Some may react to a diagnosis of Down syndrome with fear, but for Ann Poirier, she sees it as a blessing in disguise in her beautiful daughter Alice. It seems that society’s problem with reacting negatively to babies who “rock an extra chromosome!” as Poirier says, is more with the stigma than the actual diagnosis.
SFLA had the opportunity to talk with Poirier about the societal challenge and triumphs of raising a child with Down syndrome and her overflowing joy is an incredible testament to the truth that all babies are a gift, not a nuisance.
Would you tell us about you and Alice’s story?
When I was 32, I gave birth to my second child, a daughter named Alice. At the time, I also had a two-year-old daughter named Lucy. When Alice was about an hour old, we were told that she likely had Down syndrome. My husband and I knew nothing about Down syndrome at the time and we were crushed. The doctor asked me if I had done any prenatal testing for Down syndrome and I told her no because we are pro-life. She kind of rolled her eyes at me, as if I should have done it and then aborted when the test came back positive for Down syndrome.
When Alice was a few months old, I found out the abortion statistics for babies with Down syndrome. In Iceland, it is 100%. They have not had a baby with Down syndrome born in the last five years, as all babies are screened prenatally and then aborted if a positive Down syndrome test comes back. In the US, the Down syndrome abortion stats are about 70%. Those numbers are sickening to me, especially because Down syndrome has been nothing like we thought it would be. It is nothing but a tremendous blessing. Today, Alice is a happy, healthy, spunky, smart two-year-old girl. She says a few words, she runs around and she makes everyone around her better, more accepting and more loving.
Has this experience impacted your involvement in the pro-life movement?
I have always been pro-life, but my passion for the pro-life movement has increased so much since having Alice. I firmly believe that the high statistics for Down syndrome abortion are due to the way the doctors present the diagnosis (as if it is going to be absolutely horrible, when that actually couldn’t be further from the truth). I have heard of so many of my friends now who received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis and the doctor followed it up with, “So do you want to get an abortion?”
As a result, I’m doing everything I can do to change the diagnosis experience. I recently wrote a letter to new Down syndrome parents. It is true, positive, and hopeful. It just got picked up by Yahoo. You can find it here. My goal is to have this letter given out with every Down syndrome diagnosis, whether that’s prenatal or at-birth (like ours). I want women to know the joy that their baby will bring… not the lies about how horrible it is going to be. I firmly believe that this will change the outcomes in terms of the abortion statistics.
Could you tell me about your daughter? What is it like raising her?
Alice is amazing! She is a happy, healthy two-year-old. She says a few words, she runs around and she makes everyone better. Raising her is incredibly easy. Babies with Down syndrome are known for being easygoing and generally pretty happy. She is no exception to that! When we first received Alice’s Down syndrome diagnosis, I thought we would be in constant doctor’s appointments and having to spend so much money and time on caring for her. This couldn’t be further from the truth. She is 100% healthy and doesn’t require any more medical care or cost than our other two kids. She is a gem to raise.
There’s a lot of negativity surrounding babies with Down syndrome. Did you receive any negative reactions about your child’s diagnosis, from doctors, family, or anyone?
Oh yes. The doctor who told me that Alice likely had Down syndrome said it in a very negative way and basically told me that I should have screened for it prenatally. Alice’s pediatrician also asked me why I didn’t screen for Down syndrome prenatally. I promptly switched pediatricians.
My husband’s family and my family, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more thrilled about Alice. Her Down syndrome diagnosis simply didn’t matter to them. They loved her from the moment they met her… every part of her, including and especially her Down syndrome!
We had a few doctors and friends tell us that they were “sorry” that Alice has Down syndrome. I was quick to let them know that there’s nothing to be sorry about. I really believe people don’t know what to say, so they say they’re sorry, but it’s not with bad intent. They are just not educated about Down syndrome and don’t know what to say.
The best thing to say is “Congratulations” like you would with any other baby, and then to tell them that they’ve been chosen for an incredible ride and that Down syndrome will soon become their biggest blessing. Because it will.
Tell me about your own work and how you interweave your journalism, working and writing in the pro-life movement, with your personal experience through raising your daughter?
I have always worked in journalism. I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I have a degree in English and public relations from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. In college, I was the managing editor of the school newspaper. After college, I worked as a writer for a few marketing agencies. After having my first baby, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom but I continued freelance writing for a few local magazines.
When we had Alice, it gave me a unique opportunity to use my writing in a new way. I started my blog when she was a month old. I knew I had to start a blog to tell people about the reality of Down syndrome (not the myths) and to share the story of my beautiful new daughter. On my blog, I write all about Alice and Down syndrome with the goal of changing people’s perceptions. My hope and prayer is that someone who has just received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and is considering abortion finds my blog, gets a new perspective and decides to keep her child.
What would you say to a mother who just found out her child has/may have down syndrome?
“CONGRATULATIONS! I know you aren’t there yet, but it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be awesome. Forget what you think you know about Down syndrome, as it will soon become your biggest blessing. You are the perfect mom for this baby, and this baby is the perfect child for you. You were chosen for this role! Just love your baby. Loving the diagnosis will come soon after.”
You can follow Poirier’s work on her blog Wonderland Mommy to hear more about her family and mission.