There’s beauty to be found in life’s differences, according to one model.
Earlier this month, actress and model Amanda Booth shared the story of her toddler with Down syndrome in a piece published by Harper’s Bazaar. While abortion was never a consideration for her and her husband, she quickly realized the “staggering” “termination rate” for little ones like her son Micah. Through her advocacy, she hopes to “clear eyes to see the possibilities of this life” and to have others “know the truth.”
"I still know very little about Down Syndrome, really,” Booth began, “but I know a lot about Micah.”
While pregnant with Micah, Booth planned to give birth at home with the least amount of intervention possible. Certain tests didn’t matter because, to her and her husband, abortion wasn’t an option.
“My husband Mike and I had opted out of genetic testing, because it didn't matter to us—we never would have ‘done anything about it,’” she wrote.
But Booth’s dream of a home delivery never came true. A specialist sent Booth to the hospital to deliver Micah after monitoring his weak heartbeat. “When the on-staff pediatric doctor came to visit us for the first time, she asked if we had done any genetic testing,” Booth remembered. “We confidently said, ‘No, it doesn't matter to us.’”
After Micah’s birth, the pediatrician suggested Micah had Down syndrome because of his eye shape. Even then, Booth and her husband remained wary of testing because, “It didn’t matter, even still.”
After taking her newborn home, Booth said, “We would occasionally wonder if he ‘had it,’ but he was thriving — we were treating him as we had always anticipated.”
But after three months, a new pediatrician, Dr. Katiraei, wanted to test Micah because “other medical things would start to arise if he did, in fact, have Down Syndrome.” This time, she agreed. And, as it turned out, Micah did.
“[I]t ended up just being another day for us,” Booth wrote, especially with the help of Micah’s doctor.
“It has been incredible to be surrounded by such like-minded, supportive people,” she added, “I am so thankful to be living in our modern, accepting society.” But, she added, “we still have a far way to go.”
To close that gap, she and her husband began a “social media outreach” to educate others about Down syndrome. She turned to Instagram “as a platform for information” where she could learn from others “directly.”
“I instantly fell in love with the babies I was seeing, the encouraging parents, and the love they were sharing,” she said. That’s when she realized she “needed to be a part of that.”
“I wasn't scared of the reactions people would have, sharing our story wasn't for them,” she wrote, “but for the people who needed it, and I knew they'd find us.”
And when she encountered trolls, she turned their comments into inspiration to raise Micah “to be greater than that” and “walk this earth with a full heart, having compassion for people who don't understand him, and the courage to show them anyway.”
“[P]eople need to know the truth,” about Down syndrome, she said. In particular, the threat of abortion. By sharing her own story, she hoped to change minds – and save lives. “The termination rate with prenatal testing is so staggering,” she stressed, “and I know that if people could see a glimpse of the life they could have, it might decrease.”
Booth urged her readers to see the value of life:
Life needs to happen and I don't think I have the right to do much more than guide my way through it, respecting its power by being present and good. Any test result would not have changed the course of the pregnancy, so I didn't see the point.
“[A]ll I'm trying to do is make people aware, give them a hand to walk with, a shoulder to borrow, and clear eyes to see the possibilities of this life,” she added.
Possibilities like Micah.
“Micah is different, but not in the way you'd think,” she wrote. “His spirit radiates through a room, and everyone else feels it, too.”
“There is so much darkness in this world, I know people need to be reminded of the good,” she continued. “Micah, is the good.”
Although that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, she confessed.
“The hardest parts came with me knowing I had a responsibility to Micah, to push him really hard, and to give him all the tools I had for him to grow and learn,” she admitted. As a former athlete, she knew she “wasn't going to let him have the easy way out just because he ‘couldn't’ do things. No way.”
And she was going to do that by her own example.
“That has been the blessing throughout all of this, really,” she wrote. “I have never been able to just let Micah exist, allowing either of us to float through this life missing all of the magical moments.”
She ended by announcing her start of “advocacy for my son”:
I need people to see him for who he is. I need them to recognize his ability, and to allow themselves to give him the opportunity to succeed. I need them to not miss out on the love that he has to give. He won't miss out, that's my job. Here, I dare to undo all the stereotypes laid out before you. What is stronger in this world than love and bond? Life would be boring if it were easy.
Her strategy is working. In addition to his 50,000 Instagram followers, little Micah models for Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit "committed to equal representation of people with disabilities in advertsising and media."
According to research highlighted in 2015 by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, “abortion after prenatal diagnosis has reduced the population of individuals living with DS in the U.S. by approximately 30%.”