The Moral Mirror

There are lots of different types of bloggers.

The ones who blow your mind with facts and figures…who make me feel so in awe of their superior knowledge in their field.

The ones who blog about things that are important to them but they have such a perceptive slant and incredible imagination that you’re taught a lesson, without even realising it. I know plenty of these.

I don’t fit into either of them. Imagination has never been my strong point…probably just as well when you look at my chosen field of employment. Not saying that solicitors aren’t imaginative but well…as a general rule we’re not.

I suppose that I’m more of a facts and figures girl in some respects. I love to read, the play on the written word and the intricacies of interpretation is something that can keep me endlessly entertained. I like to listen, to learn. I love to debate, to have my beliefs challenged. Research is one of my favourite things to do. When you find something that helps you win your point, well it floats my boat.

I feel that a great deal of the time my blog stumbles more into societal issues than Down’s syndrome as a whole.

I’ve blogged several times about issues of politics, law and society’s attitudes to those who are different. Or who hold a differing view.

Since the airing of the documentary “A World Without Down’s syndrome?” I believe that a great swathe of our society have had to face challenging questions about ourselves, about our morals. For those that have watched the documentary, particularly those outside of the DS community, it must have been an eye opening experience.

Since the discussion started about the introduction of the NIPT several months ago, I’ve found myself challenged. And often conflicted. I’ve had months to process what happens in the NHS when a woman falls pregnant, the testing that is offered and often pushed. The judgements that medical professionals often make is all too well known to me.

For a person who’s always been clear in her thinking, this conflict of thought is a novelty and not an all together welcome one. It’s like looking into a mirror, only you get to see the real you…you begin to question every aspect of your moral code.

I’ve had cause to look long and hard into the moral mirror. To face up to who I was, who I am now and what type of person I want to be.

It’s not easy. Life has led me down this path. I skipped along for many a year, barely pausing for thought about “the bigger issues”, content to focus on my job or day to day issues. Over time my ego increased, my care about others was often sadly lacking.

I breezed through my early life, blessed in many ways…strong family, good friends. Yet my perceptions and attitudes were left unchallenged invariably…my own self belief made me blinkered and ignorant. Pride in our own intellect is at times a massive downfall.

Having Evie brought the moral mirror in to my life. For a long time after her birth, I ignored it, covered it with a blanket…carried on with my false self of self importance not looking any deeper than I had to. Hoping that I would never have to look deeply. She was just my baby…no different to anyone else. But she is different…society’s perceptions and attitudes toward her, singles her out as being outside of the box.

As ever life forced my hand, the blanket fell off the mirror…all was revealed and I was made to look. I didn’t like what I saw. And slowly I began to change.

That self awareness was difficult. I disliked my old self for a long time. The moral mirror isn’t easy.

So what specifically troubles me? What is my conflict?

It’s multi-faceted.

I firstly have the issue around abortion…this isn’t a pro life blog before anyone freaks. Because that tends to be a reaction doesn’t it? If I said I was anti-abortion, I would (by some) be labelled a pro-lifer. That causes me an issue straight away, as to be so dismissive because someone holds a different view shows intolerance.

I agree that women have a right to decide if they want to proceed with a pregnancy. Full stop. Or at least I was clear…

The issue of termination is fresh in my mind following the documentary. It’s not that the documentary troubled me. It was clear that the position was one of pro choice – fully informed choice for mothers.

However for me the issue around aborting a baby with DS is confusing. It hurts. Naturally my emotions get in the way. I look back in the mirror and I see what I would have done pre-Evie and I would have had no real ethical dilemma. I wouldn’t have looked deeply inside myself, I would have taken what I saw as the “easier route” for me.

Yet here I now stand, conflicted. I have knowledge which proves my old assumptions and attitudes wrong. I know what Down’s syndrome is; I know the “issues” that come hand in hand with DS and as such DS holds no fear for me. My moral standards at that time were shallow.

