Is it harder to have a child with Down syndrome?

Reader Tracy alerted me to a couple of articles (and a billion comments) recently posted at Motherlode, the NYTimes motherhood blog.  These articles and comments are exactly in line with what I've just begun researching and thinking about in a more systematic way, so I suspect I'll have more to say--here or perhaps in actual print--about them.

But for now I wanted to share a quick reaction.  The first article was written by a pregnant woman who already has a child with Down syndrome, and she shared that she isn't getting prenatal testing this time around.  The second article was published in response to all the hubbub from the first article.  It's called, "Is It Harder to Have a Child with Down Syndrome?"

Here's my immediate reaction:  who cares?  You know what's really hard?  Having a child.  You know what's waaaaaaay easier than having a child?  NOT having a child.  If you're trying to assess your pregnancy based on how easy the rest of your life is going to be with the person you're gestating, then you might be asking the wrong question.*

The summer before Maybelle was conceived, Biffle and I went on a research trip to talk to a bunch of friends with kids about whether or not we should have a kid.  We got lots of wonderful, sincere, thought-provoking feedback, but one thing stands out from that trip.  I think of it often.  Paul DeHart, husband of my good friend Rory Dicker, had this to say:

If you're interested in having an easy life, where things are under your control and you pretty much get to do what you want to do, then having a kid is a bad idea.  If you're looking for a life that's challenging but also more rewarding than you could imagine, that's rich, that opens up layers of meaning you didn't even know were there, then have a kid.**
He was right on the money.  I have no idea if being Maybelle's parent is "harder" than parenting a typical kid, and I don't care.  It's completely irrelevant.  Our lives are rich, meaningful, happy, full--and that is why we decided to have her.

*As you know, I am emphatically pro-choice.  I recognize that prenatal testing and pregnancy termination are very personal matters, and I respect that.  But I'll have more to say.
*Not Paul's actual words.  Paul is super-smart and probably sounded more like a theologian than I'm making him sound.


Anonymous said...

I think I first started reading this blog when you, dear author, were pregnant, and I was struck by how unrealistic your hopes were for parenthood! :) Do you look back at those old posts and think the same?
I remember thinking: wow, she is very concerned and optimistic about staying the same as she ever was- she has all these claims about how she will continue on as normal, differently than other parents do. Have you found parenthood has made you a more selfless person? More concerned about children in general, more forgiving towards everyone else? A part of it all? That has been my experience.

Shannon Drury said...

Beautifully put....by Paul and you. There would be a full-fledged revolution on our hands if every person knew this!