Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Encounter

I had what many moms of kids with DS will recognize as "An Encounter" today. It was interesting.

I've been taking a course at the boys' school, taught by the local Chabad rabbi (who is a terrific teacher). The course is sponsored by the Jewish Learning Institute, and is called "Talmudic Ethics: Finding Your Way to Good Decisions". The course is offered nationally, and we are covering a variety of weighty issues. So far we discussed murder, euthenasia, and today was abortion.

Today, we also had a guest, a fellow who is taking the course in California, but is here in MA for the week and took this week's session with us instead.

Sofia comes with me to class; the first two classes, she slept nicely in the stroller, but today she was awake and exploring the classroom or sitting on my lap "reading" the textbook.

As you might expect, a discussion about abortion prompted me to talk a wee bit about having a child with DS, and how 90% of fetuses with DS are aborted. Later in the discussion, as we talked about supporting a family who is "talked out of" terminating a pregnancy, I mentioned how the DS community works so hard to support each family, regardless of the choice they make.

("Mention" is putting it mildly - I sort of launched into a 5 minute soap-box speech).

When I mentioned that there is a waiting list to adopt babies with DS, the gentleman who was visiting from California was flabbergasted. "How could there be a waiting list? Why would these people [the adoptive parents] want a child like that? Why would they want to take care of this adult all their lives?"

I launched into a speech about how amazing this whole experience has been, how I have found out so many wonderful things about my friends, my community, and my own strengths, and how having Sofia has been the best experience of my life.

Mind you, I know the rest of the folks in the class. The rabbi is around my age, but the other students are all in theri grandparent years, including the guest. There is a couple from my shul who have been just wonderful to us since Sofia was born; the lady even mentioned at the beginning of class how Sofia is the darling of our shul. So the regular students and the rabbi were all smiling and nodding - they have all experienced how wonderful life with Sofia really is.

Apparently, not the guest. He kept going, mentioning the old joke about retirement (which begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies). "These kids don't leave home."

I was able to very calmly and matter-of-factly say "yes they do." I went on to explain that I fully intended for my daughter to go to college, to live independently, to have her own adult life.

We continued the conversation as we walked out of class. I was guiding the guy to the front door of the building, and Miss Sofia got out of her stroller and walked ahead of us. "Obviously, she has a very mild case of it."

"No, actually, she has 'it' in every cell of her body."

"Oh. Well, you would barely know she has it to look at her."

The conversation fizzled out around then, and I was able to cordially say goodbye. It wasn't really until after he was gone that I was able to take stock, both of his words and mine.

While I am flabbergasted at his words (my girlfriend on the playground said "hm, he must have a not so mild case of idiocy"), I am very proud of my own reaction. I did not get upset, I did not get defensive. I felt as if I was smiling a knowing smile, and I could see my other classmates doing the same. We know a secret - how wonderful life with Sofia really is.

Which makes me even prouder of my community!


Dori (Aviva's mommy) said...

Good for you...I love your friend's comment because it is so true!

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

CAn I just stand right here in my living room and give you a standing ovation? That was wonderful and you handled yourself so well! I always think of what I should've said after the fact! Great Job, Francine!

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

Can I just stand right here in my living room and give you a standing ovation? That was wonderful and you handled yourself so well! I always think of what I should've said after the fact! Great Job, Francine!

Tamara said...

Very nice job, Francine!


amy flege said...

Yup... I am with Shannon.. Standing ovation here too!! woo hoo! You go girl!

Anonymous said...

Good for you!! I can't wait to meet her in July!!!!

Cynthia said...

That was too cool! I love it!
How wonderful to have the support of everyone in the room, who already "know" the reality.