They dream of having a child despite their Down syndrome

To read on ABC Australia website:

Couple with Down syndrome fights for parenting dream

A young couple with Down syndrome say they are ready for babies and marriage, despite the pleas from their concerned parents, who doubt their children are emotionally and physically ready.

By Australian Story producer Kirstin Murray   Updated

dream

Photo: Michael Cox and Taylor Anderton say they are ready to have children. (Australian Story: Kirstin Murray)

All parents want to see their children marry happily and start a family. But when the couple has Down syndrome, the situation is profoundly complex.

Michael Cox and Taylor Anderton have been dating for almost two years and engaged for one.

The Queensland couple burst into the national spotlight in May when an ABC news video about their romance was viewed online more than 13 million times.

Michael and Taylor’s parents have recognised the pair are happy together, but said they cannot support their dream of starting a family.

« Taylor and Michael want to get married and have children and that makes me feel very worried, apprehensive and concerned, » Taylor’s mother, Catherine Musk, told Australian Story.

« It’s not going to happen; it can’t happen. »

The parents have raised their children to believe they can achieve their dreams, but now they worry they have fostered unrealistic expectations.

« I don’t see parenthood being something that they’re going to achieve, or really they probably should achieve, » Michael’s father Simon Cox said.

« It would be very difficult being a child whose parents both had Down syndrome and couldn’t have a job and couldn’t drive a car and couldn’t understand maths homework and those sorts of things. »

Michael and Taylor have agreed to delay their wedding, but remain determined to eventually have children.

« We want to have four kids, » Michael said.

« We’re going to have three daughters and one son.

The parents have raised their children to believe they can achieve their dreams, but now they worry they have fostered unrealistic expectations.

« I don’t see parenthood being something that they’re going to achieve, or really they probably should achieve, » Michael’s father Simon Cox said.

« It would be very difficult being a child whose parents both had Down syndrome and couldn’t have a job and couldn’t drive a car and couldn’t understand maths homework and those sorts of things. »

Michael and Taylor have agreed to delay their wedding, but remain determined to eventually have children.

« We want to have four kids, » Michael said.

« We’re going to have three daughters and one son.

« It’s not that hard to have a kid. I know that some people say it’s all about hard work but it’s not — it’s all about love and compassion that you have for your child. »

GIF: Swimming is Taylor and Michael’s favourite thing to do together.

‘Their bodies, their choice’

Disability advocates said the decision on parenthood should rest with the couple.

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated director Michelle O’Flynn said people with disabilities were entitled to « bodily integrity ».

« People … like Michael and Taylor are certainly entitled to the freedom to do with their bodies as they wish and that includes reproduction, » she said.

« They have the same rights as everybody else. The fact that they have a disability doesn’t diminish that. »

Ms O’Flynn said rather than stand in the couple’s way, it would be better to direct energy and resources into helping them fulfil their goal.

« We don’t ask other parents in the community: ‘are you good enough to raise your child?’, and this shouldn’t be prejudging how a person with an intellectual impairment parents their children, » she said.

Feeling out of their depth, Michael and Taylor’s families sought professional guidance on how to manage their fears and the couple’s expectations.

« How can I stop it? » Ms Musk said.

« Do I go talk to a specialist, do I talk to a GP and see what the options are? I don’t know — I don’t know what our rights are and what her rights are. »

Ms O’Flynn said the parents could attempt to secure an order for sterilisation.

« It is really something completely abhorrent to most of us, » she said.

« I would say that they would have no chance of winning that because it’s quite likely that Michael and Taylor would be proven to have capacity. »

Medical geneticist Michael Gattas from Brisbane Genetics said the chances of a couple with Down syndrome falling pregnant were rare and he had never seen a case at his practice.

He said if a couple with Down syndrome were to fall pregnant, they would have about a 50-50 chance of having a child with Down syndrome.

Dr Gattas said data on the number of Down syndrome children born from parents who have the condition was slim.

Genetic Health Queensland director Julie McGaughran said if both parents had Down syndrome, there was a « high chance » in each pregnancy that a child will have Down syndrome.

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