Raising a child with Down syndrome isn’t easy. Those afflicted often have intellectual disabilities, a reduced lifespan and heart defects.
French journalist Caroline Boudet, a mother of two, including a 4-month-old daughter with the chromosomal disorder, recently responded to critics by creating a guide of what not to say to parents of children with Down syndrome.
Boudet posted the guide, along with a photo of her daughter Louise, on Facebook and it has since gone viral, garnering more than 26,000 shares.
"Words matter," she wrote. "Here is my baby girl, Louise. She is 4 months old, has two legs and two arms, and one extra chromosome.”
Her post continued:
“Please, when you meet a Louise, do not ask her mother, ‘How come you did not find out during the pregnancy?’ Either they did, and the parents took the decision to keep the baby. Or they didn't, and it was surprising enough for them, to talk about it over and over now. Keep in mind that mothers have a tendency to feel guilty about each and every thing, so a surprising extra chromosome... I'll 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 is a Down's baby, she will... etc.’ No. She is a 4-month-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 you 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 think about it, especially if you're a doctor or nurse of any kind.
“I usually do not make my posts ‘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 kinds of words. I know it's not meant to hurt. But you just need to know.”
Boudet said she was overwhelmed by the support she received for her message. "This is a crazy day. I swear to you," she wrote the next day. "I got dozens of messages from people I don't know. I am... I do not know what to say. I am very touched."
Image via Caroline Boudet/Facebook