My midwife was the first person, apart from my husband and me, to treat my daughter like any other child, giving her all the necessary care and attention without focussing on her Down Syndrome.
Although a Down Syndrome pregnancy can bring about plenty of complications, our midwives showed great professionalism and compassion when we were faced with the results of our screening. They ensured the necessary follow-up for our baby, and for us as parents. We felt very much that our decision to get an amniocentesis or not would be respected, as would be our decision to keep this special baby. This might seem normal to some, but I have heard from fellow Down Syndrome parents about pressure from those in the medical field to terminate a pregnancy. The support of our midwives didn’t stop once they told us about our elevated risk of Down Syndrome from routine screening tests. Throughout my pregnancy and for many weeks after giving birth, our midwives were there to listen and support us without judgement.
Nobody wishes for a child to have Down Syndrome or any other medical condition, and like most parents, we tried not to think about this potential outcome. Expectant parents are always shocked to hear their pregnancy is at risk, and the attitude of the person delivering the news has a huge impact. We felt that our midwife was accompanying us on our journey rather than just bombarding us with information. I am sure that many doctors are concerned about parents’ well-being and ask them how they are handling the situation, but with midwifery care, I never doubted that my own emotional and mental health were important. Taking the time to listen and to support parents is one of the primary goals of a birth center.
When I was in labour, my midwives and their assistant handled the situation with professionalism. Babies with Down Syndrome often have cardiac abnormalities and other characteristics that can complicate delivery. In our case, the 32-week ultrasound showed no malformations and we knew we were in good hands, which allowed me to concentrate on my labour (which went extremely well) without any stress.
I want to mention something that is unique about delivering with midwives: they let parents meet their baby before they whisk her away. We didn’t discuss Down Syndrome right away, and I’m not quite sure when it was brought up, since I had just given birth to a beautiful little marvel of nature, and my brain was mushy! Before being labelled as having Down Syndrome, I got to meet my daughter as a little person. And that is the best gift our midwives could have given me—a gift that will last my whole life.
In short, it was a very positive birth experience for me, my husband, and my daughter. I don’t think midwives often deliver babies with Down Syndrome, and I think it was a positive experience for them as well.
Today, on World Down Syndrome Day, I want to extend a very special thank you to the two midwives who accompanied me as well as everyone at our birth centre for their open minds and their support. I dream of a day when all parents of children with Down Syndrome can have such a peaceful birth experience.