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Out of respect for life, one woman decides to forgo prenatal testing

by Misa Ogawa

Kyodo

A 35-year-old ex-high school music teacher opted not to take a prenatal test because she wanted to cherish the life of her child regardless of any disabilities the baby might be born with, and whatever difficulties these could bring.

Pushing her to make that decision was the smile of one of her students, a girl with Down syndrome, at the high school in western Japan for children with special needs.

The woman, who declined to be named, has loved playing piano since childhood and in 2007 she qualified as a high school music teacher. When she was assigned to the school, she had little knowledge of disabilities.

It was in her second year that the girl with Down syndrome became one of her students.

The girl, who also declined to be named, often cut class and locked herself in a bathroom. The teacher brought her back to class every time that happened.

“I guess she might have thought of me as a strict teacher,” the woman said.

But when the woman married and quit to move to Tokyo, she was surprised by a letter she received from the girl, in which she had written neatly, “I always like you very much.”

The ex-teacher, who moved to Tokyo with her husband in 2010, considered taking a prenatal test if she were to become pregnant.

“I was thinking that if the test detected any abnormalities in my baby, honestly, I would suffer from having to choose whether to give birth or not,” she said.

There were reasons for her to think that way.

When she was a teacher, the woman was often asked by the mother of one of her students to listen to the hardships she had to go through as the parent of a child with disabilities.

She told the teacher that people around her family understood little about the child’s disabilities and the difficulties they faced, and that they had been isolated from their neighbors and even their relatives.

The ex-teacher said this led her to think that she would consider having an abortion if she became pregnant and found that the child she was carrying had a disability, because she “knew the reality.”

But when she did become pregnant in March 2011, she recalled the image of her student.

The girl, at her request, once visited the couple at her home in Tokyo. her former teacher was also keen to introduce the girl to her husband, in hopes that it would help deepen his understanding of Down syndrome as she believed every couple face the possibility of having a baby with disabilities.

Over dinner, the girl told the couple with a shy smile about her visit to Tokyo Disneyland the previous day.

The husband, who had no idea of how he should treat the girl due to his lack of knowledge about Down syndrome, ended up enjoying her company, later telling his wife, “She’s an interesting kid.”

When she responded by asking him if they should take a prenatal test, he said it was up to her and he was ready to accept a child regardless of disabilities.

The woman then decided not to take the test as she “wanted to value the life whatever outcome awaits us.”

She believes the girl taught them it is all right that everyone is different and everyone be an individual.

Hoping to return to teaching kids with disabilities, the woman said she hopes her 1-year-old son, who was born healthy, will grow up to be a kind and compassionate person who understands the feelings of people with disabilities.

  • Ben Snyder

    Odd. So, this lady wants to forego a prenatal check out of a desire to accept whatever comes out of her, interesting. Isn’t that a little like not studying for a exam because you want to accept all the possible answers? A more rational response with that attitude would be to get the check done, accept whatever is coming AHEAD of time, and use that valuable lead time to prepare for whatever her kid needs. Fascinating that we now live in an era where certain individuals born into unprecedented wealth and technological development nevertheless naively opt to treat their pregnancies like a slot machine.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    This article is stylistically confusing. The fact that this woman already birthed her child, and that he’s one year old, is just tacked on at the end. The rest of the article is written as if this is an on-going affair.

  • http://girlandkat.com/ Elizabeth

    It is worth noting that Down syndrome is only one possible disability. There are many others that do not allow nearly so high functioning individuals and their parents face a never ending and exhausting struggle to meet their needs all through their life. The decision whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is therefore a extremely complex one that should be considered case to case and not a situation where a blanket “right” or “wrong” choice can be applied.

    Holding this lady’s one choice up as an admirable one (which presumably this article does by publishing such a story) simplifies the choices made when having a baby to an upsetting extent.

  • JTCommentor

    I agree with both Ben and Elizabeth. The not so subtle push of a political message by publishing this touching story simplifies the issue too much, and could set a dangerous example for women who do not fully understand the situation.

    it makes as much sense as publishing a story of a family who didn’t vaccinate their children, and the children grew up strong and healthy.

  • blondein_tokyo

    She made the choice that was right for her- and this is news?

    Women who know themselves well enough to know that they would not be a good mother to a special needs child should not be shamed if they make a choice that is different from the one this woman made.

  • Ana Banana

    Congratulations! some doctors would have suggested abortion, even if she or the couple had decided to have the baby, some professionals think “ending a pregnancy” doesent mean to kill someone.
    If this is how it happened, its a great story, a great example and a happy ending!
    God bless them!

  • Justin Lindsay

    staggering. Science is there to be used. I have no issue with those with Down’s Syndrome. However, as this condition can be tested for, there is no reason for anyone to be born with it. anything else is selfish and irrational.

    • Mike Sullivan

      Staggering that you would suggest the eradication of a whole group of the human race

      • jmanngod

        That’s quite wrong to suggest that it is what I’m saying and really just a ploy to get an emotive response. Aborting a foetus is not the same as euthanasia, nor does it equate to some form of genocide as you inelegantly suggest.

      • Mike Sullivan

        You said that “there is no reason to be born with it”, a hateful and offensive attitude towards those with Down syndrome.

      • Justin Lindsay

        both of your comments are coached in emotion and not reason. I make no comments at all on living people; merely on the continued existence of a feotus.

        Whilst everyone has the right to choose what path they should take when it comes to their children. They must do so with full information. To not take a test for a potential child’s (foetus) health (genetic or otherwise) is selfish and irrational. My child was born in Japan and I literally had to scream at them to perform any tests. It was the threat of legal action that made them concur.

      • Mike Sullivan

        Perhaps if you said that there is no reason to be born Jewish or Japanese, then you may see the inhumanity of your own views.

  • 思德

    It is a sad time when articles are even being written about whether or not we should euthanize our children because they have some condition we don’t like. God forbid a Japanese mother have a pang conscience and realize that humans are humans, and humans with Down syndrome or any other illness deserve to breathe the air and feel the sun like everyone else. Life is a right.