6 Things to Know When We Tell You Our Baby Will Have Special Needs
Our second pregnancy was not met with smiles and congratulations, though we had the same hopes as any expecting couple. Our baby, a giggling little girl, is amazing, but some people had no idea how to respond to the news that we were going to be a special needs family.
This is what they needed to know.
1. Every child is a blessing.
Babies are a blessing, and every child is a miraculous gift. This includes children with special needs. Like all children, they bring us hope, help us dream and invite love. Celebrate pregnancy, every pregnancy, no matter how frightening the test results or how challenging the medical needs. It’s the start of new life, and life is full of possibilities.
2. We are not contagious.
No one can catch a genetic abnormality or birth injury by loving a child or his mother. We have the same adventures with morning sickness, swollen ankles and ice cream cravings as any other pregnant woman. We know how hard it can be, and we are deep wells of empathy. Avoiding us will not change your genetic risks, but it just might keep you from the perfect banana split.
3. Testing is private.
Medical information is private information, and this includes prenatal testing. Do not ask a woman about her age, weight or genetic code. Too many questions sound like judgment, and some questions actually demean our baby’s life. Remember, this pregnancy is our child. When we’re ready, we will share our good news or growing plans, but it is never acceptable to pry or judge our choices. It’s just rude.
4. We are scared, too.
Sometimes complete strangers feel compelled to embarrass and scare pregnant women with terrifying statistics and worst-case scenarios. This is never acceptable. We are making a person and have all the nervous energy we need. Special needs families might already be scared and likely understand the risks better than most. There is no need to share that awful story about your cousin’s ex-neighbor-in-law. It isn’t helpful, and it might be cruel.
5. Kindness does not require understanding.
Not everyone will understand our family and our choices. But thankfully, no one needs to understand us to be kind. We are not asking you to change faiths, rearrange your family or even learn our specialized medical vocabulary. Polite words and smiles are free. Apply liberally and without regret.
6. Words have power.
Words can hurt or heal, so choose yours for the powers of good. Keep it positive. Congratulate us, pray for us or take us for tacos. Remember, this our family, our pregnancy and our hope. We’re having a baby, and this is a good thing (see #1). Try something like, “Congratulations!” or “Yeah, babies are awesome!”