I just found out my unborn baby will have Down syndrome. We already have our hands full our other kids. What will happen to the baby's soul if we abort it? Are we wrong for not wanting a child who is not perfect?
You ask whether it's wrong to want only a perfect child. As much as I love them all, I can't say that any child of mine is perfect. We have been blessed, thank G‑d, with many children, and each comes packaged with his or her challenges. I call them challenges because they have very much challenged the patience, endurance and wisdom of both my wife and I. And as is always the case with challenges, we have gained and grown from all of them.
We believe that G‑d never sends us a challenge we cannot take on, that all these challenges are meant only to take us higher and further than we could achieve without them, and that with each challenge He provides the strength we need to overcome it. You are being presented with a particularly special challenge—which means that the two of you must have special abilities that others do not.
You ask about the soul of this child. Before this child was conceived, her soul stood in the lofty place of souls above, higher than the angels, basking in serene, spiritual ecstasy beyond any pleasure we could imagine in this material world. Why did she choose to leave that paradise to descend to a physical body in a world full of pain and confusion? What could she accomplish here?
Since this will be the soul of a child who will need special care and who will know the world differently than others, she has a special mission. She is chosen to ignite the kindness that lies dormant in people's souls and plant the seeds of empathy in their hearts; to teach caring, patience and tolerance in a way no other teacher could. She will enter the world armed with lessons and tests for all who will come to know her—and she will leave it a much kinder world, a world blossoming with compassion, a world where people can feel for one another and put aside their own concerns and comfort to run to help. She will leave behind a touch of the heaven from whence she came.
So this soul chose gladly to descend to this place, because she desired to touch the essence of truth and beauty, to reach the head of the river from which all pleasures come. And that can only be found here on earth.
One more note, just a subtlety in your words: Sometimes we know the truth, but we hide from it. And the easiest place to hide is behind our own words.
You are doing this when you ask, "What will happen to the baby's soul if we decide to abort it?" But a soul is not aborted. A pregnancy is aborted, because it is a process, much as the process of building a car or a house can be aborted. But a life is not aborted; we don't abort a soul or a baby. Someone decides that this child will not live. There is another term for that, but I cannot get myself to use it. Perhaps I too am hiding behind my words.
Let me only say that you have been blessed to give life, much life, unlike many women who cry their whole lives for children and are not answered. Life is not our business; we don't choose what life shall be put in our care, when it will happen and how it should turn out. To give life is the greatest privilege bestowed upon us from Above. Leave G‑d to His plans and take His blessings as they come. Trust Him that He knows what is best for each soul He has made, for His world that He conducts and for you and your husband as well. Yes, it will be hard—as all the good things of life are hard. Keep giving life, and you will only grow.
As your doctor can confirm, these tests do not claim 100% accuracy. I know of a case where a woman was told the baby she was carrying would have Down syndrome, and the baby was born perfectly normal. You can still pray for the health of your child and ask others to pray along with you. In particular, you should write a letter to be read at the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, as is customary for Jews to ask for a tzadik—including one who has passed on--to pray on their behalf. Many have done this and experienced great miracles. Find information on that on our ohel page.
Please write back to me and we can discuss this further. With your permission, I would like to forward your letter to one or two parents of Down syndrome children that I know personally and will have much advice to share. Also, check if there is a Friendship Circle in your community, and discuss the matter with the people there.