Monday, August 13, 2007

today : Guest Blogger Alisande Nuttall asks : "Didn't you have the amnio?"

"How come you didn't have an abortion?" isn't usually the first question a mother expects on introducing her new baby to neighbours colleagues and acquaintances. For more than one in a thousand of us though, this is as commonplace as "what did he weigh?", "are you feeding him yourself?" and "ahhhh, bless" is to the rest of the new parent population.

The question is not intended to wound. It comes spontaneously, usually wrapped up as "did you (or didn't you) have the amniocentesis?" and/or "did you know?", but we can hear it loud and clear whenever we introduce our new baby who has Down's Syndrome.

As new parents needing companionship, support, and to be recognised for our ordinariness, we usually accept the comment gracefully, hiding any sense of shame or outrage if we can. We know you were caught off guard. We know you probably haven't had a good reason to examine your prejudices before. We know that prenatal testing sets up an expectation of termination. We try to overlook it. We may even answer as requested, when you go on to add "and er, if you don't mind me asking, how old are you?" We see you need to evaluate who was at fault here and to what extent. If we knew in advance, then obviously we won't be needing much sympathy. If we didn't, but were past our mid 30s, we might deserve a little. If neither of these apply then its ok to be very, very sorry. There but for the grace of God....or so it seems your script is running.

The good news is that, as life goes on, we find you are often worth the investment of time and courage and selflessness that it takes to educate you. We remember when we were as well-meaning but ignorant. We allay your fear that support will always be a one-sided transaction from you to us. We show you how wonderful our child is and how much we have come to love them. You make the effort to let us know that you can see. We congratulate you on your healthy children and show that we are genuinely pleased for you. You stop feeling embarassed. And by the next time you go for prenatal testing, we hope you have learnt that it is not a cure-all, that it may raise bigger questions that it answers and that whether you have it or not, cannot affect whether your baby already has Down's syndrome.

©Alisande Nuttall

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