Nearly four years ago my son was diagnosed with leukemia. He was a sweet, beautiful six year old boy with his future ahead of him. He has brought us great joy over the years. His beauty has been beyond measure. However, he has also brought us great sorrow. A pain, a heartache most parents cannot imagine. As much as it hurts me to say this, had there been a test available, a prenatal test, to check for the leukemia gene, I would have had it performed. And I would have aborted him. Because who wants to set themselves up for parenting someone who will bring so much pain?
Are you disgusted? Mortified? Ready to throttle me? Good. I hope so.
Because it’s not true.
I wouldn’t have had the test, even if it was available.
I wouldn’t have aborted him, even if I’d known he was going to have leukemia.
Even if I’d known he’d be dyslexic.
And also even if I’d known he’d be on the autism spectrum.
I hope I’ve made a point.
It’s April. Until this year I didn’t know that April was “Autism Awareness Month”. I’d never heard of “Lighting it up blue” or whatever the heck that phrase going around the interwebs happens to be. But for some reason, this year, I’m seeing it everywhere. My Facebook friends are supporting and talking about Autism Speaks. And every time I read about that organization, I feel really sad. There are a lot of reasons why I don’t support Autism Speaks but the number one reason is because, according to them, I, and a lot of people I know and love, would have been better off not being born.
“But, Mandy, what about those Autistic children much further along the spectrum than you and your son? The ones who are severely affected, nonverbal, violent?”
To you I say, what about them?
First of all, let’s just say that a “severely” Autistic person would be better off not being born. How do we know that, during a prenatal test, we’d be able to tell the difference between a marker for severe autism and mild autism? What then? Kill them all?
Secondly, I believe that, no matter how devastating a situation or condition a child might be born into, that child serves a purpose and is a blessing. We might not be able to see what that purpose is, but that doesn’t make the purpose any less real.
I am horrified to read that many mothers are aborting their babies now that they can test for Down Syndrome in the womb. My children recently befriended a lovely girl with Down Syndrome. She blessed me. She blessed my children. And I know she’s a blessing to her parents. I am so glad she is a part of this world. That no one had a chance to prevent her from becoming a part of it. So thankful.
Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten to personally know a number of adults and children on the Autism Spectrum and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that they are some of my very favorite people. Sure, their lives have been filled with challenges and their parents are often pushed to their limits, I’m certain. But guess what? Most parents are. I have a child who has had cancer, who struggles with learning difficulties, emotional troubles, and is thought by some professionals to be on the spectrum as well. He is my heart. He is the child to whom I can most relate. And he inspires me and many others every day that he is alive. I love him just the way he is, and I wouldn’t change anything about him, even if I could.