Although the experience is different for every family, one thing’s for sure: Parenthood is full of surprises.
For Courtney and Matt Baker, their first surprise came at the 12-week ultrasound. Just one week earlier, the Bakers had been screened for Down syndrome and told the test results came back negative. When they met with their doctor at their 12-week mark, he said there had been a mistake. Baby Baker did, in fact, have Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. One in every 691 babies in the US is born with Down syndrome. This can lead to heart defects, developmental delays and a higher risk for cancers and infections.
Baker’s doctor suggested the couple see a specialist to “evaluate their options.”
"I told him our only option was to bring our baby girl into this world," Courtney Baker told TODAY. The Bump has also reached out for comment.
Due to her high-risk status, Baker had trouble finding another ob-gyn to treat her. She was able to find a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, but he suggested that she terminate the pregnancy due to the low quality of life he believed she and her baby would face.
Firm in their decision to keep the baby, the Bakers are now proud parents of 15-month-old Emersyn (“Emmy”). And Courtney remained firm in her decision to eventually write an open letter to the prenatal specialist who suggested an abortion may be their best option. In April, she did just that.
Baker shared the letter on her Facebook page, which has since received almost 500 shares.
“This took so long to write because I understand how important it is. I wanted it to be perfect. Just like Emmy,” she begins. “I came to you at the most difficult time in my life. I was terrified, anxious, and in complete despair. I didn’t know the truth yet about my baby, and that’s what I desperately needed from you. But instead of support and encouragement, you suggested we abort our child. I told you her name and you asked us again if we understood how low our quality of life would be with a child with Down syndrome. You suggested we reconsider our decision to continue the pregnancy. From that first visit, we dreaded our appointments. The most difficult time in my life was made nearly unbearable because you never told me the truth. My child was perfect.”
By sharing this letter, Baker hopes to change both public perception and her doctor’s attitude toward Down syndrome.
“Emersyn has not only added to our quality of life, she’s touched the hearts of thousands... So my prayer is that no other mommy will ever have to go through what I did. My prayer is that you, too, will now see true beauty and pure love with every life displayed on every sonogram.”
From viral Facebook posts to adorable calendars, we’ve seen a surge in Down syndrome awareness over the last few months. Although baby’s extra chromosome brings its own set of challenges, breastfeeding is a proven way to help brain development and protect baby against infection and some cancers in Down syndrome infants.