Looking for Alice - PhMuseum

Looking for Alice

Sian Davey

2013 - 2014

This series is an illustration of family life - all the tensions, joys, ups and downs that go with the territory of being in a family. My family is a microcosm for the dynamics occurring in many other families. We are no different. As a psychotherapist I have listened to many stories and it is interesting that what has been revealed to me, after fifteen years of practice, is not how different we are to one another, but rather how alike we are as people. It is what we share that is significant. The stories vary but we all experience similar emotions. We are all vulnerable to feelings of anger, grief and depression. The list goes on...

My daughter Alice, born with Downs Syndrome, is no different to any other human being. She feels what you and I feel. However, our society does not acknowledge this and her very existence is given little or no value. Alice has entered a world where routine genetic screening at twelve weeks gestation is thrust towards birth prevention rather than

birth preparation. Whilst we make our selection and decisions in private, the effect on society is that ninety two percent of Downs Syndrome babies are terminated at the pre-natal screening stage. Indeed, prior to the introduction of screening, children such as Alice would have been severely marginalised and ultimately institutionalised and given little or limited medical care.

I was deeply shocked when Alice was born as an 'imperfect' baby. It was not what I had expected. Our first experiences in hospital did little to diffuse this. The paediatrician pulled back her legs, pushed her thumbs deep into Alice's groin, and promptly announced that we should take Alice home and treat her like any other baby. But she didn't feel like any other baby, and I was fraught with anxiety that rippled through to every aspect of my relationship with her. My anxieties penetrated my dreams. I dreamt that Alice was swaddled in a blanket and that I had forgotten all about her. I unwrapped the tight bundle that she was nestled in, to feed her, only to discover that she was covered in a white fluid - a fluid of neglect; and yet I was unable to feed her, unable to respond to her basic needs.

On reflection I saw that Alice was feeling my rejection of her and that caused me further pain. I saw that the responsibility lay with me; I had to dig deep into my own prejudices and shine a light on them. The result was that as my fear dissolved I fell in love with my daughter. We all did.

I wonder how it might be for Alice to be valued without distinction, without exception and without second glance.

This project is for her, for Alice.

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