Thorin and I were shopping at Hannaford’s. I noticed a petite women with brown hair pulled in a neat pony tail. I saw her first in the produce department. She almost ran into me with her cart because she was staring so intently at Thorin. Then in the aisle with soap and tooth paste she almost ran into me again. This time our eyes met briefly. Hers were rimmed in red.
After two more run-ins I figured it’s definitely about Thorin and likely his Down syndrome. Either that or she was trying to injure me. We got into line behind her– not by design but hers was the shortest line. She looked at Thorin, “You are a good looking boy.”
“I’ve been watching you– pushing the cart and helping. You’re a big help.”
I bet you’re a smart guy.”
She never looked at me. After she was done checking out she turned towards Thorin,
When we got to our car I saw her sitting almost directly across from us in her car– watching him. I asked Thorin to take the cart over to the stall about 20 feet away. She watched him look both ways, cross the lane, return the cart and then look both ways again and run over to me. As I started up the car my phone rang. Thorin whines if I talk in the car. I turned on music and stepped outside to answer. It was a short conversation. I hung up and looked across the way. She was still there staring. I walked toward her smiling and waving. She looked confused. I was confused, too. I continued.
When I got to her car she put down the window.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Is it hard?” she said pointing toward Thorin.
“Because he has Down syndrome?”
“He has to work harder then most people.”
“What about you and your husband?”
“He’s our only kid so I don’t know if he’s harder,” I said laughing.
Her eyes were wet, “Our doctor thought we should have an abortion.”
I put my hand on the edge of her window. I didn’t feel like I could reach in and touch her but I wanted to connect. I waited.
“We agreed. Now we have two girls.”
“He didn’t have anything good to say about my baby” she said shaking her head, “I think he was wrong.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Did you know?”
“I did. We adopted him. So we never had the doctor full of gloom and doom but we did have family and friends that said awful things. People are really ignorant about Down syndrome.”
“It’s been seven years.”
“There’s grief support groups. Or counselors….” I trailed off.
She squinted at me, “I have no idea what I’d say.”
“Tell them you stalked a boy with Down syndrome at the grocery store. That’s a great opening line.”
She laughed which was a relief.
“You have a good son.”
“I do. Thanks.”
As I walked back to my car I heard her drive away.
author’s note: I am pro-choice. I also think any medical professional still frightening parents with never true information about people with Down syndrome is a menace.
Kari, beautifully written. I’ve had lots of people stare, but no one with a story like this. I’m so sorry for her loss.
Thank you. I am sorry for her loss too. In Maine we have a high abortion rate following the pre-natal diagnosis. Doctors are so uneducated here on Ds.
Great story. Thanks for writing.
Your story is so on point. Told with your incredible honesty. Thanks for being the model for reaching out and connecting.
I don’t know if I can take credit for that. I was pushed for sure:)
One of the last episodes of ‘Switched at Birth’ is about a young adult who’s pregnant girlfriend learns the baby she carries has Down syndrome. The two young parents are trying to figure out what to do; the sister of the dad is Deaf, so she has her own take on it, about aborting people because of a disability… The young parents decide they want their babies – I love the story, and a few episodes later you ‘meet’ the young baby and you see some of his progress and how the parents handle talking to strangers.
I have to find that! I think choice is important and the correct information.
I am amazed that doctors would ‘suggest’ one choice or another. I am totally pro-choice, but for women, not for doctors. I understand doctor suggesting termination in order to save a woman’s life or protect her health, but it is not the business of the doctor to mix into personal decisions that have nothing to do with their expertise. Why would the doctor be better positioned to decide whether a life with DS is worth living? So incredibly inappropriate, irrespective of one’s beliefs. And how sad that people don’t critically question a doctor’s authority to give suggestions, just to be haunted by their decision for life.
In Maine where we live the abortion rate following a pre-natal test is over 90%. So what are doctors telling their patients? I couldn’t obviously ask her questions but it made me wonder how that
Wow! That was beautifully written and kept me in suspense until the end! What is the matter with people some of the medical staff? I have a gloom and doom story about my mom. She was rushed to the hospital, acting dazed and confused but also in a LOT of pain. I left OAES after getting a voicemail from the ER saying I should get to the hospital to see my mom. I get there, she looks like she is dying. After many tests, they discovered she needed emergency surgery. My father, in total distress and crying, signed the permission to operate on my mother. After my dad signs the document, this snarky anesthesiologist walks up to us and says to my dad and I, “I’ve performed multiple surgeries on people in this same situation. I recommend you send her to hospice and enjoy your time with her.” My mother survived the surgery, and is living a wonderful life. This all happened back in 2014.
OMG! The more contact we have had with the medical community the more angry I get.
Thank you for this. Both the story, and what you wrote in your author’s note. It is exactly how I (a person with disabilities, though not any diagnosable before birth) feel about the topic.
Sorry for the delay! Thank you for sharing that! I want to stop shying away from the issues of reproductive choice. It’s immediately assumed it’s a us or them proposition. We should be able to have this conversation.
My son has SOD/ONH but initial scans were throwing up all sorts of diagnoses. We listened to the advice by various doctors and were stunned at how quickly some of them were to step out of their specialities to dispense advice. Informed choice is the only way forward but measuring and monitoring the advice is tricky and needs standardising – both here in the UK and in the US.
Personally, I meet kids with DS at my son’s school and many adults shop at our store. I understand the condition varies (as do most of us humans!) but I fail to see why they should be condemned to not exist simply through scaremongering and
….. Misinformation. (Oops pressed the send button by mistake.) I know of a photographer with DS and several actors who are getting TV slots. Quality of life isn’t an objective thing to be judged by medicos. Our life wouldn’t be half as interesting without Ashley!
I know it’s a old always bullshit narrative pushed by the medical community (and schools and work places and even the home).
A great story and an important note about you being pro choice.
Thank you! Yeah, I don’t have a stake in what a woman decides. But I sure get P.O.’d at the doctors that don’t leave a choice for the family.
Kari I love your writing.
I love you:)