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A compassionate choice: Parenting a child with Down syndrome

My husband, Grant and I were married in 2009. We got started on trying for a baby fairly quickly because I was already 38 and we wanted to have enough time to have 2 children. We were devastated when my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I got pregnant again about 4 months later, and after a high risk and difficult pregnancy, in 2011 I gave birth to our beautiful and healthy daughter Celeste. When Celeste was 6 months old we started trying for a second child. Luckily, this time we conceived in only a few months. I counted down the days until I reached the 12 week mark, hoping that I wouldn’t miscarry again, and that the worst of the pregnancy symptoms would be behind me. I made it to 12 weeks and went in for some routine tests. My stomach dropped when I got a call from the nurse, saying the doctor wanted to see Grant and I as soon as possible. During the appointment, our doctor said she was a bit concerned about some of the results of my tests. She urged us to consider having amniocentesis – a test to determine if the baby had any chromosomal abnormalities. When I asked what kinds of things they’d be looking for, she said that given my age, and my test results, we had a higher chance of having a baby with Down syndrome (DS). I hadn’t had an amnio during my pregnancy with Celeste because I was afraid of miscarrying. We hadn’t planned on having one this time around either. We said we needed to talk it over together and consider our options, before going through with the test.

Over the weekend, after many tears and long discussions, Grant and I decided that no matter what the test results indicated, we wouldn’t terminate our pregnancy. We agreed to have a basic diagnostic ultrasound, but were not willing to risk the amniocentesis. During the first ultrasound, the radiologist told us that there were additional markers for DS, including nuchal-fold thickening and a choroid plexus cyst in the baby’s brain. So after the ultrasound, we prepared ourselves for the likelihood that our baby had DS. The pregnancy went fairly smoothly otherwise, and three weeks before my due date, I gave birth to our baby boy, Jackson. When he was two days old, Jackson was diagnosed with DS. Although the news was difficult, we were grateful to have a healthy, beautiful, and sweet baby boy. Now 6 months old, we can’t imagine what our lives would have been like without Jackson. His sister Celeste adores him, and our family and friends say what a good baby he is. We know that the road ahead will have challenges for Jackson and for us. But we believe that with the love and care that he receives in our family, he can grow up to be a young man who may touch the lives of others with his sweet smile and easy-going temperament. Our decision may not be right for everyone, but for us, it felt like the right and best choice. Given our belief in the value of every human life, welcoming Jackson into our lives was a compassionate choice for everyone in our family.

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