|General Script posted February 12, 2020|
Monologue trilogy: Down Syndrome speaks
This piece pushes a hot button three ways. Abortion rights and wrongs battle it out; the spoils of their war gets the last word.
A BARE STAGE WILL SUFFICE
Characters: Susan and Nick, early thirties; Cindy, age six
Nick would have left anyway as soon as Cindy was born. He’d have rejected her on the spot.
Perhaps the shock would have flash-frozen his feet to his already iced-over heart, in which case I’d have given him a pair of my cozy warm boots—one to each “cheek” —to send him on his way. Either way, he’d have been outta here ASAP.
Given his appalling behavior during my pregnancy—which prolonged the torture—it would have been far better had I—more to the point, had he—not known ahead of time.
Such, alas, are the miracles of modern medicine. No more waiting for the birth-day surprise—today we “enjoy” advance notice should the fetus prove to be in any way “defective.” The assumption is that given foreknowledge of fetal imperfection one would choose to “terminate the pregnancy.”
Misnomer: “choose.” One would be expected to. Pressured to. Not so much by the doctor perhaps but certainly by the father.
Having been informed of—and being so foolish as to have informed him of—the test results mid-point in my pregnancy, the upshot was that he hounded me for the next two months, hoping to bully me into abortion by last-chance week-26.
“Threat,” thinks he.
“Promise,” thinks I.
Deadline came—he went.
Greetings from the bad guy. They all think I’m rock-bottom-beneath-contempt. Everyone—her family, her friends. Hell—my family, my friends. How could I do something so despicable? Leave my poor, pregnant wife—especially knowing the extra burden she was carrying.
I don’t mean twins—though when the test results came in, we were desperately hoping for twins. Not that we’d wanted twins to begin with—perish that thought—but considering the alternative, twins would have been a blessing.
Let me explain. The “Alpha Feto-Protein”—aka “AFP—test measures the level of, well, “AFP” in the mother’s blood. An AFP level outside of the expected range would indicate that: A) the test should be repeated. A ditto score on the repeat test would indicate that: B) further testing should be done. “Further testing” includes: 1) a sonogram, the results of which would indicate whether to follow up with: 2) amniocentesis.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the first AFP test, they’d assured Susan that screwy AFP levels are often flukes. Abnormal levels are commonly indicative of over-or-under-estimation of gestational weeks, i.e., how far along you are. The pregnancy could have begun earlier or later than originally thought, resulting in AFP levels that are higher or lower than would be otherwise expected.
So far, so good. So, we didn’t panic when the test—and its repeat—came out with a low AFP value. Maybe Susan didn’t conceive on the day we had assumed she had. It could have been a couple of weeks later, couldn’t it have been?
Actually, no, it couldn’t have been. I’d been working like crazy during tax season and could barely get myself up to a slow crawl into bed, much less get up for anything once I got there. So, she had to have conceived during our last blast in mid-March.
The upshot was that a low AFP level could indicate Down Syndrome.
Then Susan remembered what they’d said about twins affecting the AFP level. So that’s when we started praying for twins. Turned out Susan had got it backward—two fetuses would double the AFP level.
An ultrasound showed that the fetus was smaller than normal, which in itself is associated with Down Syndrome. Amniocentesis would be definitive.
Susan balked at having amnio: what was the point—what’s done is done—we’ll deal with it if and when.
I finally talked her into it. I’d tried to reason with her—chances were far in our favor. Susan was only 25—smack dab in the age-range associated with the lowest incidence of Down Syndrome. So why not have the test to rule it out—then we could relax and look forward to a healthy baby.
Amniocentesis was indeed definitive: the fetus had Down Syndrome.
I say “fetus” rather than baby. Susan was only four months along—the thing could fit in half the palm of your hand and weighed like—what?—a couple of ounces.
But Susan insisted it was a baby. Our baby. Once we found out it was a girl, she even named it: Cindy.
I tried to talk sense into her. Badgered her more than a bit, I admit. Isn’t the whole point of these tests to prevent bringing any more defective kids into the world? It’s unconscionable to knowingly burden our health-care system.
Susan thinks my purported concern for society is a load of self-serving claptrap. She says I don’t give a flying fig about “burdening the health-care system”—that the truth is I am loath to inconvenience myself by being obliged to raise a child with “special needs.”
Besides, she says, Cindy wouldn’t burden the health-care system—she’d likely be a perfectly healthy baby, Down Syndrome notwithstanding.
Fine. What about burdening the school system, then? Susan herself says the kid would have “special needs”—big bite out of the budget for education.
Susan says every child has “special needs.” End of conversation.
I can’t stomach her self-righteous affectation—her “pro-life-of-no-quality-whatsoever” martyr shtick. No way am I going to stand on Susan’s “every-egg-is-sacred-soap-box” and play the simpering fool. “Whatever-you-want-dear-no-matter-how-utterly-stupid-on-top-of-selfish.”
Tragic foil to a “would-be-clinic-bomber-drama queen—no thanks. Susan can ride solo saddle on her high horse—carrying her hapless side-kick—for the rest of her life-looong trip.
I’ll have to support her and the kid. No way around it, outrageously unfair as it is. Yes, Susan made her “choice”—and I’ll have to pay for it. Doubly so, and for likely thrice as long. There’ll be no stopping when it turns 21.
Lifetime sentence for me. How the hell will I be able support a second family someday—aren’t I entitled to a couple of normal children?
Sure sucks for me—meantime, at least I’m outta there.
So, call me a louse.
Go ahead—everyone else does.
I should of got flushed down the toilet like a tad pole.
I should of got drownded when I was born. Like a rat.
I should of got spaded like a dog. To stop making retards like me.
That’s what they say in school. The mean kids. To make me cry.
My mommy says I’m not a retard. She says I’m special. Extra-special. I have a extra crome zone. I have Down Sim Drone.
My mommy got me a shirt. DOWN got crossed out. It has UP. UP Sim Drone.
I don’t have a daddy. A man was spozed to be my daddy till I got Down Sim Drone. He doesn’t marry us anymore. My mommy told to Aunt Marlene. Who had a baby who died before she got borned. Before she got married.
Aunt Marlene told to my mommy she cried when her baby died. A man got glad cause he could scape not get married.
Aunt Marlene and Uncle Paul got married. They got two twins the same day. Who are special cause they got borned one day. Not extra-special like me.
I got extra-special blood too. Extra white bloods that are bad. The doctor tries to make the white bloods go away. To stop Loo Kema.
The doctor takes out the white bloods with Kemo. A big shot in my arm Wens Day. My mommy cries Wens Day for my big shot. It makes me get sick and better too. I don’t cry for my big shot.
My mommy says my bloods won’t be extra-special someday anymore. When the bad white bloods go away.
But Down Sim Drone won’t ever go away. I’ll always be extra-special.
Thanks to VMarguarite for the artwork: Mother and ChildPays one point and 2 member cents.
Children with Down Syndrome have an increased risk of leukemia.
Artwork by VMarguarite at FanArtReview.com
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