Seeing the Joy of Down Syndrome

Down SyndromeOne of the biggest fears pregnant women have is finding out that there's something wrong with the baby they're carrying. The stress associated with prenatal tests runs high, and many women even wait until an amnio or other test shows the baby doesn't test positive for one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities -- Down syndrome -- before they tell others their news.

Many who find out they are carrying a child with Down syndrome choose to abort -- as many as 90 percent according to some studies -- because they imagine a life filled with hardship and misery. But that's not always the reality. In fact, a series of three recent studies found that life is pretty happy when raising a child with Down syndrome. Almost 80 percent of families say they have a brighter outlook on life because of that child.

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Some fear raising a child with Down syndrome because of how it will affect their other typical children. But one of the studies found that their lives too are improved rather than hindered because of their sibling -- 97 percent of kids 12 and older said they were proud of their sibling with Down syndrome; 88 percent said they felt like better people because of them.

There's a blog I read, which I've mentioned before, called Enjoying the Small Things. In it Kelle Hampton writes about life with her daughters, one of whom -- Nella Cordelia (best name ever) -- has Down syndrome. She captures their life so beautifully and so magically, it has forever changed how I see life with a child who has Down syndrome. This video in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month also shows the joy and accomplishments of individuals with it that may surprise those who have never known people with the syndrome.

That doesn't mean life with a special needs child is always easy or that anyone will necessarily celebrate upon learning their unborn child has Down syndrome. But I do think knowing that Down syndrome isn't a death sentence to a happy life is important information for families to have as they go through all the screenings and get their results.

Increasingly more new simple blood tests for Down syndrome will be available. They are quick, less invasive, and come without the risks of some of other tests. That means more women will choose to take the tests, and more families will be faced with choices when they receive their results.

Those are some pretty big choices, and they are each family's to make. I'm thankful that I never had to do so. But when we are asked to do so, I think we owe it to ourselves to see all sides of the syndrome and know that a positive Down syndrome test result doesn't mean only negatives.

Would you choose to raise a child with Down syndrome?


Image via YouTube

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