When her doctors first told her she was carrying a Down Syndrome child, Nancy Binger didn’t know what to expect but now a few years on, being mum to the little one has been such a joy – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
Every woman who chooses to create a family goes into her pregnancy in happy anticipation of finally holding a healthy, happy and perfect baby in her arms. With medicine today being as advanced as it is, there are a number of tests that doctors routinely perform to ensure that there are no surprises when the baby is born. Unfortunately, this also means that now and then, a mother-to-be is given what can be devastating news – as was the case with Nancy Binger, mother of three beautiful children, one of whom has Down Syndrome.
Hearing the News
As can be expected of any mother who is given bad news during her pregnancy, Nancy was absolutely devastated when her doctor told her that her son had Down syndrome.
“The night I found out about my son’s diagnosis, I lay in bed
wailing in fear and disappointment. I thought my life
was over and I was devastated. I was so sick to my stomach
and I couldn’t get control of my emotions,” she says.
Nancy was 22 weeks pregnant at the time and she had no experience with Down syndrome. “I was terrified. I did not have any experience with people with special needs and I did not feel prepared to be a mum for such a child. I feared I would not know how to love this child or take care of him well. I hoped to wake up and realise it was all a bad dream. I thought this child was going to ruin my life and that I would dramatically need to change the life I was living,” she says.
Cold Medical Advice
What was perhaps scariest, and also most disappointing, was the way in which Nancy’s doctors were very negative about Down syndrome. Nancy says, “The doctor was mostly focused on telling me all the things my child would not do. The option most talked about was terminating the pregnancy as well as giving my child up for adoption. There was no positive outlook or encouragement to my situation.”
Medically, choosing to have a child with Down syndrome means you must be prepared that your child will likely come with problems other children do not have to face. Developmentally, children with Down syndrome will progress slower than their peers. Also, according to Web MD, “Many children with Down syndrome are also born with heart, intestine, ear, or breathing problems. These health conditions often lead to other problems, such as respiratory infections or hearing loss.”
Despite the discouragement from her doctors, Nancy knew that this child was hers to have. She gathered her courage and chose life, and even though her son has had medical issues, she has not once regretted her decision. “I am so glad that I chose life for my son and cannot believe that terminating a pregnancy is even part of a discussion with a Down syndrome diagnosis. There is no reason to even approach the topic of abortion in that setting. Just because it is not the child you were expecting does not mean you should end their life,” she says.
For her, the biggest challenge of parenting is dealing with her son’s health. “He has had two surgeries, including open heart surgery, and he is on medication for his heart condition. That sounds major, and it was, but it was not as stressful as it sounds and he did wonderfully. We do not even notice his heart issues on a daily basis. When he gets sick it affects him more dramatically than a typical child, so sometimes, a common cold can mean a hospital visit. But he bounces back and recovers well. We have to try to avoid sicknesses as best we can.”
Joy, Hope and a Good Life
Despite bumps in the road, Nancy is absolutely certain that choosing to have her son was the best thing she could have done. She says, “My son is amazing and I cannot imagine my life without him. He has not ruined my life and in fact, he has brought me more joy and happiness than I could ever imagine. I still cannot believe I thought I could not love him because it’s the easiest thing I have ever done. Down syndrome does not define him, it’s just what makes him extra special.”
In fact, Nancy finds little difference between her son and other boys his age. She says, “He is more alike than different to a typically developed child his age. He just does things at a slower pace. He is full of life, smiles and laughs a lot and entertains the whole family with his joyous spirit. He loves to have fun, dance to music and play with his toys.”
If given the choice, Nancy goes as far to say that even if it was possible, she would not want his condition to be taken away. “Although he is delayed in accomplishing his milestones, our biggest joys as a family come when he does. He works so hard to get there and we explode in excitement when he masters a new feat,” she says.
The Family Today
Nancy’s family today is just like any other. She describes her usual routine; “My husband and I both have careers and work most of the day outside of the home. Our oldest two children are in school and our son with Down syndrome stays home with our nanny. He has three therapists that each come once a week to the house. I do my best to be there for those sessions. If I am not, our nanny is there with him. We have sit-down dinners every night at home during the week and do the normal bedtime routine as most families. On the weekends we spend time with family and friends. We love to travel and go on family adventures. Our son fits into our family perfectly. Having three kids is the hardest part, not specifically having him.”
From Her Heart to Yours
When asked if she had any words of advice for other mums who are carrying a Down syndrome child, Nancy says that the first thing she would say is “do not terminate a Down syndrome child’s pregnancy. This happens way too often and there is no good reason for it.”
She also wants to add that she can guarantee,
that when you are able to grieve the loss of the child you expected
and move on to embrace the child you have, you are going
to adore being his or her parent.
“I do not know any parents of children with Down syndrome who do not love and adore their child. They all feel blessed. Children with Down syndrome are not any more burdensome than other children in the family, they just have different challenges to deal with.”