You and your spouse have been waiting and are excited about having this baby. You have tried for a long time to start your own family. You have thoughts and dreams that you alone can see. All of this brings you great joy. You attend a routine 2nd trimester ultra-sound and hear the calm voice of the physician explain that your baby has Down Syndrome (or cerebral palsy, or profound mental and physical disabilities). All at once your dreams are shattered. You cling to your spouse and weep asking, “What shall we do?” You reel with questions about how to care for him/her, how you will find the time, the patience, money and resources. Reality sets in that this is going to change your lives…forever.
Lots of families face this situation all too often, having to make life-altering choices. Many, unfortunately, will choose abortion and in many cases the doctor may even suggest it. Others will carry the baby and choose adoption. Still others will place their babies in institutions. Yet some will choose to carry the baby and parent; they will care for the child, raise the child and provide the best life possible.
Out of ignorance, many people will stereotype these children who have a disease or diagnosis. Those who are born with disorders go on to live very normal, successful lives and many have even gone on to colleges and universities. They should never be defined by the disease or disorder they have. The child born with a disability is not a mistake! As the child grows, he/she will achieve many of the benchmarks normal children achieve only at a slower pace. These children possess many of the universal qualities that all of us have; they smile, laugh, communicate, grow and learn.
For ten years now I have been blessed and changed by the people I have described. I have come to know and love them. I am privileged to work in a career where I have been forever changed by the mentally or physically challenged. I see uniqueness in each individual that I was blinded to for many years. I have come to learn that labelling a person who has a disorder is just as damaging and wrong as using a racial slur against another human being who has different skin color or ethnicity. Many people tend to avoid the persons I describe and keep a distance through staring and pointing fingers. They have no regard for their feelings or the pain they cause by such actions but challenged people have them just like you and I do. No one is made more important by such behavior and no one enjoys being the victim of ridicule.
The child who has a disability or disorder is a gift from God just like every other child. He/She has the ability to teach all of us selflessness, patience, endurance, courage, and love; qualities all people need to live a full and rich life. I have been the recipient of a smile of recognition from a friend whose hand is disfigured. I have seen the twinkle of an eye from one who is excited to see me because I extend him love and respect. My heart grows and melts with the honor I’m given by working with the mentally and physically challenged. They enrich my life and I am grateful. Consider each human life a gift and each human heart possessing love to offer.