When my husband and I were told that our amniocentesis results revealed that our baby has Down syndrome, we went through a myriad of emotions related to the future, and what kind of effect Down syndrome would have on our lives. We were afraid of the reaction that our family and friends might have. Would people stick by us through thick or thin, would they head for the hills unable to know how to offer support, were they pretty shallow and disappear from our lives completely? We didn’t know and really struggled with how exactly to share this news.
We were blessed with some time to get to know more about Down syndrome and then share the news that Charlie would have at least one known challenge in his life. Many, many of our friends stuck with us through thick and thin, the ones who looked like they were headed for the hills we were able to educate and turn in to believers of a positive outlook for our child. The last group, well, we are probably better off without them. Little did they know the blessing that they gave up because of their insecurities and lack of knowledge.
Many people who have a new baby with Down syndrome, find out sometime within the first 72 hours that the doctor suspects their baby might have Down syndrome. Not only do these folks have to deal with this news with no time to prepare emotionally, but they may also be facing health issues that require immediate intervention. Figuring out how to tell family and friends may take a back seat for a while. Here are some of the things that I have learned from the many, many beautiful families who have found out their baby has Down syndrome after they were born:
Your friends will not know how to support you. Be prepared to provide them with some factual information that will educate them about Down syndrome and what your needs will be in the upcoming months.
Be honest and open. No one knows you are struggling unless you share it.
Include the fact in any birth announcement you send out that your beautiful new gift has come with Down syndrome attached to the bow. Try to make the focus more on your awesome new baby and the fact that they are just that, an awesome new addition to your family.
You will learn as time passes that this baby is much, much more alike than different and the differences are something that other families who have walked down this path before you are waiting to offer advice and support. After all, they understand completely your concerns at this time.
Good luck with your birth announcement. Be sure to call on us if you need anything – educational materials, a chance to meet others who have a baby or child with Down syndrome, or just a sympathetic ear.
In your service,
Denise Allshouse, Founder