Wow! Another boy! What a wonderful surprise! Five daughters and now two sons. He looks like his siblings, blond round head. A beautiful son.
Little did we know that there were more surprises. Daniel, our beautiful son, was born with Down Syndrome. Even though we were told in the most gentle way – it was still a shock. Guilt, sorrow, shock, denial and more guilt. Yet after all the questions, it wasn’t long before we had accepted the challenge of our new son.
First, we needed to find out all we could about Down Syndrome. Old texts described him as a “Mongolian idiot.” Very distressing! However, we learned, and in the process our fears subsided.
Down Syndrome is a congenital defect, caused by the presence of an extra #21 chromosome (trisomy). It is the most common of chromosomal abnormalities and associated with advanced material age – especially over the age of 35. One in 80 offspring of women over 40 are affected. A less common form, caused by a translocation of a chromosome, is an inherited (genetic) defect, not associated with maternal age.
Down Syndrome is characterized by mental retardation (I.Q. average 50-60), oblique placement of the eyes, which may also show an abnormal pattern of the iris (white flecks, which we call “diamonds”), small head flattened at the back, short stature, furrowed tongue, muscles and skin soft and flabby, short neck. Also, bowel defects, heart abnormalities, strabismus and susceptibilities to respiratory problems can be present.
Secondly, what did all this mean to us and most importantly, to him? Again, many surprises along the way. By teaching him the necessary skills to live – our Daniel taught us. He showed us that through determination, exercise and the right stimulation – he achieved goals the same as any other child would. The only difference being, gratification. Our family learned to slow down – take life one step at a time and to achieve each milestone with much joy and wonder. For instance, learning to skate took one whole season. Now he skates on his own.
We also learned to fight for and stand up with him. After all his name is Daniel, meaning “God judges me,” and any conflict with school or neighbours kept this foremost in our minds. People who are ignorant of Down Syndrome, judge the “Daniels” in this life. But God knows the value of life. He knows why each and every child is placed within a family. He’s never wrong!
At age 13, Daniel is opening teenage doors and slamming others. He doesn’t know how to hold grudges, even though things do anger him at times.
Our family has gained much love, patience and tolerance. Society is also becoming more tolerant. If we would only allow “healthy and normal” children to live in this world, how unfulfilled and dull this life would be. If “necessity is the mother of invention,” then society needs to be inventive in overcoming the hurdles of any disability. By ridding ourselves of all the hurdles we’d lose a lot more than disabled peoples. We’d lose our sense of a mosaic social fabric. We’d end up as a “grey sack cloth” society.
Therefore, how can abortion be the answer? How can amniocentesis as a possible choice to abort, even come into the picture when carrying a child? Daniel is no less a child just because he has limitations. Would you consider “post natal” abortion (in other words killing) if your “normal]” child became disabled with a broken leg in an accident? Daniel has learned how to cast his disabilities aside. Society needs to accept races, disabilities and any other differences for what they are: differences, surprises, chances to grow.
Daniel is an asset. Every step Daniel took was a cumulative effort of devoted and dedicated teachers, therapists, family and friends. We see life as special through his “diamond” eyes. We have just begun because there are many more surprises waiting.