Human Interest

Her twin girls had Down syndrome, so doctors urged her to abort six times.

Down syndrome

Rachael Prescott was expecting twin babies when, at eight weeks, some abnormalities were spotted. It turned out her baby girls were identical twins, and both had Down syndrome. While Prescott calls her daughters miracles, doctors urged her to abort them six times.

“At my first prenatal appointment at around eight weeks, six specialists took turns reviewing the scans and presenting the same results,” Prescott said, according to the Daily Mail. “We sat through similar spiels from each, mystified at their concerns over whether our girls may have Down syndrome, when they without a doubt, did have serious heart defects. Information on navigating their cardiac situation was dwarfed by the push for genetic testing and possible means of abortion. I wanted to explain how far I was from desiring to end my pregnancy, but at that moment I could only sit in silence.”

Though Prescott didn’t want to have an abortion, and was excited at the upcoming birth of her daughters, the pressure to abort continued. Though the heart defects were a certainty, their Down syndrome diagnosis had not been confirmed, as Prescott refused additional testing. When they were born, the baby girls were both officially diagnosed with Down syndrome. But even then, the negativity continued.

“We came to grips with congenital heart disease and when they were born, we celebrated the news of a confirmed diagnosis of Down syndrome,” Prescott said, explaining that they were lucky to not immediately need surgery. “We were so grateful and relieved. Those surrounding us however, approached the topic of Down syndrome with timidity. It was assumed that we were grieving but we quickly assured them of the lack of sadness or grief in our hearts concerning our beautiful, breathing, moving, hearts beating, baby girls, and their extra chromosomes. After the girls were born, we excitedly dove into all things Down syndrome.”

 

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Yet as she researched information on Down syndrome, Prescott was stunned to find that much of it was negative. “[I] read book after book on Down syndrome and I was increasingly saddened to find myself slammed into chapter upon negative chapter of advice regarding grieving, social and family tolls and every probable medical complication under the sun,” she said. “I realised even within our rapidly progressing society, human rights for people with Down syndrome are primitive at best and medical professionals connect social prejudices to Down syndrome so it presents as a negative occurrence to parents.”

Her twin daughters, Annette and Charlotte, are now one year old and doing great. “Our girls teeter around, taking their own steps, giggling and exploring every inch of our living room,” she shared. “They love to play with their big brothers and love their fluffy dog, Max. They have begun the typical sister squabbles over toys and sippy cups, yet snuggle up together in their shared crib each night in complete love.”

Many mothers have negative diagnosis experiences, as Prescott did. According to one study, just 11% of women reported having a positive diagnosis experience, while a survey of doctors found that at least 13% purposely overemphasize the negative aspects of Down syndrome in an effort to pressure women into having abortions. For Prescott, that pressure was continuous throughout her entire pregnancy. Yet now, she’s happier than ever to have stood firm against it, and is working hard to dispel the poor attitudes that continue to surround Down syndrome.

“All children are likely to get illnesses and injuries, not just children with Down syndrome,” she said. “[Yet] the stories of mourning and grief far outnumber parental accounts of delight and joy. We hope in the future, to direct expectant parents away from false preconceptions, and towards what we have found to fill us with so much joy. The crazy love we have for our girls surpasses any emotional strain resulting from their medical needs. I would still undoubtedly choose my children just as they are.”

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