Thursday, September 17, 2009

When reality hits you in the face.

One of my callings in life is that of "grief counselor". Ever since the loss of my precious and beautiful son, Gaven (pictured here), in 2002, I've gravitated towards others who live with grief. In the time following this loss, I joined and then began facilitating an infant-loss support group.

Then, in February 2007, the same day that I had by first OB appointment for my pregnancy with Lauren, I began a course of study that would lead me to a masters degree in counseling.

In the past few months, the grief agency for whom I was leading the infant-loss group,Gabby's Ladder, wanted to employ me as one of their professional grief counselors. I was both thrilled and nervous to take on such an endeavor.

Today brought me face to face with a dilemma that I could not have predicted or asked for. I was asked to call a mom who had lost a baby last month. We made an appointment for today.

After she filled out her initial intake I asked her to tell me about her baby and her loss. It is then that she told me that she had terminated her pregnancy because an AFP revealed that her baby might have Down syndrome.

It took me a moment to process this information. Did she really just say that after she found out she was pregnant with someone like Lauren she decided it wasn't worth it? It's hard not to take this personally, though I know that it wasn't and that as a professional, I need to stay on task; she is a grieving Mom who came to me for support.

As our hour and a half session progressed we explored her feelings and how she has dealt with this very difficult decision. I understand that this was hard for her. She delivered a tiny 20-week gestation baby and held her lifeless body for 7 hours. She has pictures, foot & hand prints, clothes and other mementos of her pregnancy and her preparation for this baby. But, she does not have her daughter.

I am not angry at her but I am angry at a World that diminishes a precious human life because it is not the thing that was expected. And, I'm angry that doctors still don't know how to tell an expectant Mom and Dad that having a baby with Ds is going to be a good thing. I'm also angry that this woman was tested for "abnormalities" like Ds and that in the name of making an "informed choice" she/we/everyone has to decide who is worth having and who is not.

What makes this issue even more compelling is the debate as to whether or not children with Ds are in fact a blessing or a "burden". An OB, who shall remain unnamed because I think she's stirred up enough bad will for herself to last a lifetime, posted something recently that due to the 'advances' in prenatal testing, there is the possibility of Ds being eliminated, or at least reduced. Alot of people think that would be okay.

Alot of the moms on my Ds board went toe to toe with this woman and asked her to justify her stance and her attitude that doctors don't need to tell expectant parents that having a baby with Ds can be a blessing. Instead, she believes it is only necessary to tell them what a struggle it will be.

When parents wrote in to tell her that "hey, we're doing this and it's great so please tell parents both sides of the story" she argued that we can only speak for ourselves and that we were biased and were basically fooling ourselves.

Am I fooling myself that continuing my pregnancy with Lauren was the best choice for her and my family?
Do I ever wonder what my life would have been like, never knowing Lauren?
Have we really been rewarded for choosing Lauren?
Was this a pro-life issue or was this just a matter of avoiding guilt and heartache?
Is the absence of guilt and heartache associated with a termination balanced by a feeling of peace and happiness?

All I can say is this: Lauren has blessed us in a way that I cannot really explain. She has brought new and wonderful people into our lives, she has forced me to reexamine my values and opinions, she has shown me how a simple gesture such as a smile or kiss can transform my mood and give me hope. She has a 'can do' attitude that I wish my other children would adopt and a determination that makes me want to fight so hard for her happiness.

Yes, Lauren is different than most children but that is such a good thing. I thank her for the joy she has brought to my other children and don't want to imagine their lives without her in it. They get such pleasure from being around her.

I realize that not everyone will get it: not everyone is cut out to say "yes" to a baby with Down syndrome. But, we did and I am oh, so happy about it.

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

Future Drummer?

Future Drummer?