She loves her son but if she could choose again she’d have ended her pregnancy, says Mariëtte du Preez* of Pretoria.
Anton* is physically and mentally disabled and at 29 is unable to walk, speak or even eat on his own. He wears a nappy and is dependent on Mariëtte 24 hours a day.
“I had German measles while I was pregnant which is extremely dangerous for an unborn baby. The doctor advised me to have an abortion but at the time you had to get three independent opinions, and I decided to keep my baby.”
Three days after Anton’s birth he had organ failure, resulting in brain damage. He was at a special school until age 18, but now Marëtte and a full-time housekeeper care for him.
Anton has no concept of danger and also often breaks things so has to be watched 24/7.
“What will become of Anton when my husband and I are no longer around?” Mariëtte asks. Although they love him he’s a huge financial and emotional burden on the family.
*Not their real names
How do you decide?
Your doctor should refer you to a team of experts who can give you detailed information about the condition your unborn child is suffering from and what its impact will be. They’ll make a recommendation about whether you should have an abortion, but the final choice is yours.
You should think carefully about the demands you, your family and child will have to face.
You have to accept that for the rest of your life you’ll have to live with recurring bouts of mourning and increased stress, says Cape Town psychologist Dr Anthony Costandius, who specialises in supporting parents with disabled children.
“You will constantly be reminded your child has not developed like other children and that your ideals for your child will never be realised. The extra care and financial demands will cause ongoing stress.”
This doesn’t means you can’t deal with the challenges, Dr Costandius says. It’s important that as parents your relationship is strong, or it won’t survive.
Also think about the impact a disabled brother or sister will have on your other children. At the end of the day you and your disabled child can enjoy a quality life provided you:
1. Come to terms with your loss.
2. Ensure you’re close to good practical and emotional support networks.
3. Tackle your challenges one day at a time.