According to The Harris Poll, which surveyed over 2,000 American adults in 2016, a mere 31% said they were happy. Odds that almost make it seem cruel to bring any baby into this world. A similar study was done on another 2,000 individuals. In this second poll, 99% of the adults surveyed said they were “happy.” Was the second group Swedish? Norwegian? Swiss?
So, who is this group of people that “love their life”? These are not foreigners, but our American friends with Down syndrome. The Boston researchers also found that 97% of those surveyed also “like who they are,” and 96% even “like how they look.”
Many couples do all they can to ensure the odds of having a healthy baby, and one who will be “happy.” Some couples research all the things that may impact their unborn child’s welfare during the pregnancy from the mother’s diet to the music they are exposed to before they are born. Doing all that can be done to help ensure the health of a baby is no doubt an important quest, but no couple can ensure what they do will have the impact they intend. And there is no guarantee that their actions will have any lasting impact on their child’s future happiness or health.
Given these noble ambitions I’d imagine couples would want their kid to be a part of the 99% happy group, but this isn’t this the case. In fact, many people in our country are actually hoping to eradicate the group. They maintain it would be better for kids with Down syndrome not be born than to be allowed a life in this, almost entirely happy, group. It’s almost as if their collective unhappiness is attempting to defy the glaring statistic—people with Down syndrome are profoundly happier in life than those without it.
Down syndrome is a genetic “disorder” where individuals possess an extra chromosome. Julie Tennant, a 42-year-old woman with Down syndrome says her Grampa called it “the love chromosome.” Grampa was pretty wise. Julie is a vibrant adult who owns her own business, speaks worldwide, and has a large online following. People around her, as well as her online community, say she has undoubtedly brightened their lives.
Down syndrome children are not challenge-free, but is any child? It would be misleading not to acknowledge the fear that couples have when faced with a pregnancy that is anything other than what was hoped for. That fear is warranted, but the enemy of fear is facts. I certainly do not condemn a couple for the fear of starting a lifelong journey facing something they have no knowledge of or experience with, but those are exactly the things they might consider seeking; direct knowledge of what it means to have Down syndrome and direct experience with someone who has Downs.
The Boston study also found that among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79% reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome. In addition, among siblings ages 12 and older, 97% expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88% were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome.
I’m not surprised by these findings. If you spend some time with somebody who actually has Down syndrome, you will discover an enthusiasm for life found nowhere else, and there is a high likelihood you will consider yourself better for having bumped into this “extra” chromosome.
It’s refreshing to note that many have begun to see Down syndrome and our exceptional friends for who they really are. Consider that the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network now reports a waiting list of hundreds of parents hoping to get a child with the “love chromosome.” However, for those that still believe only “normal” children should be allowed to live, I suggest they trade their fear for knowledge and experience with one of our exceptional friends. Trust me, I can honestly say that few things in life give me more joy or have contributed more to the man I am, than the fact that I get to be “Julie’s brother.”