It is so important that medical professionals choose their words carefully, as they have the power in their hands to shape a families future. Their reactions and attitude are literally what stands between a family choosing to end a pregnancy or take that journey.
“I’m so sorry but we have detected that your baby has Down syndrome. There are many medical issues associated with Ds, these include heart defects, leaukemia, dementia, hypothyroidism, sight or hearing problems, infections, blood disorders, hypotonia, sleep apnea, celiac disease. Also, life will be difficult as your child is sure to have learning difficulties. We can book you in for an abortion immediately, and there is no reason why you can’t go on to have a healthy child”.
Sounds terrifying doesn’t it?! I know I would have been terrified if I’d had to have faced that and I would never judge anyone for decisions they make on that kind of information. Having a picture painted for them of a bleak existence for their child and family. I am thankful everyday that I was never put in this position, and I feel for any family that is.
But what about if new parents heard this?,
“Firstly congratulations on your pregnancy. Now we have some information for you which will be extremely hard for you to hear, we have detected that you child will be born with Down syndrome. Now before you panic, 2017 is a great year for a child to be born with Ds. There is so much support out there and a whole community of parents and children on exactly the same journey as you. We are happy to put you in touch with a family if you feel this would benefit you. It’s important that we go through with you the medical issues that are commonly associated with Ds, although it is impossible for us to tell you which of them could affect your baby. There may be many, and yet there may be no health problems at all and your child will be totally healthy. If your child does have health problems, most of them are manageable with our help. We are here to give you information on both negative and positive aspects, and help you to reach the best decision for you and your family. Whatever you decide to go from here is totally your decision and you need to know you are not alone”.
Makes a huge difference doesn’t it? It just demonstrates how important words are. I feel so strongly that if parents are given information in a positive but educational way, then the rate of abortions would hugely drop in regards to children with Ds. When you are bombarded with negative information, it’s so hard to see the light. But what if you were shown the light in Down syndrome? What if the amazing gift it is was also portrayed during a diagnosis. Equal information, negative and positive is not only what every family needs to hear, but it is also their right. Every new mother or father has the right to know that actually, even though it’s not the news they wanted, it will be a journey that they would never want to change.
Yes it can be hard and yes there will be struggles, but show me a life that doesn’t have that. No prenatal diagnosis can ever detect just how wonderful your life will become, how much joy your child will bring to your life and how much they will teach you along the way.
So let’s be honest with new parents. Let’s not just show the scary side of what could be coming their way. And I mean could, as River is proof that Down syndrome is not so terrible and bad health is not guaranteed. Let us promote being honest, good and bad, positives and negatives, hardships and joy. Every parents deserves to here the truth.