Openness to Life – Accepting Down Syndrome Babies as a Gift from God

This article was posted on: January 25, 2022

When a husband and wife perform the marital act, sometimes conception occurs, and a soul is directly created by God. This soul, which otherwise would not have existed, is more important than, and will outlast, the created world, the stars, each galaxy and all of the universe that is possible to imagine. This soul is intensely cherished and precious to God. It has been created in the very image and likeness of God. (Gn 1:26) Further, every single soul, in virtue of baptism, has been purchased at the price of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Obviously, the phrase “every single soul” applies also to the souls of Down syndrome babies—inside and outside of the womb! For some reason, our culture prefers to label special needs persons as “non-productive members of society” or as “second-rate persons,” even going so far, at times, as to dismiss them as persons altogether. In virtue of this cultural ideology, I just wanted to share, in brief, the story of a couple who courageously chose life.

The first ultrasound of the pregnancy made it obvious that this baby would be different. Later check-ups would reveal that this would be a Down syndrome baby girl with a heart condition, which would require surgery within the first few months of life. To add even greater difficulty to the picture, this couple intimated to me that four doctors (on four separate occasions) counseled the wife to get an abortion, insinuating the child would likely not live long anyway. Four times! Can you believe it? Evidently, those doctors did not have a clue that this couple was Catholic and already had 12 beautiful children. The couple chose life again, and an adorable little girl named Evelyn was born in June.

For the first seven months of her life, Evelyn spent more time in the hospital than outside of it. As you might well imagine, this really stretched the family a great deal. Love has a cost. At one of the visits to the hospital, just before the doctor took Evelyn into the observation room, she called out her first word, “Mom!” This was a blessed moment for the mother who had fought for her child so passionately and loved her so ardently.

A few weeks ago, I happened to walk into my parents’ room and a picture of them (from their wedding day) caught my eye. I wondered if, on the day of their wedding, my parents knew everything to which they were saying “yes” to in their marriage vows. Openness to life, unconditional love, arguing with doctors against abortion and years of self-gift. My mother would often say that Evelyn is a gift; that while she is a lot of work, she has definitely changed our family for the better. Special needs children often can teach us loads about unconditional love. Now a 9-year-old, Evelyn always knows when someone needs a hug.

Father Eric Mashak, Associate Pastor at St. Bronislava Parish in Plover
Published in the January/February 2022 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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