A conservative columnist and author, J. Pepper Bryars, for AL.com wrote a column recently “about how it’s monstrous to abort unborn babies because they have Down syndrome.”
As you might imagine his inbox filled with some hate. Probably some beautiful stories. But lots of hate too. The argument against allowing babies with Down Syndrome seemed to be that they’re just “too much of a burden.”
But one reader asked him, “Do you know how it feels to be told your baby would be born severely disabled?”
Yes. Yes. He does.
And then he received a call from his pregnant wife. “Something’s wrong with the baby.”
I rushed home and found my wife lying on the bed, still crying. I sat beside her and took her tightly into my arms until she could explain.
Her doctor had called and said a routine screening indicated that our child had Trisomy 18, which is a chromosomal abnormality like Down syndrome only much worse and usually fatal.
After many tears and many prayers, I called the doctor’s office and was told we could take the additional step of having a specialized ultrasound exam to further diagnose the condition. Our insurance covered the expensive procedure and we scheduled the first available opening. I then began reading about Trisomy 18 in hopes of learning about recent breakthroughs or amazing success stories. Sadly, I found very little hope.
“We live in a fallen world, full of imperfection,” my parish priest, Father Paul Scalia, had told me earlier that year when we were recovering from a miscarriage. Somehow his words helped me again.
There’s no explanation. Nothing we did wrong, and nothing we could do now … except the right thing.
Two weeks later we were back at the hospital for a special test on an advanced ultrasound machine. As the pediatrician performed the scan we saw our son for the first time. I didn’t know what the doctor was looking for, but to me the baby seemed … perfect. I decided right then to always think of him that way. Perfect.
We welcomed our son the following January, and in a fallen and imperfect world he’s as near to perfection as I dare dream.
He’s 10-years old now.
It turned out that the diagnosis was a “mis-diagnosis.” His son was fine. But I want to be clear that this story doesn’t have a happy ending because his son was healthy. The story has a happy ending because they accepted their child whether he was perfectly healthy or not. They loved their child when it was dangerous to do so. They loved him regardless. And maybe, isn’t that what we all do with each other in our best moments? We all love each other regardless of something or other. Because there’s always a something or other. And somehow we pray for the courage to love each other recklessly in spite of it all.
Because let’s face it, we’re all a burden. But love makes us just seem light. It makes us easier to carry when we can’t do it ourselves.
Bryars ends his column by asking, “If this is where abortion has taken us, how much further must we descend into barbarism before we either turn away or become forever lost?”