You’re pregnant and you go for all the routine tests, including the Amniocentesis and you find out your baby has Down syndrome and you panic!
Personally when I was pregnant I opted out of doing the Amnio for the simple reason that if there were any ‘abnormalities’ I didn’t want to worry about it while I was pregnant. It wouldn’t help getting stressed in a time that is supposed to be enjoyable and pregnancy and birth alone are enough to stress about. However I do understand a women’s need to know so they can prepare themselves and gather all the information available to them if there is an issue.
There are many fears and myths surrounding Down syndrome. Most of which are simply generated to lack of information. People think that Downs is a rare disorder but in fact it is more common than one would think as about 10 % of births in a year are Down syndrome. Often it is believed that people with Down syndrome have a short life span but this is not true and in recent years their life expectancy has even increased. Down syndrome is not hereditary as perceived but in fact occurs at random, only 1% of births are hereditary. Down syndrome children are born by young and old women alike, it does not target older women only as previously thought. Children with Down syndrome do not have severe cognitive delays but rather mild to moderate cognitive delays and can function fully in normal society. People with Downs do not need to be institutionalised; they can be active members of society, get jobs, help in the community and take part in sports or recreation. People think that children with Down syndrome are always happy and this is not true as they feel emotions just like the rest of us. They can form meaningful friendships and relationships and even go on to getting married.
There is much support available for parents with Down syndrome children. There is a wide array of information online; there are face book groups and support groups etc. The DSSA (Down Syndrome South Africa) has a website with all available support information. There is also the Down Syndrome Inclusive Education Foundation.
Any parent with a Down syndrome baby has their challenges but will tell you what an extreme blessing their children are! Their development is a bit delayed which just means they will take a bit longer to crawl all over the house. Parenting in general comes with its ups and downs and feelings of guilt; our society is plagued with a varying degree of disorders, from ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome to chronic illnesses, diabetes or asthma. We all have to face the same socio economical challenges. There may be a number of problems that can occur in raising children but none that out way the joy of having them. They bring laughter and fun, fulfilment and joy which far exceeds an obstacles we may face.