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Hypocrites Over Our Reaction to Abandoned Baby Gammy?

11/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 11/10/2014 10:59 BST
Hope For Gammy Campaign

The story of Gammy, the young twin apparently abandoned by his parents and left in Thailand with his surrogate mother, caused almost universal outrage last week.

The parents are denying all knowledge of his existence but a charitable trust fund has been started for his wellbeing, and with that knowledge our interest has waned almost as quickly as it was ignited.

I watched the social media net unfurl, with words such as 'scum', 'disgusting', vile', and 'inhuman' leveled at all parties. But whatever I felt about the baby not having his significant needs met by those who brought him into the world, the sadness of two siblings never having a chance to grow up alongside one another, and the rights and wrongs of paid surrogacy, I couldn't help but wonder at the media fury against this couple. There was something slightly hypocritical in its tone.

Sadly we live in a society where the words 'Down's syndrome' strike fear into the hearts of pregnant women, where the words of our trusted medical professionals are all too often 'bad news', 'risk', 'I'm sorry', 'suffer from' or 'afflicted by'.

Somehow society has painted a terrible lie of our children, and instead of the support they needed, the Australian couple perhaps felt they weren't up to the task of being special needs parents.

The decision they allegedly made, at a routine scan, to ask the surrogate mother to have an abortion was the same decision that 92% of women who are given a diagnosis of Down's syndrome make, albeit antenatally, often because that is what is often advised. That is where the deeper outrage should begin, the outrage of eugenics. The outrage of not giving prospective parents unbiased facts to enable them to make informed choices, but of swaying their decision with loaded language.

The decision they made was much like that of those who feel they can't cope and give their babies with Trisomy 21 up for adoption, a decision that might be avoided had they felt more supported, and had someone encouraged them to see their baby simply as that and not a set of symptoms or predictions for his future. This is a sadness that happens the world over, simply because we have no idea how wonderful and unique every individual with Down's syndrome is and just what can be achieved in their lives.

The media too are as much to blame, for their unthinking headlines that hail new sensitive early screening for Down's syndrome as 'safer' and 'a step forward'. But there is no cure for Down's syndrome, neither should there be, so early detection is only useful if parents wish to prepare for their child. Or if eradication is the ultimate aim.

Looking tonight at our chocolate-scoffing, sister-teasing, Frozen aficionado daughter who swims and reads and draws and writes, is a true chatterbox and a light in the heart of our community, I cannot for the life of me see why anyone would want to avoid a child like her in their lives. She is fun and cheeky and bright and clever and wise and naughty, just like any other child. Her reality doesn't even begin to overlap those outdated stereotypes.

And why do we recoil from seeing the world through different eyes, why do we resist slowing down and living in the moment alongside these children? Why do we fear anything other than cookie-cutter perfection? Of course more and more women are choosing not to screen because they see this reality, but Gammy's parents were clearly ignorant to the true picture that would have enriched their lives.

Yes, there are challenges along the way, as there are with any child. We have made changes in our lives, very small ones, to accommodate our daughter's different learning style. We've had the worry of illnesses and keyhole heart surgery, but most of the hurdles she will face are put in place by society and outdated attitudes, and those we are changing day by day.

And how do those with Down's syndrome feel reading about Gammy's story? For yes, they read newspapers too, just like you and me. The underlying subtext of the actions of those who step away from a baby with the condition is that they view them as worth just a little bit less than a baby who does not.

So let's create new social stories about individuals with Down's syndrome, proudly portraying just what everyone is capable of achieving when limits are not set before them. Let's remove the fear from future parents, lets support them when they need it most.

Maybe one day, parents of much wanted offspring will see children like Gammy for what he is, an incredible asset to his family and community. For he will contribute just as much to the mix as anyone else. I have certainly learnt so very much from our girls, and am a much better person since becoming the mum to a child with Down's syndrome. I am one of the lucky ones. I sincerely hope that Gammy and others like him will find a happy ending too.

Watch Dear Future Mom to see what 15 young people with Down' syndrome would have said to Gammy's parents.

This post first appeared on Special Needs Jungle here.