No Doctor Can Predict the Future of a Baby Born With Down Syndrome
Your son is born and doctors come in to look at him and tell you that just by looking at your beautiful baby boy they know he is going to live a long and healthy life, be a straight A student on the honor role, be the captain of his high school soccer team, go to university and graduate top of his class, go to med school and become a doctor, run a successful practice, get married to a beautiful woman and have five children. He will live a long, healthy and successful life…all that just by looking at him.
How happy would you be? You would perhaps walk away thinking, I just won the lottery… I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect!
Now imagine this:
Your son is born and doctors come in and look at your beautiful baby boy and say, “I’m sorry, but your son will have many medical complications. In fact, we have a list of things to keep an eye on as he grows. Don’t expect him to live longer than 60. Your son is also going to take a long time to learn to do anything. If he goes to school don’t really expect much from him, because in the end he won’t even graduate from high school with a diploma, because lets face it, he doesn’t need it. He is already set up by the government once he turns 18 to live below the poverty line, because he will never be able to work and make his own living. He will likely have a shorter than average, sad, pathetic life full of hospital visits.”
How sad would you be? You would walk away feeling sad and angry, thinking, how did this happen? Why me?
Now I ask you this — how possible is it for the first scenario to actually happen?
I can confidently say it doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, a mother and father who just welcomed a baby with Down syndrome into their family will hear the second scenario almost always! But just as the doctors can’t tell you what’s in store for your newborn typical baby, they can’t tell you what’s in store for your newborn baby with Down syndrome.
Scenario two was the reality for my husband and me when we found out at 17 weeks prenatally that our baby would be born with Down syndrome. Thankfully, we had a lovely geneticist who shared a few positive things about individuals with Down syndrome, but a lot of the information that was given to us was focused on things our unborn child would not be able to do or would have difficulties doing. We even had some medical professional suggest we terminate our pregnancy, “because your life will be in and out of hospitals.”
This is why I constantly advocate for people with Down syndrome. People always seem to think they know what my son is capable or not capable of doing simply by the fact that he has Down syndrome. The medical community and the education system already have their minds made up before they even give him a chance. When I was pregnant, I committed to Christian — my beautiful son — that I would do whatever I have to do to make sure he gets everything he wants and deserves in life. This is why I do what I do. This is why I talk and educate about Down syndrome… to show our physicians, families and communities that you can’t predict someone’s future with simply a look.
My hope is that one day when a baby with Down syndrome, doctors and nurses will wish these parents a “congratulations” on their new addition, rather than the “I’m sorry” followed by the doom and gloom they think the life of the child will be.
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A version of this entry was first posted on Paula’s Facebook page.