Each child is the perfect gift for you!
During Respect life month, we will be sharing references from articles originally published by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. This article speaks to how perfect your child is, whether they are 100% perfect or not.
Soon after the birth of my son Charlie*, who has Down syndrome, a visitor asked whether he was “mild, moderate, or severe”—referring to his level of cognitive impairment. I knew the terminology, but the question shocked me. In my arms I held my beautiful baby boy, who defied easy categorization. Clinical labels may describe some aspects of an individual’s “functioning,” but they don’t tell the whole story. Labels could not describe how Charlie’s smile lit up a room or how the sweetness of his soul had captured our hearts so completely.
Relationship Changes Everything
I have since come to understand that clinical categories also miss another important dimension of personhood: we are created to be in relationship with others. As Pope Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), “Within the family each member is accepted, respected and honoured precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more intense and attentive.”[i]
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I once read an article in which a woman discussed the reasons for aborting her child with Down syndrome. The deal-breaker was watching a boy with Down syndrome at a restaurant with his parents: they had to hand-feed him a slice of pizza and wipe his face with a napkin.
It’s like looking at a stained-glass window from the outside: the colors look dark, and you can’t quite make out the figures. From the inside, however, with the sun shining through it, the effect can be brilliant. From inside our family, love illuminates our life with Charlie. What may seem dreary to others, perhaps even unbearable, is actually filled with beauty and color. We know, for instance, that Charlie worked hard to gain basic feeding skills that most people take for granted, and we are so proud of his valiant efforts.
In our family, we have found that our hearts, rather than being weighed down, have become larger. Caring for Charlie has given us more patience, more compassion, and more love for others—especially those on the outskirts of society, whom Pope Francis so often calls us to care for.
*Name changed for privacy. The author has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and has been advocating since the birth of her son Charlie* for children who are prenatally diagnosed with disabilities.
[i] Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995), no. 92.
Excerpt from Evangelium vitae © 1995, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Reprinted [Excerpted] from Respect Life Program, copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.
Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
View, download, or order the U.S. bishops’ pro-life materials! www.usccb.org/respectlife