What if?

Kelly, about about six weeks old

Yesterday Drew Mariani, on the Relevant Radio Network, had as a guest Wesley J. Smith.  The topic for discussion was the “wrongful birth” suit of an Oregon couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome.

The couple had had every screening test available specifically to avoid having a child with a disability, and feel that, whatever the reason was that their medical providers had failed to accomplish this, they are owed what it will cost them over the lifetime of their child to care for her.

Which, admittedly, will be a lot of money.  And which, frankly, even now, they don't have to spend.

The fact is there are plenty of families in our country waiting for a baby with Down syndrome.  They're not just willing to take them, they are dying to get their hands on them!  Didn't anybody think to tell that family that?

Long ago, when Kelly was a toddler, my friend, an adoption social worker for a large local agency, called.  She had a client family with a little boy, eighteen months old, with Down syndrome. 

The family had been devastated by the little guy's birth.  Well, nobody's happy to learn their baby is going to live life with a major handicap, so that was no surprise.  Those around them undoubtedly gave them the good counsel and sympathy all such parents receive, with the expectation that at some point the bonding would take place and things would settle down.

But that didn't happen.  Now the couple was going to have a second child, and were thinking about giving the firstborn up for adoption if a suitable family could be found.  I gave my friend the name and number of a group that “brokered” these adoptions for babies with Downs, and a family was quickly found.

They were a big family in a faraway state, quite religious, and the parents and kids had voted to adopt a baby with Down syndrome, having fallen in love with a little girl with Downs born to close friends.  The home study was done, the nursery–seldom empty–was ready, and it looked like a perfect match.

The surrendering family found the decision difficult.  They'd wanted their son to grow up in a family more like themselves, and they weren't churchgoers.  They suspected the adoptive family were very anti-abortion (they were right about that), and even though they didn't plan to meet them, they were uncomfortable placing their flesh and blood among conservative church-goers. 

“But that's probably the very kind of family that will want to adopt him,” my friend argued.

Several months went by and the family went back and forth.  My friend, knowing the baby well by this time, thought it was a great match, and worried it would fall through.

However, once the new baby came, the family made the decision.  They would relinquish their first-born to a family that could accept him for who he was–indeed, prize him for who he was.  His new family would tell him the story of how they had waited for him for many months, looking at his picture, longing for his arrival.  How of all the babies in the world, he was the one they wanted, the one they had chosen, and they had loved him since before time began.

It was a good, brave, loving decision to give that little boy up.  I know it was a heartbreak for that couple.  It was not easy, it was agonizing.  I fear that they feel guilty to this day.  But they shouldn't.
They did the right thing.

It's easy to judge these people.  I'm hearing all kinds of harsh things said about the couple suing for compensation, and I admit that for me, the path they've taken is hard to accept.  I remember the very day I fell head over heels in love with Kelly, a bit later than it had happened with my others, but as irrational and wonderful as ever.

But what if that day had not arrived? 

What if?