Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good Shepherds

There's a woman who reads my blog who had a baby with Trisomy 21 a few months ago. The diagnosis - shortly after the baby's birth - was a surprise to his parents. And as is often the case, it was a horrifying discovery. It was certainly scary, yes, horrifying to me when I learned that my first baby would have Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. I didn't know what to expect, but none of what I was imagining was good. I've written often before about not judging women for the choices they make in these circumstances. I don't believe that we can know how we'll feel until we've actually been in a given situation, and even then we can never be entirely in another's shoes. Each family must be allowed to decide what they can handle.

I still recoiled at first when I learned that she'd given her baby up for adoption. My first reaction was to compare her situation to my own. How could she? After seeing her beautiful, healthy, newborn son? How could she give him up? When I first saw Ellie, I was elated, I was smitten.

But there are differences. I knew about Ellie's diagnosis with 18 weeks to prepare. So surely she'll regret her decision someday; if she'd had the chance to get to know him a little, to get over the shock, to hold and love him a little, she'd have realized that she could do this.

Probably. Maybe not. The news is splashed, from time to time, with horrible, terrible stories about parents who could not cope. Perhaps worse still are the hundreds, thousands, probably millions of stories that don't make the news, of parents who harm their children - physically, sexually, verbally, coldly, hotly, in absentia - in less deadly ways because of their own difficulties coping sometimes.

I was already fighting against my initial reaction, when I found this post.
We are paving the way for our baby L to have the most wonderful life with a family who are 100% committed to him and his extra chromosome. Doesn't he deserve that rather than two people who are not sure.
He is worth so much more than 'not sure'.
. . .
Unfortunately, I am well aware that I probably will regret this decision. That it will hurt for a long time - maybe forever. But I would much rather feel that pain knowing that L is settled and happy than to have brought him home then regretted it. That's just a chance I am not willing to take.

She may regret her decision. But in the meantime, other than possibly the blogger herself, who is harmed? The baby was given the gift of life. And he has a home with a wonderful family who wants him. I think that speaks very nicely for itself.

In the meantime, for other parents who find themselves struggling with a difficult diagnosis: it is possible to cope, and even to he happy. To love and to grow, and to have a life you didn't imagine, didn't dream of, but are better - and happier - for.

To get there, you might need help. I wish everyone could have a doctor as good as my girls' pediatrician, who sees a lot of children with Down syndrome and who got us hooked up with all the specialists, therapists, and schools that we could ever need.

She led us to Good Shepherd School for Children, where Ellie attended preschool for 2 years. In the early days, Ellie's therapists - who came right here to our home - were more my therapists than hers. I can't tell you all the ways that they've enriched our lives together, and I miss them now that Ellie's a big girl in a big girl school.

Do you have a Kleenex handy? This is what they do:


ccw said...

I just read the four posts leading up to birth of L. Wow, they are so honest, raw, and emotional. I cannot even imagine.

I completely agree that one should never say never because life is long and anything can happen.

Victoria/Beachcomber said...

It's interesting. When I read your post about her, I was recoiling, too. Thinking, "How could you?" But I just read her whole blog and it changed my feelings for her. I admire her courage and honesty in putting it all out there for the world. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have to make a decision like that and live with it and keep going day after day... If I had to pass judgment, I'd say they did the right thing.