My son, Maxwell, was born on April 6, 2011. He was diagnosed with Down syndrome (DS) when he was two days old. I have since learned that Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a chromosomal condition involving all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21 rather than the usual two. DS is commonly associated with delays in physical and cognitive ability, as well as certain facial characteristics.
After Maxwell’s diagnosis, I received a flood of information from his pediatrician – mostly statistical and completely overwhelming. As much as I appreciated knowing the potential health risks of a child with DS, I did not find the material to be very uplifting. Let me say that I am the type of person who must find a bright side in everything. I believe God has a plan and does not make mistakes. At that point, the information provided by the doctor was all I had to go on. I prayed that God would grant me strength and courage to take the best care of my little blessing.
It became obvious to me that most of the information given by the medical community only told half of the story and, in my opinion, encapsulated a negative bias. My son has a very strong heart and has been very healthy. While I understand he is very fortunate for that, I also now know that of the 45 percent of DS children born with congenital heart defects, most are minor and require no treatment. The major heart defects are most often treatable, and procedures have become commonplace. Over 90 percent of those diagnosed with major congenital heart defects live well into adulthood – and live fulfilling lives.
With all of the measures being taken to ensure quality of life for these individuals, I was horrified to learn that the abortion rate for unborn children diagnosed with DS is over 90 percent. I believe this number is high because expectant parents are only given statistical information which is often based on thousands versus millions of cases. Many ethical issues are raised by doctors, and most reflect a bias that does not respect life as beginning at conception. Many in the medical profession suggest that it is irresponsible to have a baby with DS because of the burden on society. What most people do not realize is that many of these same people sharing propaganda about the termination of a DS-diagnosed unborn baby already favor abortion for nearly any reason. Some even advocate “after-birth abortions” (infanticide) if prenatal testing fails to give an accurate diagnosis. This is wrong – in the womband outside of the womb – to take these lives that God has given.
I welcome the opportunity to assist both expectant and new parents with this most exciting challenge. Maxwell has brought so much love into this world. He will soon celebrate his second birthday, and I could not imagine my life without him. He has been loved by many, and he in turn richly touches their lives. It truly breaks my heart to think that anyone would give up a baby’s life because a doctor says it’s genetically responsible to terminate the pregnancy.
There is no child alive who does not have special needs. That is why these babies are given to us to care for and love. While scientists think it important to create a superior race, it also slowly dulls our compassion and willingness to help our fellow man.
Max has taught all of us so much. I have a deeper concern for and understanding of people that would not have been possible if not for Max, and I will continue to receive him as a gift – a wonderful gift from God! While Max may have some facial characteristics associated with DS, he also carries on other characteristics, such as my lips (from Grandpa), his father’s hairline (from Grandpa), and his sister’s nose (from Grandma). He is our baby with our genetic makeup, and he is rocking that third chromosome like nobody’s business!
If you or someone you know faces the challenge of a diagnosis of the birth of a child with DS, contact me. You can send an email to the national office of Christian Life Resources or call the office at 1-800-729-9535, and the staff will relay your contact information to me.
Let’s talk! When you know how precious a child with DS is and what fulfillment he or she brings to a family’s life, you will come to know Down syndrome is not a curse but a wonderful blessing.
NOTE: Because of public awareness and early intervention programs, people with Down syndrome today are living longer and better-quality lives. The National Down Syndrome Society is full of information and resources that are quite useful and reliable. Visit www.ndss.org
Lisa Van Drese and her husband, Doug, and their son, maxwell, live in Gladstone, Michigan. They are members of Salem Ev. Lutheran Church in Escanaba.
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