Featuring Down’s Syndrome doesn’t have to be a Catastrophe (har de har har)

This week I watched the Channel 4 comedy, Catastrophe. I’m behind on most things that air after 9pm, so thank the modern world for catch up.

I started series one on the laptop with headphones whilst Ted watched football. He’s always so apologetic about sport on TV, but sometimes it just gives me a chance to binge watch something he might not be that into. In this case, he’d definitely like Catastrophe, but that’s just tough. I enjoyed Sharon Horgan’s ‘Pulling’, so I had high hopes for this programme.

Anyway, this week I got to series 1, episode 4. *Spoiler alert for the rest of this post*! The series is about a couple who get pregnant after a fling and decide to make it work, Sharon Horgan’s character is over 40, so this is classed as a ‘geriatric pregnancy’ (!) and the couple are told their screening results have come back as a high risk for Down’s Syndrome – 1 in 50. As soon as screening was mentioned, my heckles went up and I felt that wave of dread come over me. This is a well written, funny, absurd but realistic comedy, at no point did I anticipate an uncomfortable encounter with them tackling Down’s Syndrome screening as a storyline. So I was scared of what was coming and I reached for Ted’s hand…

Of course the news that they are high risk is considered bad news. Of course it is. I don’t want storylines that sugar-coat reality for the sake of political correctness or being inoffensive. If we had received a high risk result, it would have been bad news to us. In general, people do not wish for their children to be disabled, I can’t fault them for this realistic portrayal of the news.

Anyway, they soon discover the results were even more high risk – 1 in 25 – and they have to make a decision about going ahead with amniocentesis. They have an open discussion about their exposure to DS. Rob has an uncle with Down’s Syndrome (and he showed him his first picture of a boob, so he liked him), Sharon knew a couple with a child with DS, but remembers the woman alone in her 70s, still caring for her adult son. She describes seeing them in the supermarket, the mother looking tired and old. Rob has a fab response  (along the lines of) “well for all you know they went home, smoked some weed, watched Judge Judy and had a great time”. It’s a balanced and realistic discussion about experiences of Down’s Syndrome.

They go ahead with the amniocentesis, but it’s well described by Sharon as something she’s uncomfortable about doing.

And then they get a call with the results… The baby (foetus at this stage) doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome. They are relieved. Again, I cannot fault this, it is good news that would come as a relief. A little part of me is disappointed at this juncture, we’ve followed the story and ultimately, they’ve dodged a bullet, hurray! 

But then they come good. Sharon is waiting in a queue and a beautiful little girl with Down’s Syndrome starts waving at her. At the sight of this child (as is so often the case when seeing a face with DS in the media), my heart swells. I think the mother apologises and Sharon says “She’s beautiful”. 

Yes I had a good cry. I felt they had acknowledged that had their baby tested positive for Down’s, it would have been ok.   I’m sure the feelings were mixed, maybe there’s relief in there, I don’t know, but I certainly felt like this wasn’t a moment for Sharon to think “Phew, I’m glad I don’t have one of those!”, I felt like they were showing that what could have been would have been beautiful, would have been ok.

Anyway, the show is really funny. It’s dirty c-word type funny, so not for everyone (my mum would be appalled), but I’m glad that a show like this could tackle a Down’s Syndrome storyline and do it well.

I tweeted Rob Delaney (just moments after my tearful relief at seeing that beautiful face of a girl with DS at the end) to say I loved it and he replied. I was pretty excited to say the least, he has over a million followers!! And he is a good-looking hairy man who writes an excellent show. Woo hoo!

Audrey has been poorly for a week and has quite a spotty face, so she’s not up for fancy pics, that said, she’ll still blow kisses even when under the weather!

And check out the colour scheme matching card from nursery!



2 thoughts on “Featuring Down’s Syndrome doesn’t have to be a Catastrophe (har de har har)

  1. yeah – i liked that they didn’t treat the amnio like it had been a biopsy (my son is 11) and i felt just as you described when they started this – ready to defend

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