Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monica and David: HBO looks at a young wedded couple with Down Syndrome

Isn’t it sweet? In one of its newest documentaries, HBO looks at a young couple in love during their wedding preparations and the early stages of their marriage. The bride and groom just happen to have Down Syndrome. The footage is taken by a cousin of the bride, so one would hope it would have a positive take on the situation.

Monica and David were each born to 20-year-old mothers who were left by their husbands within a year of the birth of the children; they remarried supportive husbands. Monica appears to be very high functioning, with a high level of understanding. David is also high functioning but does not have the depth of cognitive understanding that Monica does. They met in a seven-year-long life skills course.

David never had a girlfriend before Monica, and when they met he was jealous of her then-boyfriend. She has had several boyfriends, which he is not happy with. Eventually he won her over, and the two families worked together to allow the two to court and have a beautiful wedding.

The bride’s family took the couple into their home while refurbishing another home, where the couple would have their own wing. The couple hopes to eventually be able to live on their own, but their parents say this is an impossibility. Although they are able to work on the outside, the parents are very protective and do not let them go anywhere without supervision. The parents worry what will happen to Monica and David when they (the parents) are no longer able to care for them.

Early in the marriage, David is diagnosed with diabetes, causing him to be even more dependent on his in-laws. The couple expresses the desire to have children, and they are shown helping to care for a relative’s baby. This is the one piece I have a problem with.

Monica’s mother, who earlier on describes her daughter as “the light of my life”, comments that one of her responsibilities is making sure the young couple uses birth control (she does not say what kind). She says that, since they are just like kids themselves, they will never be able to bear the responsibility of a child.

Now, the first reaction I had to this statement was: how can you put two people in a situation where they can understand the meaning of love, and be fully intimate, and desire children, and forbid them from having children? I know the responsibility the parents of Monica and David is incredible and taking on the responsibility of grandchildren on top of that must be a consideration, but bear with me as I explore the meaning of this.

To treat people like they are capable of having sex without having babies is to treat them as less than soul-less animals. Even animals with little intellect have the intuition to know how to care for their young. To say these young people can love each other and marry but not bear children is demeaning to their humanity.

If indeed Monica’s mother believes her daughter is incapable of the responsibility of bearing children, another path she could have chosen was to steer her in the direction of lifelong virginity…preserving her innocence and protecting her from the heartache that comes with continual dating and breakups. A life without romantic love is not an unfulfilling one.

Other than this one digression, I thought it was a very nice documentary showing how adults with Down syndrome can lead a productive and happy life.

The topic of their childless marriage has been explored in Inside Catholic by Jason Negri – in a controversial post “Down Syndrome Couples” which brought on many comments.

Why not sterilize the inconvenient? by blogger Simcha Fischer is a commentary opposing the view taken by Negri.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Once upon a summer, a trucker was driving down the highway outside Fayetteville, North Carolina when something made him stop short. A pair of scrawny, copper-colored puppies was limping along the side of the road. He stopped, picked them up, and called the local animal rescue.

The loving people who came to pick them up nursed them back to health. Penny and Lacy had little burn marks around their paws from the hot tar on the road. They had to be de-wormed and brought up to a healthy weight. Then they made the long trip to Long Island, where they were fostered in a large house with the family’s four children and four dogs. One of the daughters of the house, a lover of designer labels, renamed them Gucci and Chanelle.

The foster parent put a picture of the puppies on Craig’s List. Chanelle was adopted first by a family in the Hamptons. Gucci was adopted by the Miller Family, which quickly renamed her Honey. Honey is sweet, a very feminine name, and the color of the dog.

The first time she entered the house, she had a ball. She ran all over the place, jumped all over the couches, and chewed on whatever she could find. The foster mother called, asking, “How is she doing?”

“Oh, she is having a wonderful time exploring her new home.”

“You didn’t let her have free reign of the house, did you?”

“Uh, yeah.”

What followed was basic instruction on crate training, which the Millers ignored.

Honey is about the same size as the four-year-old girl, and they have great fun snuggling up together. Sometimes Honey tries to eat the little girl’s clothes and has to be separated from her.

Once a day, she takes Honey for a walk around the block. Her mother has to help her a bit. Neighbors stop, asking, “What kind of dog is that?”

“I don’t know,” says the mother, “She is a rescue puppy.”

The nine-year-old boy loves to run, and when he gets home from school he has running races with her in the back yard. Then she comes in, exhausted, and goes to sleep in her doggie bed.

The eleven-year-old girl also loves to run, but she has school work to do when she gets home, so she just gives her loving attention while she does her work.

The thirteen-year-old girl runs so many miles a day for her cross-country team that she gives her a few friendly pats and throws herself on the couch to rest. In the morning, however, she is the first to rise and take Honey out in the yard, while she checks on the rabbit.

The mother in the house is very busy and Honey is eagerly trying to learn how to please her. When the father in the house comes home, she settles herself under his chair. She knows he is the master here.

Then there is the white bunny that lives in a cage outside. Honey isn’t quite sure how to deal with it. Sometimes she goes up to Thumper and gives it a friendly sniff and sometimes barks at it for a few minutes. They seem to get along.

That is Honey’s story so far. The Millers hope it is the beginning of a long and happy one.