What I Wish I Told the Man Who Called My Son With Down Syndrome ‘Ugly'
I was 23 weeks pregnant when I found out my third child, whom we would name Jay, had Down syndrome and a heart defect he would need to have surgery for within the first six months of his life. During the following weeks, I read blogs and articles, met with other families and immersed myself into learning all I could before my sweet bundle of joy would arrive.
I read a few blogs and had a few conversations with some families where they had encountered hurtful remarks said to their children over the years, but I thought to myself, Society has changed and we are more educated, accepting and compassionate.
So it was a big wake-up call for me when my son was just barely a year old and I experienced similar cruelty.
As I carried Jay in his baby carrier toward the grocery store, a man went out of his way to grab me a cart and bring it over to me. As I placed the baby carrier in the cart, I thanked the man for his kindness. The man stood there and stared at Jay. As the man stared, Jay innocently smiled and cooed at him. I, too, stared at Jay, mesmerized by his smile and cuteness.
The man then shook his head and walked away, saying, “Wow, ugly baby!”
I stood there in shock not knowing what to do. Never in a million years did I think I’d experience this kind of cruelty. I started pushing the cart into the store and anger flooded me. I thought, He doesn’t know all my son has experienced since the day he was born. He is strong, happy and beautiful.
How could he say something like that? He didn’t deserve Jay’s innocent, loving, nonjudgmental smile.
Then sadness came over me and I started to cry because I finally realized my son will have to experience the cruelty of the world, the harshness of words, the fragility of being human, the ignorance of people.
I never did get to confront the man for the horrible words he said about my son. I wish I could’ve told him all my son has been through: intestinal surgery, open heart surgery, two near-death experiences, and that he just spent the last six months of his life in the hospital.
I wanted to say to him, “Look at how beautiful Jay is that he can still smile and trust this world, and yet there are people like you who want to take that from him.”
I wish this man knew what I see in Jay that makes him one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever laid eyes on. Jay is always smiling, always singing, always happy. Although he’s spent half his life in the hospital being poked and has had numerous surgeries, he still loves the people in this world with his whole heart. He touches the life of everyone he meets because, even with all he’s been through, he’s still so gentle, mild, and loving. How could this man not see this shining bright in Jay’s eyes and smile?
When I look at Jay, I see the innocence he exudes, the happiness he brings to our family and the world, the fullness of my heart, the smiles of the people whose lives he has touched. I see a sweet boy who loves watching Barney, bouncing to music, and laughing at the silliness of his brother and sister. I see a boy who wakes up with a smile on his face and loves life.
I wasn’t able to say any of this to the man that day, but who knows? Maybe somehow, someway, he will read this and realize his ignorance and mistake. I know there is good in him; after all, he went out of his way to grab me a cart.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.