In a book that collects the stories of children with Down syndrome and their families, Rhea Meanwell shared the story of her son Jacob, whom they learned during a routine ultrasound scan had serious health problems, including Down syndrome.
“22 weeks, after 90 minutes of scanning, we were told our unborn baby had a significant heart defect, markers for Down syndrome and was showing signs of hydrops (fluid collection around organs)” said Meanwell. “We were told the heart could be fixed. Down syndrome was something that not all parents were willing to live with, and hydrops would be fatal. We fell apart.”
Doctors “immediately” offered the couple an abortion, according to Meanwell. “We were immediately offered a termination. We were adamant, ‘No!’ We were advised to think about it. Again, we said, ‘NO!’ We were told to go home and think about it.”
The doctors continued to strongly suggest abortion and didn’t seem to want to take no for an answer as they insisted the couple reconsider their decision to give birth. However, the Meanwells held firm.
Then, in a subsequent sonogram, it was discovered that the hydrops had resolved. Had they gone with the doctors’ advice and aborted, thinking that their baby was doomed to die at birth, they would never have known their child would have survived.
When little Jacob was born, he was rushed to the NICU and soon had a successful open-heart surgery. As he grows, another surgery will be necessary.
Writing right after the first surgery, Meanwell said:
Every day since [the surgery], Jacob has thrived, developed, grown, and amazed us. He is doing things we were told he would never do. He sits unaided; he has started standing for a few seconds with no help…
He babbles constantly, says, “Mama” and, “Dada,” and is unbelievably aware. Even a recent stay in hospital for a bout of pneumonia could not erase his amazing smile, which can charm the birds from the trees. The bond he has with his big brother Noah is a joy to behold. We cannot believe the love we have for our gorgeous boy, he brings us such joy… His smiley face is what gets us through the tough days.
Having Down syndrome does not and will not ever define him… We know there will be challenges ahead – a second heart surgery being one of them – but he’s a tough cookie and our warrior, and will no doubt continue to prove people wrong.
This story could have ended very differently and tragically. Jacob could’ve been aborted, but fortunately, even in their shock and grief, the Meanwells didn’t listen to doctors who pressured them to abort. Sadly, the Meanwells are far from the only couple who was encouraged to abort after a Down syndrome diagnosis. Tragically, a CBS News report revealed that between 1995 and 2011, 67% of preborn babies were aborted after a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Source: Nicola Enoch #NobodyToldMe: The Truth about Down Syndrome (tantamount, 2020) 30
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