Don`t worry. This isn’t what the post is about.
Knowing what I know…would I do it all again?
There are no doubts. No pondering the possibilities. If I knew before I had kids that I would be an autism parent, I would still do this.
Would I be different about it? Yes. But I would not give them back if I could.
A few weeks ago I shared on my Facebook page the someEcards pic above. It opened a discussion about the pressures of genetic testing for autism, with the question of how did I feel about it. From there, other topics were introduced, such as eugenics verses the right to know if you are carrying a disabled child, which in turn opened the abortion debate.
While this all had the makings of turning into something ugly in my comments section, I thankfully have open-minded and articulate friends. No Trolls Allowed. But it caused me to ask myself about my moral stance on this. If an expectant parent can know in advance if their child or future children will have special needs, would they still choose to have the child? As soon as I formed the question though, I knew my answer. It was a resounding, “Yes”. I answered the question with Dimitri.
There was already a quasi genetic link established in the autism community when Shayla was diagnosed. Though the chances of having a child with autism were one in 500 (this was 2002 and is higher now), the chance of your second and subsequent children having autism was dramatically increased if your firstborn had it. Like, the odds went from “one in 500” to “likely”. I knew this as we planned our second child, and I went into that pregnancy with full knowledge that my baby could be autistic, too. I also went into it knowing the baby might not, and I knew that even if the statistics proved true in our case – which they did – the second child could fall anywhere on the spectrum. And I knew that autism is just one form of special needs. I knew the risks, I knew the work. I knew the love and the rewards, too.
The idea of having no other children after Shayla due to her autism was akin to calling her broken. She isn’t. She’s smart and she’s creative, and she has autism. I don’t know all the whys and hows, but she is a human being, loved by her family and God as much as any child. And though Dimitri also has autism he is not as affected as his sister. I don’t know what sort of adults they will be. I can’t see right now how independently they will be able to live, or what kind of job they will have, but I do know they will enrich the lives of people they haven’t even met yet. And I know I am blessed – and grateful – to be their mother.
I remember keenly an incident when someone tried to censure me over my choice of having a second child while knowing the odds. They made it clear with a few snide remarks that they believed I was irresponsible for deliberately bringing forth a baby destined to be a drain on society. I had the pleasure of reminding them that my child was just as entitled to life – to be created with love, to be nourished first in and then out of the womb, to be guided, protected with kindness, and to know what it’s like to be loved and wanted – as any other child. Every human being created is entitled to this. It breaks my heart that many don’t have these, but they are entitled, and I will be the parent who gives this to her children.