Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strength in numbers

Waiting list for adoption....I couldn't get past these words. I don't remember a lot of useful information coming from my meeting with a genetic counselor during the process of deciding whether or not to continue my pregnancy. Mostly she shared statistics and medical information that I already knew. But I must give her credit for making this one statement that had a very powerful impact on me. She simply advised, "There is a 100-person waiting list to adopt babies born with Down syndrome." I couldn't absorb this news. One hundred seemed like an awfully large number. I didn't know any person who would want a baby like mine but here were one hundred, ready and willing.

During the following week as the Tank and I continued to wrestle our souls over The Decision, I kept coming back to the adoption waiting list. How could I abort this baby when he was wanted by over one hundred families who would take him regardless of whatever health issues he was facing? What did they possess in their beings that I didn't? I knew I would feel like a failure as a mother if I continued the pregnancy but then put him up for adoption. That 100-person army of love challenged me to find strength in my heart and to become a better person for my son. The waiting list haunted me. Eventually I determined that if these mysterious list-people could do it, I could too.

I'm fortunate my genetic counselor shared this information with me. Studies show that many if not most of the 90% of women who eventually terminate after a prenatal diagnosis were not given this knowledge. Maybe the outcome would still have been the same for them whether or not they were aware of the adoption option. But... maybe not.

A recent Washington Post article states that the list to adopt a child with Down syndrome has now grown to over 200 families. Missouri Senator John Loudon was one of these families and has since adopted a son with Trisomy 21 named Sammy. Loudon was so moved by his experience with Sammy's adoption that while the federal government was working on passing the Kennedy-Brownback bill, he pushed through his own legislation in his state last year called Sammy's Law. The law requires medical professionals to provide accurate up-to-date information on the outcomes of people with Down syndrome to mothers with a prenatal diagnosis as well as to share adoption resources with them.

During the recent presidential campaigns, we heard candidates agree that the ultimate goal for both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate should be to reduce the number of abortions. These new laws sounds like a step in the right direction to me. I hope that as more pregnant women facing the same grueling decision that I did learn of the adoption waiting list that they too will find peace and ultimately strength in its numbers.