A touching exchange between a mother and her daughter with Down syndrome was shared by disability advocate Maria Shriver, and has since racked up hundreds of thousands of views. The simple conversation is touching countless hearts, with its frank and honest discussion of fears before pregnancy, and the reality after.
“What did you wish for me when I was pregnant?” Shriver wrote in the caption. “What a profound question that this mother answers so beautifully, so honestly, so profoundly. … It made me tear up. I wish I’d asked my mother this question. She would have loved this conversation. She would have been so thrilled that this conversation could take place, and that people could witness this love.”
Maria Shriver’s mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics after spending much of her life advocating for those with intellectual disabilities. Kennedy Shriver’s sister, Rosemary, was believed to have an intellectual disability, and was lobotomized in secret by Shriver’s grandfather, Joe Kennedy. Rosemary was never the same after, and lived in an assisted living facility for people with disabilities for the rest of her life; her condition was likewise kept secret from her siblings. They had been told she was merely reclusive, and had no idea where she actually was. It wasn’t until after Joe Kennedy had a stroke that left him unable to speak or walk that they were told the truth, and her siblings then visited her regularly. Kennedy Shriver in particular was close to Rosemary, and she was also ardently pro-life, regularly campaigning against abortion.
READ: Because of Beckett: A world made better by one little boy with Down syndrome
In the video, the young girl with Down syndrome asked her mother, “What did you wish for me when I was pregnant? And how is it different now?”
The mother took a moment to think before answering honestly. “Hmm… when I was pregnant… ” she began. “You remember we told you the doctors called, and we said, we’re going to have a baby with Down syndrome? You remember? And I told you I was really scared. And so, I was wishing that Down syndrome would not hurt you. And I was wishing that Down syndrome would not hurt our family, because I was scared, right? And then… ”
“Here I am!” the girl responded.
“Here you are,” the mother said. “And is it hurting you? Is it hurting me? Is it hurting dad? No, right? So I was afraid that it was going to hurt, but it doesn’t even hurt us. Yeah?”
Most women have reported negative experiences with receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis, whether it is before or after birth. One study found that just 11% of women reported having a positive experience, while another survey found 13% of doctors admitted to overemphasizing the negative aspects of Down syndrome so the mother would have an abortion. A Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN) campaign from parents about how they received their diagnoses likewise had overwhelmingly negative feedback.
Yet as this video shows, Down syndrome families overwhelmingly find that their fears were unneeded. Life with Down syndrome or any other disability may be different from what was expected, but that doesn’t mean it will be bad, scary or painful. People with disabilities have just as much a right to life as anyone else, and their lives are just as full of value and meaning as their able-bodied peers.
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