How is this not Murder?

  

How do I say this?In this country it is not legal to perform an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, because at that point the baby becomes ‘viable’, that is, able to exist outside the womb. BUT if the baby has been diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, then the law allows abortion up to 39weeks and six days. That’s full term (full term is anything after 37 weeks), a mere ONE DAY before baby’s due date. 

This is my son at just 34 weeks of pregnancy – a few minutes after he was born. He cried loudly straight away, he required no resuscitation or ventilation. He was eager to suckle. He weighed 5lbs 10oz. 

34 weeks. For almost another SIX WEEKS after this point it would have been legal for him to be aborted.

I received a comment the other day to the effect that abortion up to 40 weeks wasn’t murder. How does this person imagine the procedure is done? Do they imagine that the baby is just “removed” or magicked away? Do they perhaps think that labour is induced and the baby conveniently fails to be alive at the end of the process; or no one bothers to put the batteries in?

My labour was induced and my baby was very much ALIVE and VIABLE at the end of it. Yes, even though he indubitably had Down’s Syndrome, he was, I repeat, ALIVE and VIABLE. 

Am I making myself clear?

In order to “abort” a foetus after 24 weeks of pregnancy the death of the baby must be brought about before labour is induced. I don’t know how – I can’t bear to research it. How is this not “murder”?

If a woman is assaulted and her unborn baby dies as a result, then her attacker will be charged with a criminal offence. Her foetus has a right to life, as does any other human being.

I repeat again – the picture here is of a human foetus at 34 weeks gestation. A foetus with Down’s Syndrome.

Am I making myself clear yet?

Raising Adults…

At the top of this blog it states that it is about ‘Down’s Syndrome, my family, and me’.¬† My purpose in compiling this record is to demonstrate that people with Down’s Syndrome, and their families, can and do enjoy excellent quality of life on a day-to-day basis. We are very ordnary: we are the rule rather than the exception.

The fact that our youngest child has Down’s Syndrome does not dominate our lives to the exclusion of everything else. Freddie is just one part of the complex organism that is the Fender family (there is also some ‘neurodivergence’ within the family so, yes, it is complex). I have two other children, and a husband (and a dissertation to complete which, so far, shows no sign of writing itself -how inconsiderate), and so I make no apology for talking about something other than Down’s Syndrome today.

I have been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I have heard it said that staying home with the children is harder than going out to work. I disagree. I have always been mindful of the fact that not only was I my children’s primary carer, but I was also their first teacher. I hope I taught them well: I tried my hardest.

Despite having made the family my sole focus all these years, there are some parents who, I know, think that I am lackadaisical about parenting almost to the point of neglect. Why?

Because I allow my children too much freedom in making their own choices. I put them at risk of making a mistake.

For instance: my daughter is in the process of choosing which A’levels to study, and where to study them. I have given her my opinions, I have given her some advice to consider, but ultimately the decision will be hers. I trust her to make this decision. I know she hasn’t much life experience, but who knows the inner workings of her heart and mind better than she does herself? And if it turns out that she hasn’t made quite the right decision this time, then I will be there to help her pick up the pieces and start over. A mistake is rarely the end of the world; it is usually a valuable learning experience that brings us a step closer to the things we really want, or need.

Many of her peers had their GCSE options chosen for them by their parents. They have also had their A’level choices dictated to them, and their place of study, even though they themselves have different ideas of what they would like to do. One or two have even got a career path ready mapped out for them. I know these parents only have their children’s welfare at heart. They think they are doing the very best for them. I, though, can’t help but feel sorry for these kids, set down, tram-like, to run in the grooves¬† of a predetermined course through life, with no opportunity to go ‘off-road’ and explore their own character and potential. How are they supposed to flourish under that wieght of expectation? How can they step forward in life unafraid to take opportunities or try things out, if they believe that making a mistake will be catastrophic? How can they bounce back if they have never been taught to bounce, or have never heard that bouncing is an option?

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A typical Fender family photograph – no one looking at the camera, everyone doing their own thing.

