Down but by no means out.
Simon Barnes of The Times is a great Sports Writer. I always to turn first to his page because he’s so even handed with the raw emotion and the actual occasion. He writes beautifully about the pointlessness of sport while still held in its’ magical thrall. A good read every day, trading adjectives and verbs in the volatile market of what distills to grown men kicking a ball about.
But today he wrote about his sons’ condition of Down’s Syndrome. Any parent who can read the article without wiping their eyes is kidding themselves. One statistic that stuck was the stark reality showing that 94% diagnosed with the pre-born condition results in termination. I’m not sure what this says about parenting in the 21st century but it’s nothing with any obvious merit.
There is nothing I can add to his honesty, but I do remember when our second child was growing in the womb, we too had the test to detect what medical science calls an abnormal foetus. We talked about the long term consequences of a Down Syndrome child with all the seriousness of those faced with decisions guided by nothing but a moral compass. But silently I prayed hard – for the first time since being confirmed as a lifelong atheist – that our baby would be fit and healthy.
In public I would never have called for termination, but in a sleepless night before the test, that may have been my preference. And now it’s brutally obvious that any such decision would have been plain wrong – you cannot deny a child life because it doesn’t fit with your view of how life should be. We can no more play God than those choosing designer babies with their blue eyes and Cambridge intelligence.
It made me realise how lucky we are to have two healthy kids whose lust for life validates our own. Take the religion out of it and you are still truly blessed with children even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
I’m going to send a donation to the Down Syndrome Trust once my blurry eyes run out of tears. Not because I feel sorry for the kids – they know no different – but because if they pass the stigma exam of what children should be, they deserve all the help they can get.
And if this seems like sentimental nonsense without an obvious point then welcome to being a parent.