If you're not sure what to say to the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, consider what this mom is tired of hearing.
Caroline Boudet, a French woman whose four-month-old daughter Louise has Down Syndrome, was tired of hearing insensitive comments from friends, family and strangers. So she took to Facebook to offer some dos and don'ts when meeting a child with Down Syndrome and a reminder that "words are important."
Some of her advice may seem obvious, like not grilling the mother about whether or not she knew her daughter had an extra chromosome before the baby was born. Some of it is a little more nuanced, like Caroline's reminder that "It's not what she IS, it's what she HAS."
Here's the post, which Caroline shared publicly in hopes that it would spread rapidly across the Internet:
(English translation below!)[LES MOTS SONT IMPORTANTS] Elle, c'est ma fille. Louise. Qui a quatre mois, deux bras deux...
Posted by Caroline Boudet on Monday, June 8, 2015
Here's her English translation:
Here is my baby girl, Louise. She is 4 months old, has two legs, two arms, and one extra chromosome.
Please, when you meet a Louise, do not ask her mother "how come you did not find out during the pregnancy?". Either [she did], and the parents took the decision to "keep the child," or [she didn't], and it was surprising enough for them [without having] to talk about it over and over now. Keep in your mind that mothers have a tendency to feel guilty about each and every thing, so a surprising extra chromosome... I let you guess.
Don't tell her mother "it's your baby no matter what." No. It's my baby, period. Plus: "nomatterwhat" is quite an ugly name, I'd rather call her Louise.
Don't tell her mother "As she a down's baby, she will... etc." No. She is a 4-months old baby who happens to have Down Syndrome. It's not what she IS, it's what she HAS. You wouldn't says "she's a cancer baby."
Don't say "they're like this, they're like that." "They" all have their features, their character, their own tastes, their life. "They" are as different between them as you are from your neighbor.
I know that if one does not experience it, one does not think about it, but words do matter. They can comfort and they can hurt. So just give it a thought, especially if you're a doctor or nurse of any kind.
I usually do not make my status "public" on Facebook, but this one will be. You can read it and share it as you want. Because each year there are (in France) 500 new "mothers of Louise" that can have a day ruined by those kind of words. I know it's not meant to hurt. But you just need to know.