Recently, I've been wrestling with a court decision that just happened in Oregon. You can read about it here: Wrongful Birth Court Case In it, the Oregon state court had a jury agree with parents who had a prenatal test called CVS that showed their child did not have Down Syndrome (when in fact she did), and held that both the hospital and the testing lab were at fault. The parents (unbelievably) testified in court (for all three of their children to hear, not to mention the world) that had they known their daughter would have Down Syndrome they would have aborted her. Their daughter is almost five now. Five years of knowing her and still they say this. How she could be allowed to stay within this family and not part of Child Protective Services I have no idea. The parents wanted money to compensate them for the "burden" they must now deal with and they were awarded $2.9 million.
So...let's get this straight: according to the court system in Oregon, children with Down Syndrome are a burden; children with Down Syndrome are understandably optional and barely deserve life. In fact, if you manage to "sneak" through the prenatal search and destroy mission in place within the health care system and survive, your parents can complain bitterly and be financially rewarded in court. The sad statistics right now for prenatal diagnosis of babies with Down Syndrome are startling: 90% of them are aborted.
It all comes back to struggle. The outside world perceives that people with Down Syndrome struggle throughout their lives. This might be an understandable notion since people with Down Syndrome take longer to learn basic skills like walking and talking, reading and writing, swimming and riding a bike. They are more likely to get leukemia, have a heart defect, have gastro-intestinal difficulties and live a shorter life span. There's no denying that those things are not something we would hope for any child so why would we allow a child with these difficulties to be born? Why would we tolerate the struggle when we can so easily put them out of their misery and erase the whole difficult situation.
Here's the secret: people with Down Syndrome may have to take longer than the average person to achieve basic skills but they don't suffer or struggle through it. Like anybody, they are proud of their achievements, excited about learning new things and eager to try. They learn things at a slower rate...what is the struggle in that? Who is that a struggle for? The parents? The onlooker? The classroom teacher? It doesn't matter to the child...they are busy learning, not looking around making comparisons.
If you asked Patrick on this day if he was happy, he would tell you emphatically: "Yes!" His older brother is home from college, he got to see his cousins and grandparents yesterday, and he is playing with his little sister this minute. Everyday life for Patrick is pretty glorious. He is fully included in his class of 6th graders and has had the opportunity and the good fortune to make good friends. He has a school and teachers who believe in his ability to learn and challenge him. He lives in a town that accepts him and has allowed him any opportunity he has asked to try. His struggles are frankly few. If only I could tell that to a court in Oregon.
Someone forgot to give the memo to those parents in Oregon: life is a struggle. There is no avoiding it, even if you have 2.9 million dollars. And, here's where the irony of life comes laughing in -- the one person that I know who suffers or struggles the least is Patrick. "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." Patrick intuitively knows this and lives his life that way, every day. He celebrates the little things --which it turns out are the big things. He loves without limits or conditions.
On this day, I'm going to try to remember the lesson: It is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the external rhythm.
I'm going to let my butterfly struggle, watch his wings unfold at the perfect moment and cherish the flight. He deserves that chance. We all do.