Image: Barbara Ryther
A new baby recently joined our extended family. In the eyes of his parents, he is perfect. But in the eyes of the world, he is not. Dax has Down Syndrome. He is adorably cute. Like his mother he has reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. Like most Down Syndrome babies, he smiles a lot, with his tongue just protruding between his lips.
Dax’s parents are in their mid-30s, that age when the risk of having a baby born with a genetic accident increases. They knew about the risk, decided to take it, and when they learned they were one of 350 couples in their age group to be having a baby with Down Syndrome they chose to keep the pregnancy. Not because of religious beliefs, but because that was the decision they had made long before Dax was conceived.
I am in awe of them. They are smart, articulate, loving people. They are aware of a future that will be different from that of other parents. They chose that future anyway. I, who have been, and will always be a pro-choice advocate, admire them. I think they are brave.
That Dax’s parents chose life gives me hope. Hope in a world where there is war on three continents, where despots try to force their will on others, where we have forgotten what it means to love one another. In a country where guns outnumber people, where it will soon be easier to buy a gun than terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, that Dax’s parents chose him gives me hope.
Dax is an old French name that means water. Water means life. His middle name is Christopher, for a grandfather who died far too young, four years before Dax was born. I need not describe the origin of Dax’s middle name.
I stopped watching the news before the mass murder in Uvalde. My breaking point was those ordinary people in Buffalo doing their Saturday grocery shopping, gunned down because they were black. When I was 22, I worked in a neurosurgical ICU in Vietnam. I know what weapons of war can do to the human body. It doesn’t surprise me that some of Uvalde’s parents had to identify their children’s remains by the clothes they were wearing.
In the face of such horror, I try to remember Dax because he and his parents, his grandmothers and grandfather, and his aunts and uncles give me hope. Among them are an exercise specialist, a reading specialist and a special ed teacher. He could not be in better hands. No matter what the future holds for Dax and his parents, one thing he will have in abundance is love.
And in this world, it means a lot.
June 9, 2022