Friday, March 09, 2007

For Unto Us

I always feel weird.

Like I want to explain to everyone why I'm there.

Joe feels the same way too.

Macy's baby department is astonishing. The fashions are incredible. With Easter coming they had little girl frocks that were clocking in at 'drop jaw' prices. But we were here shopping for a baby boy. Matt and Alicia have a shower coming up and we wanted to get some cool stuff and get it into the mail so that it would be there in time for the shower. Our travels keep us away but I couldn't wish them more happiness. They are a lovely couple and I got to know Alicia a couple of summers ago when she came along to my summer school classes outside of Ottawa.

Anyways, as we were shopping, we'd pick up stuff and get giddy at the cuteness of it all. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman talking with the clerk and I was sure I heard the word's "Down Syndrome" so I creaked my chair as close as I could to overhear. The woman wanted to buy something for her friend who just had a baby with Down Syndrome. She actually asked, "What do you get a baby like that?" The clerk actually said, "I really don't know."

Joe, hearing it too, gave me the 'go ahead' look. He says it's kind of like signalling an attack dog, but he also thinks he's funny.

I said, "I do."

They both spun at me, not with hositility but with surprise, before anyone could say anything, I continued, "I know lots of people with Down Syndrome and I know lots of parents of kids with Down Syndrome. It's kind of what I do for a living."

The woman looked relieved and said, "I just don't know what to buy."

"Boy or girl?" I asked, matter of factly.

"Girl," she said giving herself over to my easy authority.

We picked out some beautiful girly cloths, all pinks and laces, bows and blouses. In seconds she got into the spirit of it and was having fun. "So, it's like shopping for any other baby."

"Yes and no," I said.

She looked at me curiously, so I continued, "The most important gift you can give your friend is the gift of congratulations. A baby has been borne. This is not a tragedy. People with Down Syndrome grow up and date, marry, get jobs, live independently. They have a joyous trip ahead of them. Celebrate with them."

She thanked me as she went to buy her stuff.

"Remember to say ...."

"Congratulations," she said.



Anonymous said...

Dear Dave-Where does one begin? With the line "I always feel weird."? Always,Dave? Or just when you and Joe are surrounded by girlie dresses?Hehe.
Or with Joe and his "go ahead" look-his,sic 'em boy look.He
's right. He is funny.
What about how graciously you taught those two ladies something they didn't know. You didn't crush them like I know you could have. Like I might have. You just educated them.In a dignified yet down-to-earth manner.You spread some joy where there was only judgement and pity. Way to go!
You're right,Dave,you are weird.Not that there's anything wrong with that.Frances

Penny L. Richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny L. Richards said...

A baby is a baby is a baby. The way your friends and family react in your first few weeks of being a parent can make a difference in how you see your child-- so "Congratulations," "He's so sweet!" "You make a beautiful family," "We're so excited for you," "You're doing great!" go a long, long way with new parents.

All 4 My Gals said...

Amen David! Thank you so much for being a voice for us! Congrats was the best thing I heard, for we were overjoyed upon our little girl's birth! :)
Nicole Maher

Anonymous said...

When my son with DS was born it came as a shock as neither of us knew anything about it. He had to go out of province for surgery within days. We went to be with him and were separated from our other 2 sons for the 1st time for a full month while we were in the NICU 12 hours drive away.
It was a very hard, stressful and emotional month.
We finally got to take him home to our small town.
Once we got back the people in town threw a baby shower for him. It was so wonderful, joyful and "normal". It meant so much to me to have him welcomed by our community as they would any other baby born. "Congratulations" is definitely the best give to give!!!


Michelle said...

Thank you! Thank you for enlightening that lady that what you buy for a newborn with Down syndrome, is just what you would buy for a newborn without Down syndrome! To think there was a separate set of "rules" of what to buy! All newborns need the same thing! and Congrats was the best thing of all you could have taught her.

lina said...

yes Dave,
amen - and what a precious gift from God all babies are.
Thank goodness for your nosiness! and thank God for you!
Congratulations, I can feel this one in my heart.
thanks Dave.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave...
Kudo's for not only your response (not crushing them) but for stepping in and lending a hand to accomplish the lesson to be taught.

You make be proud,
Lucy from Frankemuth

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Before my Rebecca was born with DS my friend went on and on about how she would shower this "surprise" baby with gifts. After her birth, she (my friend) barely eeked out a blanket for her. As she got to know Rebecca, she has given her gifts of hugs, direct eye contact and direct talk. My friend learned the truth-a baby with DS is just as wonderful as a baby without DS. You helped those women immensely, mostly through your gentle approach and honesty. Now they can pass it along, too.

Nancy I. said...

Thank you. Thank you on behalf of that Mom you will never meet.

When I was pregnant, expecting a baby with DS and a heart defect, I was not expecting a shower. She is my fourth daughter. I had everything I needed. My next door neighbor threw me a small surpise shower, a "Mommy and Baby" shower, where neighbors gave me baby clothes and Mommy presents. There was food, laughter, and open discussion. I knew that because of her gesture, none of the neighbors would ever feel awkward. I have great neighbors!

Anonymous said...

GREAT! Thank you from a Momma BLESSED with a baby with Down syndrome who still gets the "sorries". Nothing to be sorry about here! I am sorry for others who don't get to experience the JOY that my little guy brings me every day! God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Though, a little 'mushy", very true. Very sweet eye-opener.

Christy said...

Thank You so much Dave. I only wish that you were there when people were getting ready for my baby shower!!! Congratulations is the most important thing to hear as you know. You did it in a wonderful manner, and educated two more people. Thanks again!

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Handwriting expert said...

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margaret said...

Well done with your advice. Hopefully the younger generation are more enlightened when my beautiful niece was born my own young adult children were so matter of fact, as my youngest said shes not "a downs syndrome" shes our gorgeous niece who just happens to have downs syndrome. They made me very proud with both their attitude and the support they gave my sister at such a vulnerable time.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words. Touched my heart.

Anonymous said...

Great blog but fails to respect those who have chosen a path away from DS babies.

Unfortunately, congratulating a new parent when their new baby has down syndrome would have to be the most awful, judgemental and prejudicious comment one could make. Many, who have always had a philosophy with incongruent with keeping a DS baby also deserve to have their point of view respected - not keeping the child and certainly not congratulating them. 97% of Australians keep their DS babies. The other 3% do not - they also deserve respect. As doctors, we are taught never to congratulate. There is a reason for this.