Tuesday, July 04, 2006

To Amy Cahill

Amy Cahill
c/o Indy’s Child Magazine

Dear Ms. Cahill,

Congratulations on the recent birth of your daughter. I’m sure that she is a great blessing to you, and is teaching you the immense type of love that a person can only have for their child.

I believe that all children are great gifts to their families, and it is the obligation, and privilege of that family to celebrate and cherish that child.

I was so very disappointed in your comments in the article you wrote for Indy’s Child, in which you share with readers how very fortunate you are that your daughter shows no signs of Down syndrome.

Ms. Cahill, the parents of the children who appear on the front cover of the current magazine are no less fortunate than you are – they are not lesser parents, and their children are certainly not lesser children because they have Down syndrome.

Perhaps your experience with prenatal testing has offered you a bit of insight into all of the things that can happen during conception and pregnancy. Perhaps you are no longer naïve that everyone gets their preconceived notion of a “perfect” baby.

But in your writing, it is clear that you have missed a very key part of the prenatal testing experience. Many women chose not to have any testing at all – knowing that the child they give birth to will be the “perfect” child for them. Many women do not care, and do not need to know, whether or not their child will be born with the typical number of chromosomes.

Many of us realize that the prenatal diagnostic testing you report about actually gives very little information to pregnant mothers. Sure, it predicted for you the number of chromosomes your daughter has, but did it tell you how in love with her you would be? Did it tell you how sweet she would smell, or what color her eyes would be, or when she would smile for the first time? Did it tell you that she would like gymnastics or dancing, or horseback riding when she gets older?

All of those things are much more important to our lives than a chromosomal count.

Ms. Cahill, I have a child with Down syndrome, and I am very insulted to think that you might consider yourself more fortunate than I am because of that. I also have a child without Down syndrome, and each of them has brought their own beauty and lessons to my life.

My daughter was born with a serious birth defect that was not related to Down syndrome; a birth defect that led me to prenatal testing, and a prediction that she would not survive past a few moments at birth.

I continued my pregnancy in hopes of donating her organs to another child that might have life because of her – perhaps one of the “fortunate” children like yours who would need a kidney or a new set of eyes.

Even armed with this knowledge, I did not consider myself unfortunate. I celebrated my baby, and enjoyed my pregnancy and every single moment that my baby was growing inside of me.

I felt like the luckiest person in the world, like I had won a lottery, when she arrived screaming – she was alive! And I didn’t feel unfortunate for a single second that she had more chromosomes than her sister did.

Since her birth, she has done amazing things. She kicked off a children’s telethon with full page newspaper ads, and television commercials when she was only a year old. She has attended several lectures that I have given about prenatal diagnosis, and the celebration that comes with welcoming a child with Down syndrome into your life.

We have met countless families just beginning this journey into the world of Down syndrome, and she has, without a doubt, saved the lives of many unborn babies who might have not otherwise been given a chance to live.

She was the first child with special needs in her school, and a “if you build it, they will come” mentality has happened there now…a wonderful program that promotes integration while helping children with their specific needs has emerged. She is very popular at school, and I don’t go anywhere without someone knowing her and stopping to say hello.

She has an infectious laugh, and a ready hug, and beautiful, waist length blonde hair, and blue eyes the color of your favorite pair of faded blue jeans. She loves swimming, and horseback riding, and playing tee-ball.

She is a true celebration of Down syndrome – despite numerous medical interventions as a baby – she is thriving, happy and amazing.

Even more than that, we are a typical family just like yours is. We go to the park and play on the swings, and take family vacations, and dance in our living room.

Let your recent article and its resulting commentaries to the magazine be a lesson to you, Ms. Cahill. Please do not ever see a child with Down syndrome in a mall or on the playground, or sitting beside your daughter in a classroom, and think for one single instant that that family is less fortunate than you are.

To do so would be a huge injustice to your child, and to mine.


Betsy Lapierre
Alexandria, Ontario


Tara Marie said...

Oh Betsy....thank you, thank you, thank you. I sat yesterday at a picnic writing a letter to Ms. Cahill, because as I watched my children [three of them, Katrina is in North Caroline vacationing with friends] playing, laughing, celebrating with family and friends, those words 'fortunate' kept ringing in my ears.....we are no more or less fortunate that Ms. Cahill, just because one of my children has an extra chromosome.....and in many ways, we are very fortunate that our prenatal [soft markers] did not allow us to be swept up into the fear and termination that sadly happens to so many people.....and to have Ms. Cahills words of 'fortunate' be a catalyst for others down the road to use that prenatal test to eliminated their child is a very unfortunate thing indeed.

Again Betsy......your words have touched me deeply!! I am honored to call you friend and so thankful that their are voices such as yours to speak on behalf of my duaghter and every other person as blessed as she is.

Peace and love,

Beth said...

You have articulated what so many of us are feeling in the wake of this most unfortunate article. Thanks for sharing it with us. I can almost guarantee it will make Amy Cahill think twice the next time she sees a person with Down syndrome.
Her article was indeed slanted, and downright insensitive when you consider the fact that the children on the cover happen to have Down syndrome.
Thanks again for setting her straight. You said it beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Standing ovation!!! I bow to you :) This is an amazing letter...just what we all needed to read.

Thank you.

Jen said...

Awesome Post

Thank you for sharing this. :)

Mauzy said...

Betsy thank you again for all your advocacy. They pulled the cover and article from the Indy's Child website this morning! Keep you posted

Dani said...

Bravo! Thank you for such a beautifully written letter. Take care. Dani

Nicole said...

As always incredible writing. I love to read your wisdom! HUGS