Downs Syndrome In the News Parenting

Why Gammy’s dad did him a favour by not bringing him home to Australia

It was tough walking through the school gates of my 5yo daughter’s special school this morning. I remember the first time we inspected her special school, a pre-enrolment day the year prior, and how confronting it was.  It was nothing like I expected.  I don’t know why, but I expected the kids to be quieter, more compliant, calm – but I was so wrong.

Recently in Australia there was a case of moral dysfunction when a David and Wendy Farnell had twins born by a surrogate in Thailand and then upon discovering the male twin was downs syndrome they advised they no longer want the babies.

The reaction to cease the child’s lives due to downs syndrome is in itself not a horrific act, that is an act many parents make when they discover (through pre-natal testing) that their child has downs syndrome.

However, this case had a twist, because the surrogate mother (a young Thailand single mother) stated she would not abort, which she apparently had the right to do, and said she would continue to take care of the children after birth. Upon hearing this the Farnells decided ok, we will have the child, but on the healthy one – the surrogate mother can keep the disabled one.

This action is beyond belief to me.

What also was made an already appalling situation so much worse was he then proceded to show not care or consideration to the male twin, they did not ask to see it, or keep it, take it back to Australia, nothing. In fact they had actually asked that the baby (Gammy) be left on someone’s doorstep (like a nunnery?) to find him and take him in.

When interviewed on 60 Minutes to put their side of the story forward, the Farnell’s made a horrific impression, self-centred, staged and completely and utterly unrealistic. There was no compassion for Gammy whatsoever, it was all a big act.

But let me tell you why I know that.

Because if they really did care about Gammy, they’d have him safely with them by now there is no doubt.  They don’t have Gammy at home with them now because they don’t want him. They never did.

It appears that Gammy’s condition will probably protect him from the most vile people on earth – his biological parents.

Many special needs kids are loud, they laugh a lot, they cry a lot, they are often NOT in groups, they roam independently, and now, somewhat more intelligent than I was 12mths ago, I realise this is an obvious thing, because special needs kids talk with their hearts on their sleeves.  They know little of the concern of other’s view of them, they mostly focus on their own lives and interest, being the centre of their happiness and ultimate well being.

Of course today was not the first time I had ever walked into a special needs school, and despite having a diagnosis for my Rosie since she was 2 as severely autistic, I still am learning more and more about special needs kids every day of my life.  Some lessons from Rosie, some from other kids, maybe the articles online I now read moreso than I did prior to her diagnosis, whatever it is, it just is.

So the question many special parents like me are asking is how could a parent reject a child simply because of a disability, like saying “no thanks, we’ll let that one go”.

To us this is an abhorrent conjecture, cruel, unjust, sickening, and of course it is also very confronting.  We don’t want to look at our child as disabled, defunct, dysfunctional, a misfit or simply “wrong”.  We look at our kids as amazing, incredibly funny and smart, wilful and intelligent.  Yes, intelligent, it might be slightly less than your intelligence on an IQ test, but my Rosie is so smart she has worked out that if she wants to get something, she can get out an iPad, look up the item she wants, and show us – and we will get it.  This allows her to minimise the use of her language, which she has always found impossible to get right, and yet still get her intended goal.  And just so you know, she has had this ability with the iPad since she was 4.  There is no way you can convince me my Rosie is not intelligent.  She fights and perseveres in life just like you and I, she just doesn’t have the same complex artillery to communicate with – starting with a voice.

This isn’t a discussion on surrogacy, a topic I thankfully have never had to become involved in, but having and raising a special needs child, that’s right up my alley.  My husband, a diagnosed Aspergers, my son Liam, a diagnosed Aspergers and Rosie, diagnosed Autistic, you could say I’m in a pretty good position to discuss special needs and the different ways it affects people depending on where you sit in the picture.

I remember when I was pregnant with Liam (first child) and people said “oh you’d better get the amniocentesis to see if he is down syndrome”.  Out of ignorance, I agreed.  Because now, being where I am in life, if I were pregnant again, sure I might want to know, but not so I could “deleselect him or her”, but so I could prepare.  And to be honest, you are going to know pretty fast if it’s down syndrome, so the risk of losing the child (remember 1 in 100 mums lose their baby (healthy or not) from the amniocentesis procedure every year – so for me personally the risk is not worth it. The life with a disabled child is simply not that bad.  Sure, it’s more work, longer hours, Rosie is still in nappies, despite being in Prep, but as the saying goes – the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.  And we certainly get a huge amount of joy from Rosie and Liam both equally, just in different ways.

Here’s the thing, there are no certainties in life, you might have a healthy baby that is a self-righteous prick that people don’t like (including yourself) and lies and cheats people for fun.  And you might have a healthy child who grows up and becomes a drug addict, a murderer or treats you like shit because they think you were a crap parent.  But the bottom line is there are no certainties with kids, you can take or leave them, but they are still your kids.  The scores they achieve at school, the hearts they break as teenagers, the bad money decisions they make as adults, they are still your kids.  It’s the values you instil in those kids that will make their (and your) lives a success or failure.

So when the Farnells (and remember it was both of them – mum and dad that rejected Gammy) raced out of Thailand with their daughter safely in their arms, they actually did Gammy a favour. Because what kind of parents would they have been if this is how they view disabled people?

David Farnell is also a paedophile having spent years in jail for multiple attacks on young girls. Oddly the wife is unconcerned, I guess her Australian visa has something to do with that.

The reality is we don’t choose our kids, and they didn’t choose us. But to have a precious child, albeit disabled, and not be forever grateful that you have that child, that is something I will never understand.

I’m glad I will never run into a Farnell at my daughter’s special school. These people must be incredibly distrusted and unliked people, even by people close to them.

But there is another real tragedy of the Farnell’s pathetic parenting attempt. I think of all the parents of the downs syndrome kids at my daughter’s special school and how they must feel sick to the stomach that someone inadvertently said that if their child was in the care of someone like the Farnells, that the child would be rejected, left for dead, completely unwanted.

When childless people babysit kids they often hand the kids back to the parents and say “we are happy to babysit, because we can give them back”! and everyone laughs. But with disabled children, we feel this comment comes with real connotations, because we think maybe people wouldn’t want a child with a disability.

The Farnells just proved our fears are warranted, and we don’t want to live with that.

Kate Luella