A couple of e-mails responding to this column:
–As a father of a beautiful 8-year old boy, Christian, who has Down Syndrome I can honestly say that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. We knew that there was a possibility for a birth defect but did not find out until the moment he was born. I will never forget the pain and confusion I felt at that time. I was present with my wife during the C-section and when Christian came into this world I was overjoyed with the birth of our first child, my son. Then the doctor and nurses hung their heads and announced to me that our beautiful baby had Down Syndrome. I was confused and hurt by their announcement. Here is the most joyous day of our lives with the birth of our son and the doctors and nurses acted like it was a funeral. I left the room and walked down the hallway and met my mother-in-law. I was crying. Alarmed, my mother-in-law asked me “what was wrong?” Her first instinct was that something terrible happened to Genine, my wife. When I told her our baby had Down Syndrome, my mother-in-law, in probably her finest moment, said to me “Oh, is that all. Lets go look at the baby”. From that point forward, the birth of my son has never been looked at as a tragedy but as a gift to us. Most Down Syndrome children are born with heart defects. Christian had a small hole at the top of his heart. We took him to a cardiologist twice. The first visit to examine the hole at the top of his heart. On the second visit, a miracle happened. The hole at the top of Christian’s heart had closed on its own. A “one in a million” occurrence the cardiologist said. Christian would not have to have heart surgery nor have to go back to the cardiologist again.
Since then, my life with our son Christian has been nothing but a joy. He has taught me a lot about his world and myself. Sure, Christian’s development is much slower than other children’s development including our non-Down syndrome child Corinne. Christian has taught me patience and to notice and enjoy the little things in life that normally I take for granted or never really noticed. He has touched everyone’s lives that he has come into contact with and continues to receive the support of his family and community. Occasionally we get the strange looks from adults and children noticing that Christian is different. But those looks quickly turn to looks of acceptance and tolerance once people get to know him. There is nothing wrong with children with Down Syndrome. I am not a religious person but I truly believe God has a purpose for people with Down Syndrome and entrusted us with this precious gift to raise our child in a loving and supportive environment so that he can be self-sufficient later in life.
I truly believe that it is peoples’ attitudes towards Down Syndrome that needs to change. Once they realize that children born with Down Syndrome do have value in our society, people will see a side of life that is not only innocent but beautiful. When Sarah Palin announced to the world her son Trig, my heart soared. Here is an intelligent hard working woman who “gets it” and sees Down Syndrome children not as a burden on society but as a gift. Welcome to the club, Sarah. 1 in 800 births in this country is a Down Syndrome child. Do the math, that’s a lot of families who now have VP candidate who is one of them and will advocate for these families.
–Rich,I appreciate and agree with your article about how Trig’s life could have an enormous impact on changing how many pockets of our society look unfavorably upon children with special needs. I am happy to say that in Northwest Arkansas, we are not one of those pockets. We have a 9-year old, Caleb, who was born with mental and physical disabilities due to Hydrocephalus. He is an inspiration to his family, his therapists and everyone else that spends two seconds with him. He was our first child, and we have had four more children since, each two years apart. The reaction we get from people, wherever we go, is not one of disapproval, but admiration. I cannot remember a single time anyone has ever approached my wife or me to question whether we made the right decision. As an example, after Caleb was born, my work associates at Tyson Foods, Inc. threw us a baby shower. There were so many people that showed up to show their support, folks were spilling out of the large conference room and were lining the halls. As soon as my wife and I stepped into the hall with Caleb in her arms, everyone began to cheer. I have seen the same reaction with others that have brought special children into the world. I believe God has a special plan for each of us, and can use children with disabilities to give perspective and inspiration to others like no one else can. Perhaps God blessed the Palin family with Trig for the very purpose of bringing perspective and inspiration to a Nation in desperate need of both.