Pregnancy & Birth

What not to say to parents of a baby with Down Syndrome

Don't use the 'S' word.

The birth of a new baby brings joy and hope. The occasion unites families and reminds everyone what matters most.
Words of congratulations are heaped on the new parents and the vibe is one of celebration.
So why, families of children with Down syndrome ask, is the same approach not always taken with parents of a newborn baby with Down syndrome? Why are these parents often told 'sorry'?
As reported in the Huffington Post, a new campaign from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society called Anything But Sorry has come to the world's attention because of a video they've produced called The S Word.
The video features young adults with Down syndrome suggesting alternative things people can say to the new parents of a baby with Down syndrome.
We warn you, it contains expletives - but that's probably why the video is getting the message across.
Its stars say, "You can say almost anything... like holy sh&#, you've just had a baby, sh&% yeah... congratu-f$%@G-lations...
"The truth is the only bad word is sorry... don't be sorry about a baby... because every baby deserves a warm f&^%g welcome."
The Anything But Sorry campaign also features a behind-the-scenes video featuring parents of children with Down syndrome.
One interviewee says, "When you give birth to a baby you don’t know what challenges they’re going to have. You don’t know whether your child’s going to be a drug addict or a doctor.
"There are no guarantees in life. And to say sorry because they think you’re going to be in for a life of challenges, though they may mean well, it is definitely not the right thing to say to a parent."
Down syndrome is a condition that causes delays in learning and development. It occurs because cells contain an extra chromosome number 21, and in New Zealand one baby in every 1000 is born with Down syndrome.
The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association features a video series on its website called Attitudes Series on Down Syndrome, which covers what it's like to raise a child with Down Syndrome and highlights the diverse talents and abilities of people with Down syndrome.
One parent in the series, dad Jan Szydlowski, says,"I know that when I’m out in public and I see a child with Down syndrome or some other disability I have a big smile on my face and I think you’re lucky but I think other people wouldn’t think that way. I had to go through this experience to change that viewpoint."
His wife Amalia Szydlowski adds, "I was afraid about what it would mean to have a child with Down syndrome... Somehow I foolishly thought that he wasn’t going to be like me and like his father and he was less ours because of that...
"He just brings us so much joy and we couldn't love him any more than we do. The highs are a lot higher because any gains that Alexander has attained have been hard-won."