I would never wish a woman to have a baby she didn’t want…but I don’t agree that a baby having Down’s syndrome is a valid enough reason to reject that child. I also wouldn’t wish for any baby to be brought into a family where they were not wanted. I struggle with this massively. I don’t have a conclusion other than I know that I personally could never terminate a baby for the reason of having Down’s syndrome.

Secondly it’s looking at Down’s syndrome as a far bigger issue. I find that the DS community often isolates themselves. Not intentionally. But we are part of a huge community of disabled people. There is in society a great fear of those with disabilities. People don’t know how to approach disabled people…whether to offer them help or whether that would be seen to be belittling. So often people avoid. A lot of people seem to forget that disabled people are just that, people.

In our world there are so many different types of abilities and therefore disabilities. I have friends whose children have so many different diagnoses. Funnily enough there are many similarities too…not only because they have disabilities but because they are children too. And kids are kids. We often have the same battles with EHCP and support from services.

When Evie was younger I’ll readily admit that I did not want to be part of any different community, whether that the DS community or the disabled community at large. Evie was just my baby…as time went on I began to appreciate all aspects of the disabled community. I have learnt so much from others.

I had the fear too of special schools. Yet there really is nothing to fear BUT social stigma. Special schools are pretty awesome places. No one tells you this. And generally as a society we fear what we don’t know or understand. When you walk around a place that is so adapted for your child’s needs (and I don’t mean just physical), it’s enlightening. You immediately feel part of something and know that your child will be understood there and their needs will be met. That reassurance is priceless.

All people with disabilities have much to learn from each other. Our shared experiences will help to integrate and include us all within the full scope of this world.

Society judges those who attend special schools, judges those who are different. I used to judge. I know that I’m not alone in that.

There was a survey that I have recently been made aware of…it’s rocked me to my core. The survey reveals that just 30% of public say they would feel comfortable sitting next to a person with a learning disability

(https://www.learningdisabilitytoday.co.uk/just-30percent-public-say-they-would-fell-comfortable-sitting-next-to-a-person-with-a-learning-disability-survey-says.aspx)

This survey raises so many questions.

How can anyone know if someone has a learning disability?

Can you tell just by looking? This is partially why I think people with Down’s syndrome are often ‘targeted’ as their difference is more easily identifiable than most with a LD.

What does this tell us about people? Are they afraid of those with LD? If so why? Do they think that they will harm them in some way?

Personally I think it’s down to a lacking of understanding, assumptions about people with LD and that leads to fear, rejection and even on occasion revulsion.

Thirdly society as a whole is intolerant. We seem to have changed from a seemingly open and honest place, where I was proud to live, to somewhere where people are ridiculed and harassed because they are different. Different colour, different religion, different place of birth, different ability.

I read the news and see daily stories about harassment. I heard a news story on the radio where in July 2016 cases of racial harassment had increased by 41% on July 2015. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why that is.

Do we want to be the type of people who label others, make them fit into their nice boxes so we can place them in their order?

I think as a society we all have a great deal to learn. About tolerance, kindness and the true value of life. We can’t take money to our graves. When I die I want to have been the best person that I can possibly have been. When my mum died we were asked what she was best at, what her interests were. We answered that she was best at being our mum. For me there is no greater endorsement. She taught me to be decent. To be kind. And whilst I may have veered from the path for a while, I’m back there now. I will defend, advocate and protect those who need it.

Who do you see when you look in the moral mirror?

Who do you want to be?

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3 thoughts on “The Moral Mirror

  1. A very interesting piece that made me remember what my mother had said about having a learning disabled son. She was an academic high flier and achiever – top woman civil service entrant in her year and studied for the bar while pregnant, commuting to a full time job and running a home. She measured life in terms of academic achievement until she had my brother in 1953 and slowly came to realise that he wasn’t developing as he should. When we were older she explained to us that our brother had taught her so much about what is important in life and that he had enriched her existence. He continues to do the same for me and the rest of our family. I believe our children have benefited enormously from their relationship with their beloved uncle.

    Liked by 1 person

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