Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Choice Would You Make?

A friend’s daughter is a few months pregnant with her second child and because she is in her thirties she was offered a prenatal screening for Downs Syndrome which she took. She was then required to undergo a second test as an abnormality had shown up in the results. Second test done, the results came back. She has a 1 in 6 chance of giving birth to a baby with Downs Syndrome. There is already a child with Downs Syndrome in the family.

Talking to her dad, I asked what his daughter’s reaction was. She has decided to keep the pregnancy – whether or not her unborn child has Downs. She is already mentally preparing herself for this possibility. I admire her greatly and respect her for her decision.

I have had this conversation many times with friends. What would we do if we found out that the child we are carrying is in some way disabled – physically or mentally? Would we keep it? Would we terminate? Would we give birth to the child and then give it up for adoption? And although we all give our answers to these hard questions, the truth is that one never really knows what our reaction would be until faced with the prospect.

(Please note that when I use the term ‘disability’ I am referring to serious disabilities that would adversely affect the quality of life of a child.)

Discussing this very issue with my husband last night, he asked me what I would do should I find myself faced with the possibility of having a child with a disability. Without hesitation, I gave him my answer: I would terminate the pregnancy.

My decision does not make me a bad person, what it does make me is an honest person. I know my limitations; I know what I can and cannot cope with and I know, to a certain extent, that I am a selfish person. I like my freedom. I am not noble, and would never pretend to be. I cannot dedicate the rest of my life to caring for a disabled child. I do not possess that selfless nature. I do not have that strength.

I watched a close family friend raise her Downs Syndrome child on her own (she was widowed) and it was no walk in the park; and living then, as she did, in a so-called third world Country, made things even harder. There was no specialist care, no special school for her daughter to go to, no resources, nothing. Life was hard. She had to make many, many sacrifices and frequently had to rely on the (financial) goodwill of her friends for any help she needed. But she was a strong woman and never, not once, complained. I don’t know what regrets she may have had or how many nights she was kept awake by her thoughts of what life might have been like if things were different, or how many times she cried. And if indeed she did go though all these emotional states of mind, she never showed it to the world. Her daughter died of a stroke last year at the age of 25.

I have been trying for a second child and given my age (almost 37) research tells me that there is the possibility that my child may have Downs so it is an issue I have to think about whether I want to or not. Perhaps I may change my mind by the time I feel the baby kicking inside me – perhaps each kick it gives may give me the strength and resolve to give birth to him or her. I don’t know. It’s a bridge I will cross when I come to it. It’s a bridge I never want to come to.


Blogger Frances Uku said...

i have nothing but respect for your candor on such a subjective issue - don't let anyone judge you for it. that's all i wanted to say.

8:31 am  
Blogger TP said...

That's a very very difficult issue. I too don't think I have the strength to cope with a severely disabled child. You are quite honest in writing what you think.

9:53 am  
Blogger LondonBuki said...

I don't know what I would do... Right now I think I would do one thing but if I am faced with the situation, my decision might be different.

I agree with you... I'll cross that bridge if I get to it, I pray we never have to make that decision.

Well written post.

1:53 pm  
Anonymous ms. may said...

I admire you for truly speaking your mind about this. The fact of the matter is every individual has the right to make decision about their own life because they're the ones who have to live it. Many people don't understand or see that. I don't know what I would do. I'd like to think I would keep the baby but I just don't know because I haven't lived it.

I love your blog!

3:27 pm  
Blogger Calabar Gal said...

I am not prepared to cope or even come to terms with a child with Down's syndrome even with the resources et al in this country. Its a traumatic experience I would rather not experience.

11:19 pm  

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