Situation: With prenatal testing these days, doctors have the ability to detect the symptoms of Down syndrome in the early stages of pregnancy, thus providing mothers with the opportunity to dismiss the child if Down syndrome is likely.
Reality: No mother wants her child to be born with a disability. Admittedly, we all have these preconceived ideas of what we want our child to be. We want them to be the captain of their basketball team or the prom queen or the lead in their high school musical or the top of their graduating class, etc. Therefore, hearing the news that your baby will probably be born with Down syndrome doesn’t leave too many parents doing double fist pumps as they leave the doctors office.
Instead, it leaves them scared. The dreams of their preconceived superstar child have been shattered. The social stigma that Down syndrome carries along with doctors who are only informing parents of the challenges that they will face in raising a child with this defect is enough to convince most parents to terminate. In fact, depending on the location, in the U.S., anywhere between 92-98 percent of mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome chose to abort their pregnancies.
For several months I have been using my camera to explore this issue: Is Down syndrome a disability that is worth living with? At first I spent a lot of time with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati. Through them I became connected with several families who graciously allowed me into their homes to experience with them what life is like with their disabled child.
Rather than an experience of despair, the four months I spent with these families was one of enlightenment and hope. I quickly discovered that within each child, even those who have severe cases, there is always a unique personality and relationship to be made. I was encouraged by the children’s individuality and inner strength and I was moved by the affectionate relationship each parent has with their child. It didn’t seem to matter anymore weather or not their little booger would ever be a superstar athlete or scholar -- mothers and fathers are absolutely crazy about their child just the way the are, Down syndrome and all.
I hope after seeing the photographs and multimedia piece that I have made about this project, my audience will have a more intimate way of viewing people with Down syndrome. I hope it will provide awareness to the beneficial and rewarding aspects of raising a child with this disability and offer encouragement for pregnant mothers who have been prenatally diagnosed with a Down syndrome child.
multimedia (click image to play)