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.