Friday, October 3, 2008

October Is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

What can I say to promote Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Not sure, but let me try.

Back in 1970, I had no idea what Down Syndrome was. I can't think of anyone I knew then who had DS, or a sibling or family member with DS.

But then came 1971, and July, and my firstborn child. THEN I learned about Down syndrome!

The doctor who delivered her came into my room afterward, and told her dad and me that she had Down syndrome. He said she would develop like any baby, but would reach her milestones slower. He spoke of someone in his neighborhood who had DS, who was fine, and who was about his age.

Husband went away to get some sleep, and a nurse offered me a sedative.

"No thanks," I said, "I have some serious thinking to do."

I don't remember what I thought, but I remember a tumult in my mind. I did fall asleep.

The hospital pediatrician came in my room in the morning, as different from the delivering doctor as dirt is from honey. He said my daughter "probably has Down's syndrome" but they would be doing a chromosome study to make sure. He advised me to get her on the waiting list for a state institution as soon as possible, because such wait lists could be 6 years. He said she would probably not live to be two years old, but if she did, then she would almost certainly die by the time she was ten. He said she'd never learn to read or do math, or a lot of other things normal children do. He advised me not to get too attached, and he didn't want me to breastfeed.

I was shocked. . . by his suggestion that I put my baby away in what was essentially a warehouse.

I was horrified. . . by his assumption she had no value for me because she might die young.

I was angry. . . that he didn't want me to do what I thought would be best for my child. And somewhere in my mind I wanted to do him harm. Good thing there wasn't anything handy to throw at him.

I said something along the lines of, "This is MY baby. I am going to take her home and love her, and do the best I can with her."

The pediatrician said I'd be sorry.

He has been wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.


Now, please leave a comment to tell me when you learned about Down Syndrome.


Rebecca Davis Winters said...

Hi Ann. I couldn't believe nobody had left a comment here yet! I have been so touched by reading your blog. I have been blessed to have two beautiful friends in my life with Down Syndrome. One was a boy when I was very young and I do not know where he is now. The other was a wonderful girl named Terryl and she passed away last year. Thanks for sharing your memories of your lovely daughter.

Ann of the Incredible Gift said...

This is a newish blog, and I consider myself lucky to have anyone stopping by to read and comment.

Thank you for stopping by and letting me know you knew not one, but two, friends with DS.

And thank you for the compliment.