Children After Disabled Siblings
Guest Post by Gabrielle Rea
We feel it. Baby fever. A friend has a baby, and we simply get one whiff of that new baby smell and it hits us like a train. We want another baby. The thoughts and feelings of being a parent to a newborn surround us like a nice warm blanket. However, once we announce our intentions, people are quick to break down our need.
"You want another one?", "Haven't you learned enough from your other child?", "Why would you want to roll the dice again? You might get a child like your first. That's too much." "That's a bad idea. Your genes are clearly defective."
If you are a special needs parent, chances are that you've heard one or more phrases. It is also likely that it wasn't even mentioned as your plan to have another child. Sometimes people take it upon themselves to offer their own counsel on your life decisions.
Honestly, it's hurtful.
Because our need to have more children shouldn't be restricted by the fact that we've had a child with a disability. Our chances (unless direct hereditary syndromes) of having another child with the same disability aren't 100% likely. Some families have one autistic child. Some have five. That is life and the wonders of genetic inheritance.
ONE DISABILITY DOES NOT EQUAL ANOTHER
If you happen to be a special needs parent, you know the fear. What if this is the only kind of child I produce? I have similar thoughts myself. I have two children, with vastly different disabilities. What are the chances of that, if I had correct reproductive genes? No matter how rare, or unlikely doctors say it is for us to conceive another child like Seamus, we worry. Of course! You don't go through this journey without realizing that chances of having a disabled child rest with each expectant mother. Each pregnancy in the world holds the chance to produce a child with some kind of disability or illness. Why are we so much harder on the parents who've already had their disabled child?
To all the naysayers of continuing clearly "damaged" DNA strands, I can say that I once believed similarly. I once thought it wasn't right to keep breeding if disabilities ran in families. Why make more suffer? Why keep producing more of "their" kind into the world? That was from the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl who didn't realize that by believing such notions, I was, in turn, fostering the mindset that handicapped or disabled people didn't have lives worth living. They shouldn't be alive because they cannot be perfect.
Truthfully, babies are not born perfect. Not a single one. Parents may believe so because we love them. None are born perfect, without problems, never to suffer from a single thing. That is an unlikely rarity. It is without saying that the human race is a small percentage without flaw. Reproduction is honestly the most miracle-believing thing I'll ever believe in. It takes such a small window to conceive children and even more difficult to continue to stay pregnant. We are not a perfect species! Not at all. To assume that being disabled or in some way, "different" is a mistake is a wrong assumption. We are not without flaws. Those of the special needs community know that we are a larger population than most believe. And we are going strong, sticking it out and dealing with our problems with grace.
The National Down Syndrome Society has statistics on their website that outline the chances of each age group birthing a child with Downs Syndrome. At 25 years old, a woman has a 1 in 1,200 chance. At 35, it's 1 in 350. At 40, it's 1 in 100. At lastly, at age 49, chances of having a Down Syndrome child are 1 in 10.
6,000 BABIES EVERY YEAR ARE BORN WITH DOWN SYNDROME
That's 1 in every 700 babies born.
360,000 babies approximately are born each day. Chances of having a child with down syndrome of ANY couple are quite possible.
WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?
Every 4.5 minutes in the United States, a child is born with some kind of birth defect or disability. Every five minutes, another parent is joining the special needs community. As you've been reading this, another couple is becoming a special needs parent. They are being told the news, feeling the crushing weight of the future. Hearts are possibly being broken. Minds are confused.
The chance that this could happen to any couple is very real.
Having a special needs child isn't like a special ability. It isn't certain couples that only put out disabled babies. Many of us have additional children. Before or after a medically needy child, many special needs parents have neuro-typical, healthy children just like any other. Do we deserve any of the backlashes that we receive? If there were anyone to have an additional child with special needs, who better equipped, seasoned and understanding than a parent with one already? Sure, we're busy. That isn't ever going to change.
CHILDREN ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THEIR INABILITIES
To some, having children is an absolute blessing. A heart filled to the brim with love and excitement and happiness. A special needs parent is just the same. Do we always end up having a number of children that we want? No, because sometimes our other children need us more. That decision is for each couple to make. We are all more than aware of the risks. We know the work it can mean for us. Yes, we know! We know, we know, we know. But if above all else, a couple still wants another child, then can you imagine the amount of love they have? To know that their child might never move out, or will never eat on their own, or will need a wheelchair? If they can decide to carry another child while knowing all that can be wrong, that parenting couple is an amazing thing.
IF YOU'RE CONSIDERING HAVING ANOTHER CHILD
I will put this disclaimer on this post because it will ease my conscious. If you are a special needs parent considering having another child where it is likely that your child will be born with special needs, please consult a geneticist to assert risks and take additional prenatal testing when offered. Knowing beforehand can be a wonderful thing. Although those tests don't indicate everything, it can ease a much-stressed mind of an expectant couple. Some disabilities can run in certain genes, such as recessive trait disorders like Cystic Fibrosis, Tay Sachs or Harlequin Itchinosis.
(This post originally appeared on
About the author: Gabrielle is a blogger on Instagram and
. She dedicates her time to caring for her two special needs sons while offering the community for other special needs parents. She focuses on autism, sensory related disorders, rare genetic conditions like SBBS, and CP, and education on feeding tubes. When she gets a few minutes of peace and quiet, she is writing novels, reading. blogging or woodworking. She loves to hear from fellow parents and fans, and can always be contacted directly through her blog and Instagram (@onbothfronts) and