Saturday, February 25, 2012

What is Normal?

I've always wondered what "normal" actually is. The day Piper was born we found out that she had Down Syndrome. Instantly she would face the label not "normal". We were told that she most likely wouldn't develop like other "normal" babies. Hearing this as a parent is hard. Every parent wants the best for their child. I would love to disprove anyone who thinks Piper isn't "normal".

Since Piper's surgery she has been smiling, laughing, talking (in her own fashion) and teething. She is also working on sitting up and crawling. She is acting like any "normal" baby especially now that she is waking me up in the night to be fed. There are times when I forget that she has Down Syndrome; I forget that she had three holes in her heart, because all I see is a happy smiling baby staring back at me. I must say I love those big old gummy smiles.

Children who have Down Syndrome tend to have more medical complications than "normal" children. I belong to a Down Syndrome support group where three of the babies Piper's age have all had open heart surgery and a few of the older kids have had surgery to place tubes in their ears to counter hearing loss. Putting all these medical issues aside, all of these children are loved. Through the highs and the lows none of the parents regret having their child with Down Syndrome.

Many find their children a blessing, so it is hard to accept that there is a new "safe" test to eliminate future babies being born with Down Syndrome? The new blood test, MaterniT21, checks the fetal DNA present in the mother's blood for the extra copy of the 21st chromosome that causes the most common form of Down syndrome. Those promoting the tests claim this is a safe test, safe for who is the biggest question I ask. Certainly not safe for Piper or any other children, born or unborn, with Down Syndrome. It is claimed the test is safer then an amniocentesis, which can in rare circumstances cause a miscarriage, however my concern (largely because ths test can be carried out ealier than traditional genetic screening tests) is that someone who receives a "positive" result from this new test is more likely to terminate. So to me, it doesn't feel very safe for an unborn baby with an extra chromosome.

I worry where it will stop. Will people terminate their pregnancies because their unborn children might have other learning or developmental disabilities? The point is that there is a reason why people are different. It is diversity that teaches us compassion and empathy. Without differences I don't want to think where we would be as a society.

So Piper isn't "normal" according to some people but if being different or unique, as we all are, is "normal" then her extra chromosome makes her as "normal" as can be.

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