I am not a mongoloid, therefore I am.
If I had emerged from my mother's womb as a flat faced, thick necked, slanty eyed less than ideal human specimen, I was destined to be snuffed out before I drew my first breath. My mother first told me this when I was not yet old enough to grasp the harsh vulgarity of the concept; I suspect somewhere between eight and ten. It was an agreement between my mother (not sure about my father) and our circumspect family doctor, Keith Anderson. If born with Down's Syndrome (the common term used in the 50's was 'mongoloid'), I was to be exterminated immediately. Two fingers would pinch my tiny new born nostrils together and the palm of a second hand would cover my mouth until I was stilled and lifeless. As I am here to tell the tale, it eventuated that by some quirk of fate, I did not receive an extra chromosome 21 when developing in the womb of my forty year old mother. Now, in my fifties, it's hard for me to imagine my original reaction to this news or to get in touch with how my young mind would have processed it. My mother never observed age appropriate conversation with me and in general, the other adults around me didn't either. I reason that the things told to me directly (mostly by Mum) and the open discussions had by adults around me, were in hindsight, a type of unwitting psychological abuse.
The disconcerting nature of what could have been my fate was later coupled with the news that I had a baby sister who was terminated as a ten week old foetus, eighteen months before I came along. I wondered, why her and not me? Why me and not her? Eighteen months earlier - a girl baby - just like me. Why did they decide to end her potential? What was so different about their lives eighteen months earlier that necessitated such a decision? I know the baby was a girl because Mum told me so. She told me that she had the termination but it wasn't complete. That she had come home and the foetus had plopped out intact into the toilet bowl - a perfectly formed little girl. All of this was told to me in a matter of fact way. I would have been nine or, ten years old.
What did this type of experience do to the 'I am' element of me? When I was privy to often grave and trauma inducing information when I didn't have the maturity to deal with it? And having pondered that question, I'd think that a mature adult might have a testing time ingesting the facts. Was my 'I am' by default? Was my 'I am' at the expense of another life? And, what of me, the one who survived, and was subsequently burdened with the residual parental expectations and the illusion of their constructed ideals? How does 'I am' construct itself in the face of these experiences?
© Copyright 2012 Ajanta ~ All Words & Images