged in making. I agree. Something I want to clarify from the outset is that I did not mean in any way for my views on government policy to come across as being judgmental to anyone who is faced with this difficult situation. Trust me, I understand how overwhelming this news is when you are faced with it and how frightening the prospect of the future of raising a child with special needs can be. I went through all of that. It is terrifying at first. I couldn’t comprehend how I or my husband would ever be able to cope with the responsibilities, and I doubted myself and my capabilities to raise a child with DS. It is not easy in the slightest and I would never condemn or judge anyone faced with this situation.

That being said, I passionately don’t believe abortion can ever be the answer. I believe that, although it can seem like it would solve everything and at times seem to be the only possible way out, it causes more problems, grief and heartache than any baby with disabilities ever could. A baby, whether they are disabled or not, is not a problem that can magically be solved by ‘terminating the pregnancy’. The emotional and physical consequences it carries, both for the parents (especially the mother) and for the baby, I believe, are never worth it.

There are other options out there for people who genuinely feel they don’t have the resources or support to raise a child with special needs. There are many people who would love to adopt a child with disabilities. I know a wonderful couple who have adopted three children with varying degrees of special needs, who are living happy and fulfilled lives, are in college and bring much joy to the people they come into contact with every day. I know another young couple who are looking into adopting a baby with Down Syndrome one day and would love to welcome them into their lives and home. We have also considered adopting ourselves after experiencing the joy and beauty children with DS bring in unashamedly being who they are.

Saying all that – one of the points that was raised was that we are in a privileged position to have the resources and support to be able to raise a child with Down Syndrome and not everyone is in the same position. I appreciate what they are saying, that we are privileged to have the support we do, and I am so thankful for it. However – we don’t actually have that many resources available to us as might be easy to assume. We are a young couple (both 25 years old) and have both only been in our careers for just over a year – not exactly much time to be able to save. We just make it by most of the time. Yet we are still able to make a priority of giving Caleb a life of being loved and cherished – which is more important, in my opinion, than any material things. We are extremely fortunate to have supportive families and friends, but there are many incredible support groups available for anyone who would need it and wonderful people who are available to help as part of these groups. If anyone does find themselves in a similar situation without support or resources, they can get in touch with a number of charities and groups that can provide that for them.

I know this is so hard. Please hear my heart: I have no judgment for those who have been faced with a similar decision in the past and who have decided to have an abortion. I know this most likely was the most difficult, agonizing decision they would have ever had to make. It is never easy. My intention was never to pass judgment or condemnation on anyone – past, present or future.

What I am saying is that I don’t agree with government legislation and healthcare labeling abortion as one of the only options and as a necessary course of action. I don’t agree with governments providing unlimited access to abortion for those who may have a child born with disabilities and not providing adequate support for families who have children with special needs. I don’t agree with the double standard of one policy of abortion for ‘normal’ babies and a different one for babies who may or may not have disabilities – it is never 100% sure and many times babies who are diagnosed with severe disabilities are born completely healthy and whole. I personally know couples who were told the worst and were pressured to abort who went on to have healthy, whole children. One couple whose child was diagnosed with severe brain damage among other things went on to be born 100% whole and healthy – he eventually became a child prodigy and a genius cellist and musician. Even those who are born with disabilities deserve the same rights as those born without. No baby should ever be allowed to be aborted until the day they are due. Look at the Paralympics and the inspiring, fulfilling lives those athletes lead. The government or medical professionals deciding whether it is ‘necessary’ to abort based on whether the baby measures up to our standards of perfection, I believe, is nothing less than modern eugenics. And I definitely don’t agree with medical professionals – who often are in a position of trust and influence -pressuring couples or individuals when they are at their most vulnerable to make a decision that can carry devastating lifelong consequences and regrets instead of supporting them and telling them there is another way.

I passionately believe that all life is sacred and brings joy into the world. For us, although the diagnosis brought fears, grief, heartache and despair at ever being able to be the parents our child would need (and to be completely honest still does at times), our child himself has brought us nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. Of course there are challenges and difficulties – I am not saying it is always easy or trying to sugarcoat reality. But the good by far outweighs the bad and makes everything worth it. I am so thankful for him and now honestly feel that if the world knew what it was really like to have a child classed as having a ‘disability’, disability-based abortions would become a thing of the past. I passionately hope and pray this becomes so.

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