A couple of weeks ago on "The Today Show" they did a segment with an expectant couple who decided to try the new MaterniT21 PLUS prenatal test that can detect chromosomal abnormalities about 4 weeks sooner than the traditional CVS or amniocentesis. Let me be clear: I am not against prenatal testing. I didn't personally have any testing done with Owen, but I understand why it is offered and I understand why some people choose to have it. It is a personal choice and I'm not here to debate that point.
I happened to be watching the show that day and the segment and my reaction have been swirling in my brain since then, mostly because of the way the host and the show's doctor spoke. I've never been a fan of Matt Lauer; in fact I think he's an arrogant jerk on TV. But to hear him say to the couple, let's hear the "good news" and then the couple says they are "safe" from Down syndrome frankly pissed me off. The doctor ended the segment by saying she's glad that they will have a happy, healthy baby and a wonderful life together.
"Good news"? "Safe"? So then having a child with Down syndrome is bad news? It's evil? It's wrong? How does the doctor know that their child will be happy and healthy? While I heard the couple say they just wanted to be prepared if their child did have a chromosomal abnormality, I wonder what would have happened had the news not been what they expected. Clearly they are on national television and they knew the results of the testing beforehand. What if the news wasn't "good" as Matt Lauer stated? What would the reaction have been then? Would they have even been on the show? My guess is probably not.
I'm here to tell that couple that it's OK to have a child with Down syndrome. It might rock your world when you hear those words and let it sink in, but it's going to be OK. You will have the joy you expected and then some. Things might come at a slower pace, but they will happen for your child. You will learn things about yourself that you didn't know existed.
Bad things happen to people everyday, regardless of having Down syndrome or not. Children who are born "healthy and perfect" are diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses everyday. A test isn't going to predict that (yet!). This isn't a pro-prenatal testing vs. anti-prenatal testing issue. This is a changing the way we view Down syndrome issue. That national segment reached how many people? How many people who already know very little about Down syndrome just equated it further with "bad" news and not being "safe"? In my opinion, one person is too many.
The MaterniT21 PLUS test isn't going to predict how much you will love your child with Down syndrome. How much you will root for them to conquer the next big skill. How much more pride you will take in the small things, the small victories, the simple things in life. How it will cut you to the core when someone says "Down syndrome isn't compatible with life" when you know and can see that your child is full of life and living it to the max. How you will live a wonderful life as a family, just as you had hoped.
Those are the truths that no test can tell you or predict for you.
And I know because I live it everyday and I'm proud.