National / Science & Health

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.

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