Martha Beck recalls how she reacted to her son’s Down syndrome diagnosis.
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My Reaction to My Son’s Down Syndrome Diagnosis - Martha Beck's Story So, I was about halfway through my doctoral program at Harvard when my second child was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome at about six months of gestations. So, it was very late in the pregnancy. There was still a window of opportunity to terminate that pregnancy but I was very bonded with the baby and chose not to, although, I wouldn’t. If somebody out there has made a different choice, I am completely on your team. This is an individual choice from my perspective. There I was stuck in a Harvard community that glorified intellect and now, my son was guaranteed to have a life that was very different from Harvard students. So, I had a question a lot of my biases about what made a human life worth living. What I realized as I look around Harvard was here were all these really, really smart successful people and not all of them were happy. In fact, the majority of them seemed to have just as much unhappiness as anybody else. So, I began to think that the experience of joy is actually the deepest reason for us to exist at all. Emerson said that beauty is its own excuse for being and joy is beauty felt. So, joy is its own excuse for being. I knew in my heart, in my gut and from my experience that people who have all kinds of disabilities can experience joy to an extent that is as great or greater than anyone else. So, when my son was born, two months later, I was absolutely terrified. He proceeded to educate me, although, I had severe learning disabilities in the area of joy mindfulness, presence and love. I now think that his birth saved my life in many ways. I was told at the time that I was throwing my life away which turned out to be true is just that the life I was throwing away didn’t really work for me and the life I got back is truly, truly blessed. So, if you have had a loss or a diagnosis that is terrifying to you right now, just question your biases and give it time. Sometimes the things that we think are going to destroy us are actually just opening a door so that we can experience genuine happiness.