Sometimes I forget that our son has Down syndrome. It’s easy to be distracted by his two year old tantrums, his mischievous smile and go getter attitude. Gabe is kind hearted but stubborn. He immediately runs to check on sister when she is having a dramatic, I’m four and the world is over, meltdown. He will climb onto your lap randomly and stretch his little fingers up to stroke your cheek, just to say I love you.
He also destroys things. Opens drawers, pulls things out, throws them on floor. When you confront him, he ducks his head and looks up from under his eyebrows with a sort of sorry smirk. He helps pick up, sometimes, or wanders off to destroy something else. He loves music, he will start to dance the second he hears it. He absolutely cannot resist participating in a round of Itsy Bitsy, or Twinkle Twinkle…
I’m sure most people reading this would think this was a strange angle to tackle on the whole Baby Gammy controversy. After all, why would Ms. Pattaramon (Goy) need defending – she’s been described as a “saint” and an “absolute hero” by Scott Morrison, the Australian Immigration Minister himself, right?
I’ve been following this story quite closely for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons – the parallels in our situations – Down Syndrome baby, AVSD (at least until the latest prognosis that says Gammy does not in fact have a life-threatening heart condition), the family’s street food stall, even photos of Goy and Gammy contrasting her brown skin against his alabaster white complexion, which evoke a sense of familiarity with some of the shots of Noah and me.
Yet, as the story continues to play out in the media, I’ve noticed that support for her is not as monolithic as it appears.
I’ve seen some rumblings about her motives in keeping the baby – insinuations that she’s using him to cash in, headlines that she told the agent she would keep “the dumb baby” (which had the effect of stirring the ire of the politically correct demographic), revelations that once she took on the surrogacy arrangement she moved up in the world from ramshackle hut to not-quite-so ramshackle unit and even had a bit of a spending splurge on nice handbags and clothes or whatever. I could go on.
She’s now hiding from the media thanks to the backlash. That’s a shame. She doesn’t deserve that.
I think it’s important not to lose sight of the facts in amongst all the outrage about Baby Gammy possibly being used as a pawn –
Goy kept the baby, she didn’t choose to abort him.
She did so despite her own financial circumstances, and despite the fact she’s not the biological mother.
She did all this for 6 months BEFORE the international media got hold of the story and money started coming in through donations.
I want to relay a story from a successful Chinese businesswoman I know. She saw that I was bringing Noah with me to trade at my food stalls, and she said she admired my strength. She then revealed her own past to me.
I have to admit in my elementary Cantonese and her not-perfect English (we communicate in a mixture of both) I never fully grasped the medical issues involved in her story. She told me that once upon a time, before her now-grown up children came along, she gave birth to a baby in China.
The doctors pulled her aside and said that based on their medical opinion, the baby had a 90% chance of developing a debilitating brain defect. They told her she had 2 options – to accept the baby and surrender to a life of dealing with his condition – or to leave him behind at the hospital and go home. She chose the latter.
I don’t know what happened to the baby – whether he automatically became a ward of the state, or whether he died, or whether she was in fact scammed by rich people who wanted a child of their own.
Ironically she relayed the story to me to show that she and I had something in common beyond the fact we’re both immigrant Asian businesswomen – the fact that she walked away and got on with her life was a display of the same kind of strength she sees in me.
Back to Goy and baby Gammy – I’m aware her critics are in the minority; I think most people understand. That’s not too different to my situation, as reflected in this extract from an email that was sent to a distribution list about me –
“…she has a disabled baby to whom she parades through FB on weekend markets to pray for sympathy , to show the world she was hard done by. Everything that is going on with her life now or should i say ‘one screwed up life’ is of her own choosing…”
Siblings say the darndest things, don’t they? 😉 Oh and also, anyone who accuses me of sharing Noah for any reason other than to show that life can be a blessing even if you have a Down Syndrome baby – can go to hell.
You can see why I’m irked by any kind of negative second-guessing about Goy’s motives – I experience it myself.
In closing, I’d like to steal a line from Doreen Wilson, one of my Google+ friends. Her re-share of a Gammy news item I had posted carried this quote attributed to someone she knew –
“There’s something wise and maybe….right about accepting your lot in life”.
I’m not disputing it was hard for my Chinese businesswoman friend to abandon her baby, but that Goy chose to take care of Gammy despite everything, I think, deserves our admiration, not scorn.