Happy and Healthy

I was reading an article yesterday about an Australian couple who hired a Thai surrogacy agency to have their children.  A shady practice in itself but now it has been revealed that this man is sex offender and there are further accusations that the couple only took one of their children and left the other twin, who had Down’s Syndrome, in Thailand with the surrogate.  It remains to be seen what the truth really is, but what caught my attention in this article is this section prenatal testing:

“David Farnell, who has three children from a previous relationship, said the problems began when they found out before the twins’ birth in December that the boy would have Down syndrome. The couple was angry that the surrogacy agency had not conducted tests earlier that could have detected the condition, because by the time they found out, it was too late in the pregnancy to abort the fetus. Had they known earlier, they probably would have terminated the pregnancy, David Farnell said.
‘I don’t think any parent wants a son with a disability,” he said. “Parents want their children to be healthy and happy.'”

I read posts all the time on various pregnancy and baby related discussion boards about prenatal testing.  Parents post their concerns about the odds they have been given on their child having Down’s Syndrome or another condition.  The replies, while attempting to be supportive, often are tales of how the person responding or a friend of theirs had a very high chance of their child having “X” condition but then they had a Perfectly Normal Happy and Healthy baby.  The odds may seem high but don’t worry your baby may still be NORMAL.  They may still be PERFECT.  They may be HEALTHY and HAPPY.  And every time I see one of these threads I respond with something like this:  Imagine that a parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome was reading your comments.  How do you think they would react to your implication that their child was not perfect, normal, happy or healthy?

Prenatal testing has given parents the potential to find out if their child has a developmental issues, some of which will mean the baby will not survive or that it will have a disability.  It’s given parents a choice of raising a child with a disability or aborting them, but as one actor from the play Rare (made up of a cast who all have Down’s Syndrome) comments, that’s discrimination.  There is this notion that these babies, who do not have life threatening conditions, are damaged and that they will not bring happiness to their parent’s lives.  I haven’t been faced with this decision, so I can’t say what I would do; however, my friend’s with disabilities bring such joy to their parents’ lives and mine.  Their families have not had it easy (who thinks it’s easy to raise any child?!), but they would not change their son/daughter.

Everyone who is faced with this question has to answer it for themselves, but what I’d like to see is for the world to stop using happy/healthy/perfect/normal as a descriptor for a child who does not have a diagnosed disability.  Perhaps if we all supported the idea that every child, no matter what their abilities, was perfect and normal there would be fewer parents who felt they had to abort a DS fetus.  There might be more parents who felt that adding a disabled child to their family was not an end to happiness but a joyful addition.

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