As I watched the BBC news last week… Ok, I’ll rephrase that; While Chris watched the BBC news last week and I happened to be in the same room on my iPad, I heard the headline “Thai surrogate baby boy with Down Syndrome left behind, while twin sister is taken home by parents”. In all honesty, most nights I’m tucked up in bed by 10pm, but that night I waited with interest to hear the story of Gammy unfold. As I watched, a tear fell. I felt deeply sad. I was upset for the baby boy, Gammy. Upset for his twin sister. Upset because this poorly baby needed heart surgery, just as our Oscar had. My heart was hurting for him. Upset because his surrogate mother in Thailand didn’t have enough money to care for him properly. Upset because the media repeatedly talked of Gammy who has Down Syndrome and his “healthy” twin sister. (FYI media – just because you have DS doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy). But mostly, I felt sad for the parents. And I’ll explain why.
A week on, Gammy’s parents have just spoken to the media in Australia. I decided to wait to hear their side of things before I passed judgement on here, mindful that there are always two sides to a story but in hearing their alleged take on things, I couldn’t help but feel even more sad.
Friends of mine have had trouble conceiving in the past. Some have gone on to conceive naturally, some have gone through various treatments, going on to have beautiful “healthy” (to use the media’s terminology) children, and some unable to conceive, have affected me to the depths of my soul. Life can be cruel.
It’s with this in mind, I wonder how Gammy’s parents can justify their actions? Surely, to have wanted a child so very badly, to have gone to a surrogate and to be given the gift of life that THEY have created against all odds… should it not be treasured as a blessing?
How could they think that splitting up Gammy and his twin sister was the right thing to do? That they would be comfortable with them growing up not knowing one another. Missing out on their bond, their friendship, their love? This is the part that upsets me the most.
It is said that the parents told the surrogate, once they found out that their baby boy had DS, that they no longer wanted him, however on the flip side and to their defence, I wondered if their choice was any different to that of you and I? I obviously have two children. The first, Oscar, who has DS and Alfie, just 16.5 months younger, who doesn’t. I chose to screen for DS with Alfie. I’d like to think that had Alfie had DS too, we would have chosen to go ahead with the pregnancy regardless. But we didn’t have to face that decision. The truth is that 92% of couples who find out their unborn baby has DS prenatally, choose to terminate the pregnancy. Are the parents of Gammy any different from that 92%?
I always say, that Chris and I didn’t have that choice. We didn’t know about Oscar’s diagnosis until after we’d had him. I’ve talked before about if we had known, what would we have done? We all think we know, however I guess none of us can truly say until we’ve walked a mile in those shoes.
It saddens me though that we still obviously live in a world of fear. Regardless of all the positive awareness about DS. The blogs, the presentations, the very proof in front of our very eyes when we see children and adults who have DS doing so well… people are still scared of the diagnosis and because of their lack of education, and choose to run away.
If I’m truly honest with you all, I wish that Oscar didn’t have DS. And that doesn’t mean for one second I want to change a thing about him. He’s perfect to me. What I mean is there are some things about DS that I wish I could take away from him. For all the positive awareness out there, and I know there is in abundance, we know I worry about the prejudices he may have to face in the future. However I am adamant, it’s certainly not the tragedy that others think it is or that media/antenatal literature would have us believe. Gammy’s father supposedly said, that he believes no one wants to be a parent to a child with special needs. Is it wrong of me to say that he’s probably right? No one wants their child to struggle, to face challenges, to face those said prejudices. But knowing what I know now, about Oscar, children like him and indeed, the most incredible adults, doing so very brilliantly, his ignorance grates on me.
I’m sad that Gammy’s parents know so little about DS that they felt they couldn’t cope. While I at first felt I would never lose that sadness behind my eyes for what I THOUGHT I wanted in a little boy, I can honestly say Oscar has ignited a light in my life (and my eyes) that I never dreamed possible. To have a child with additional needs is hard. Of course it comes with a set of challenges but if I could show Gammy’s parents Oscar today, I defy them to say, that they wouldn’t experience pure genuine happiness like we have.
I have heard to my utter disbelief, that when new parents have been given the news that their baby has DS, that they have been ushered into a private room, handed a booklet on adoption, and all but sent on their way, with no help, no support and no message of hope. Is it any wonder that his parents felt scared?
What I do know, it’s that it’s got us all thinking. It’s got the media talking about DS… And that can only be a good thing. I’m uncertain what outcome I want here though. I desperately want Gammy to get the health care he needs, and to become well. I want ultimately for Gammy and his sister to be together. Do I however, want their parents to change their minds and take him afterall? I’m not sure I want that. I’m not altogether sure they deserve him.
This week, a lady wrote to me saying that she had an 18 month old son and that when she’d been pregnant she feared he’d have Down Syndrome. He didn’t. She went on to say, that she always thought the answer was simple. However now that she’s a follower of my page, read my blog and seen the photographs and videos of Oscar, she knows if she’s lucky enough to fall pregnant again, she won’t fear. If for that one lady, our page has changed her perceptions and fears, my job is done.
I don’t judge Gammy’s parents or hate them for it. We are all different, of course. I just wish they’d had their eyes opened to what a gift Gammy could have been for them and their family, like that lady has recently. If they had, I’m certain their perceptions would have been changed and life would have been a happier one.