Tag archives: Down Syndrome

Chasing Perfection

by Anna Higgins

October 17, 2013

Perfection is a ghost. Many of us pursue it all our lives in our own strength, only to find it unattainable. We keep our faults hidden and run from those who are less than our image of “perfection.” This attitude can be deadly.

Most of us are woefully ignorant of the fact that the “imperfect” — children with disabilities — are targeted for elimination prior to birth. Over 90% of preborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. This staggering statistic reveals that as a society, we have done little to protect the most innocent among us. We have neglected to take a stand for those with no voice and neglected to teach our children that people with differences are just as valuable as anyone else and deserve protection and respect.

It is heart-wrenching to think that abortion, coupled with the negative attitude towards persons with disabilities, has robbed countless parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and other family members of the joys and challenges of raising and loving a person with Down Syndrome. In our pursuit of perfection, we cast aside parts of ourselves and others that we deem substandard. In so doing, we unknowingly discard life’s most valuable treasures. It is most often in our weaknesses that true grace is revealed.

The apostle Paul revealed in 2 Corinthians that he suffered from what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” Despite Paul’s pleadings, the Lord chose not to remove it from him, but instead display His grace through the weakness. Paul responds in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Without that “thorn,” Paul may have never experienced the fullness of that grace and strength.

ESPN recently posted an “E:60” video on YouTube highlighting the story of Heath White, competitive runner and Air Force pilot, who was faced a few years ago with the news that his unborn child had Down Syndrome. Heath, who was accustomed to setting and achieving lofty goals, candidly admits his desire to abort the child who he knew would be less than “perfect.” His wife also describes her struggle in wanting to keep her baby and save her marriage. The result was a change of heart for Heath, embodied in an emotional and inspiring letter he wrote to his daughter, Paisley. His bold honesty and acceptance of Paisley is encouraging and counter-cultural. He came to the realization that Paisley is just like every other kid — worthy of love and acceptance. Their story is one of deep pain, resilience, and beauty.

Perfection existed only in one person, Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we are made whole. Jesus often chooses the weak to instruct the strong, and the words of children to teach those who are wise in their own eyes. I pray that we can learn to cherish what we consider “imperfect” and learn to live contentedly in the amazing grace offered by Christ alone.

The Love of Anne de Gaulle”

by Robert Morrison

December 19, 2011

FRC staff, visitors, and friends on the Web had an extraordinary opportunity this week to hear a lecture by Leticia Velasquez. Mrs. Velasquez is the mother of a Down Syndrome child. She spoke movingly of her experiences and how she viewed this child as a special blessing from God. Nurses told her eight years ago, “we regret to inform you that…” It started off that coldly, that clinically. “Mongolita,” her husband told her, using the Spanish word for Mongoloid. But Leticia is a feisty New Yorker. She answered back: “This beloved child will never shoot up her school or do drugs.” And she’s right about that.

Sitting in the audience, I remembered my first encounter with this subject. I was a graduate student reading the biography of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle had then only recently retired as President of the Fifth Republic of France.

A military hero during World War I, de Gaulle at 6‘5” towered over most of his countrymen, both figuratively and literally. In the interwar years, Col. de Gaulle taught at Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, and was an outspoken advocate for tank warfare. His theories were considered too radical, and he was shunted aside. Only in 1940, did de Gaulle see his ideas put to devastating use—by the Nazis panzers as they plowed through the Ardennes forest. While the divided French Cabinet argued about whether to surrender or keep fighting, the newly promoted Gen. de Gaulle escorted a British friend to the airport outside threatened Paris. Then, without so much as a toothbrush, he closed the door to the aircraft and flew to England. He watched from the air as the battered French towns below burst into flames. His own wife and daughter Anne were down there.

He rallied the French people with a speech delivered over the BBC. And he led the Free French throughout the war. Afterward, he briefly led the government before going into retirement. But in 1958, France was wracked with internal divisions over Algeria, communism, and much else. Called out of retirement, Charles de Gaulle became President of France. He re-wrote the constitution, creating the Fifth Republic that governs France to this day. In World War II, he restored French honor after the debacle of Hitler’s invasion and occupation. As President, he sought to make France respected again throughout the world.

Retiring for a second time in 1969, de Gaulle was asked by an interviewer what gave him the courage, the stamina, and the vision to fight so hard for his country. Unhesitatingly, he answered: “The love of Anne de Gaulle.”

As a student, I was puzzled. But I soon found out what he meant. Anne was born with Downs Syndrome. Charles and his wife Yvonne raised Anne at home. What’s so unusual about that? At that time, most of France’s upper classes, and certainly most ambitious military figures, would quietly place such a daughter in a convent school, where loving and devoted nuns would care for her. There would be visits several times a year, of course, but the child would effectively be banished from the family.

Not the de Gaulles. They rearranged their entire domestic life around the need to love and care for Anne. And Anne returned that love in abundance. One of the most moving scenes I ever read showed Charles and Yvonne standing at the gravesite in a small country churchyard in Colombey Les Deux Eglises. Embracing his grieving wife, the world leader said: “Now she is like all the others.”

As an historian, I’m often asked why it is we don’t seem to have leaders on the world stage who are like the giant figures of World War II. In France today, 96% of unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are killed. In the U.S., it is 92%. These lethal rates are even higher among the elites from whose ranks we draw our leaders. Might it be that we no longer produce leaders who can love as unconditionally as the de Gaulles? Anne’s love inspired and motivated one of the greatest leaders of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps we need more such lovers. And more capacity to love.

Not to Miss: “A Special Mother is Born” Book-signing Event Next Week

by Family Research Council

November 10, 2011

Leticia Velasquez, author of the recently published “A Special Mother is Born” on parenting a child with special needs, will be Washington, D.C. for a book signing, on Tuesday, November 15th, at 12:30p at the Catholic Information Center: 1501 K Street, NW.

Leticia is a wife and mother of three daughters, one with Down Syndrome. She writes professionally, has her own blog, Cause of Our Joy and is a co-founder of the support group, Keeps Infants With Down Syndrome (KIDS).

A Special Mother is Born” is a beautiful anthology of stories from parents with children who have special needs. Contributors include Rick Santorum, Mary Kellet and Dr. Gerry Nadal, among others. This will be an opportunity (and a book) you will not want to miss.