Children are not simply extensions of their parents, they are unique, and often surprising, individuals. Watching my own three grow and develop their own particular personalities, interests, abilities and quirks has been an endless source of fascination and ‘who’d’a thought it’ delight. I packed my eldest off to university last September. Despite his grandparents enthusiastically urging him to ‘go into computers’ at least once a week since he was about five, I am pleased to say he has taken not a blind bit of notice, and has pushed off to study languages, having discovered an unexpected aptitude for them in High School. As a person whose ability to speak other tongues begins and ends with just repeating English words more loudly, this is both bewildering and wonderful to me. Hopefully he will end up doing something he loves for a living, and it may well be a career that neither me, nor his grandparents, ever knew existed.

A mother’s job is not to raise children: it is to raise adults from children. Adults who are ready to make their own decisions, make their own mistakes, and having learnt from them, find their place in the world. The only ambition I have ever had for my children is that they acheive a sense of deep contentment, and I believe that in order to give them the best chance of doing so, I have to allow them to discover who they are. I will go along with them for the ride, and to make sure someone has their back if the road gets rough.

 

 

Bish-bash-bosh Baking …

I love cake, but it’s complicated.

     Some days I NEED cake (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean). Luckily, Freddie loves baking. He especially loves baking with Big Sister because she doesn’t care how much mess he makes, or try to stop him licking spilt flour off the worktop. 

     We’ve never used those ready-made just-add-an-egg packet mixes (for reasons which will become clear when you read the recipe). The method described perfectly illustrates the ‘bish-bash-bosh’ approach to getting things done that we have developed.

    I would just add that, when cooking with a little rascal like Freddie, I find it wise to gather all the ingredients and equipment before inviting him into the kitchen. This reduces the chances of him winging something breakable across the kitchen as soon as I turn away to search for the baking powder I could have sworn I bought last week.

  

‘Soft Eugenics’.

We are waking up to the news that a *New *Safe *Accurate non-invasive blood test for Down’s Syndrome is to be rolled out across the NHS. It will reduce the risk of miscarriage, because it will reduce the need for the invasive tests that can lead to miscarriage, we are told. ‘That can only be good news, right?’ I hear you say. ‘We can now test for Down’s without the risk of losing perfect, healthy babies that have the chance to live productive and fulfilling lives, right?’

     Wrong. We will still lose perfect babies who have the chance to live productive and fulfilling lives. But we won’t be losing them to miscarriage. They will be terminated because they are found to have Down’s Syndrome.

I am not against prenatal screening for those who wish to have it. What I am against is the blanket assumption that a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome leads automatically to the termination of the foetus. Having Down’s Syndrome should not carry a death sentence. 

     While the non-invasive blood test is ready for use, what is NOT ready, and not in place is the unbiased support necessary for those given a positive result to make a truly informed decision.

     Attitudes amongst the medical (particularly, Obstetric) profession are outdated, and information is inadequate and inaccurate. Too many parents are left feeling termination is the only option. Some will feel tremendously pressured to take this option if they show reluctance, as I did.

     It has been said (in an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning) that if the first ever screening tests for Down’s Syndrome were invented now, they would not be made available under the NHS, as it would not be seen as the job of the NHS to test for Down’s Syndrome; the implication being that it would be regarded as unethical – ‘Soft Eugenics’.

    Remember – this procedure only tests for Down’s Syndrome (and two other trisomy disorders). Other ‘abnormalities’ are available. And not all can be revealed by screening, so this test, even if negative, does not guarantee you a ‘healthy’, ‘perfect’ baby. Nothing can guarantee that your perfect, healthy baby will stay healthy for the rest of their lives. 

     As we listened to the news programme this morning, my perfect, healthy son, complete with his additional chromosome was showing off his newly acquired literacy skills by reading the subtitles aloud. Luckily, by the time the Down’s Syndrome test was mentioned he was too busy with the much more important task of scoffing his cereal to read about the new danger to babies like the one he once was. 

     Babies with Down’s Syndrome are most at risk in their mother’s wombs. And today, the place that should be the safest of all, for them, just got a little more dangerous.

  
Love doesn’t count chromosomes.