Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

It’s official. My toe is broken. It’s the fourth one on my right foot, right next to the littlest toe. Honestly? I thought a broken toe would hurt more so I insisted on cramming it into high heels the weekend of Blogalicious. I knew something was wrong with it, but broken? I was told by the x-ray technician that there is nothing to do about it, but wait. I didn’t run the marathon this past weekend, and I’ve slowly gotten into an exercise routine that doesn’t put weight on my foot (elliptical machine and stationary bike at my local 24 Hour Fitness). Now I am hoping it is totally healed for the Tinkerbell half marathon in Orange County, which I plan to run with Erika in January.

What exercises are good for someone who can’t put weight on her feet?

I have long been concerned about the disconnect between politicians in Washington and the regular people who vote for them, in terms of income. The New York Times echoed my thoughts in an article about how almost all of the candidates for president are in the top one percent of income earners in this country.

In somewhat related news, California Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi was caught shoplifting more than $2,000 worth of goods at Neiman Marcus, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. This is such a bummer, as I was at an assembly hearing two years ago, in which she ignored corporate astroturfers and voted for a bill that would have gotten toxic flame retardants out of baby products. She was supposed to be one of the good ones! Ugh!

This is especially outrageous. Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, is suing Denver so that inactive voters can’t get mail-in ballots, according to the Colorado Independent. Apparently, it is a ploy to keep these voters from voting for Initiative 300, which would give them paid sick days. What a tool.  

My most recent column at Moms Clean Air Force is on mercury poisoning in the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican communities due to a spiritual practice that involves mercury. The mercury not only goes into the blood stream and causes developmental delays and other damage, but it can linger for decades in the home. It was a fascinating — and eye-opening — article to write.

Dana over at the Mombian blog released some eye-opening facts on the ways that children of gay and lesbian parents are discriminated against.

Crunchy Chewy Mama — a fabulous blogger I met at Blogalicious! — is joining other moms in protesting an FDA ban against raw milk. I had no idea that raw milk was illegal in some states, and that it was illegal even for moms to cross state lines to get it. Have you heard of this?

A BlogHer mom of a daughter with Down Syndrome wrote of the importance of equipping children with special needs against abuse.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you? Happy Halloween all!

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Raising Children With Down Syndrome

In the first study of its kind, the grand majority of families with members who have the genetic disorder Down Syndrome reported happiness. From MSNBC.com:

Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome

This is particularly relevant as a new blood test to determine Down syndrome early in pregnancy is expected to be available within months.

The story opened up with Melissa Reilly, who not only has Down syndrome but is a Special Olympian who brings home gold medals in skiing, cycling and swimming, and also interns for a Massachusetts state senator. This story is worth a read as it not only shows how accomplished people with Down Syndrome can be and the positive effect they have on their families, but also introduces the controversy around prenatal genetic testing for Down.

Thousands of women a year opt to terminate pregnancies when their unborn child has Down syndrome. Some estimates put that number as high as 90 percent, according to Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

But soon, the first non-invasive and inexpensive blood test will allow pregnant women to know if their fetus has Down syndrome in the early weeks of pregnancy. The test, expected to hit market later this fall, detects fetal DNA in a mother’s bloodstream.

Bioethicist Art Caplan says the ease of this test raises the possibility that Down syndrome will slowly disappear from our society.

Skotko, the genetics researcher, also has a 31-year-old sister with Down syndrome. He says she is the inspiration for his practice and research on the condition and that it’s critical for families to receive accurate and unbiased information, and they should know raising a child with Down syndrome can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

I am glad that Skotko is getting the word out. Why is there so much fear around people with Down Syndrome?

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Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Sorry for the paltry post, but today is when I volunteer at Ari’s English class. Still, there were a couple items that caught my eye.

A stay-at-home dad over at Salon wrote a hilarious and poignant column on how parenthood has made him dumb.

The prevalence of live born infants with Down syndrome increased by 31 percent between 1979 and 2003, according to a WebMD article.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Study Questions Women’s Attachment to Abnormal Babies

Psychiatrists from the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, who were studying perceptions of beauty, found that women looked away from the faces of babies with abnormalities with greater frequency than men, according to a study by the Associated Press.

The study couldn’t explain the gender disparity. (Lead researcher Dr. Igor) Elman noted that previous work has linked child abandonment and neglect to abnormal appearance, and even asked if the finding might challenge the concept of unconditional maternal love.

That’s too far-reaching a conclusion, cautioned Dr. Steven Grant of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study.

The work is part of broader research into how we normally form attachments and what can make those attachments go awry, work that tests if what people say matches what they do.

“Common sense would tell you one thing,” Grant said. “This doesn’t fit with common sense. It raises a question.”

In a component of the study, 13 men and 14 women viewed 80 photos of babies, 30 of whom had abnormal facial features like cleft palate, Down syndrome or crossed eyes. The study’s participants rated each baby’s attractiveness on a scale of zero to 100.

While women rated those babies no less attractive than men, they pressed the keys 2.5 times more often than men to make them disappear, the scientists said.

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A Tribute to Mothers

I was moved by an essay in Brain, Child magazine, “Not One of Those Mothers.“ Unfortunately, the link is not online, but it was a firsthand account by artist Kate Trump O’Connor on raising a son with Down Syndrome.

Trump O’Connor, who chose not to partake in any genetic prescreening and was blind-sided by her son’s diagnosis, aptly described what every mother feels at least on a subconscious level: that only special mothers are chosen by God to mother special children; that surely a selfish, afraid or unenergetic woman would not bear a child with a disability.

I know all of this makes you uncomfortable: my child, the future you can’t or couldn’t have imagined for yourself. For your child. Two years ago if I had been told that at two days old, instead of being discharged home with me, my baby would be put on a lung bypass machine that circulated the blood out of and back into his body; that at two and a half months he would have open heart surgery; that at 14 weeks old he would come home from the hospital, alive but fragile, with a feeding tube and an oxygen tank; that instead of holding him warm to my breast, the tiny infant I’d felt kick and roll inside of me would be nourished by the milk I pumped five times a day for months — if you had told me all of this, I would have said, Nope, can’t do it, (God,) find someone else please.

And if I had been told that my newborn son would be disabled? And if we’d known the first gift we would receive after his birth would come from the chief geneticist at the big-shot hospital, a book titled Babies with Down Syndrome? Certainly I would have paled and looked around. Me? I can’t be the mother you intend for this child. Surely you mean someone else — someone who hears all this and doesn’t turn away in fear. A woman who instead hauls out her breast pump, grabs a medical dictionary, calls the local early intervention program, and gets down to the business of mothering her special child…

Now, after all I’ve told you, I must concede: I am a different kind of mother…

But the truth is, whoever or whatever force is in charge of baby placement didn’t see anything in me that is not in every one of us — the capacity to love our children beyond measure and reason, beyond diagnosis and fear, beyond uncertainty and self. I wasn’t picked to be Thomas’s mom because I am special; I was made special because I am his mom. When I took him in my arms for the first time and gazed into his eyes, I saw only my beautiful, perfect son.

So I settle back in my chair here on this side of the café table. It may be hard and unyielding some days, it may wobble a bit when I lean, but is my seat at the table. I don’t want to trade places. Because what you can’t see from your seat on the other side is the breathtaking view I have gazing out over your shoulder.

Trump O’Connor beautifully describes the transformation a woman undertakes when she becomes a mother. I thought I would share with you the most accurate account I have read in a long time of what it is like to view the world through the lens of motherhood. Bravo, Kate!

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