Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yes, People Notice

I went for an early morning walk with Nate this morning. It was a beautiful, crisp morning and Nate was enjoying looking at the trees while he snuggled close to me in the bjorn.

About halfway through our 45 minute walk, we met up with Harrison. Harrison is probably in his mid to late 80's and lives with his daughter and son-in-law. I hadn't seen him since the fall when I was doing my early morning walks to ease the back pain I experienced with pregnancy. Harrison likes to sit in his chair at the front of his driveway, read his newspaper, drink his coffee and talk with anyone who slows down enough as they pass him. I've enjoyed many conversations with him and always hope he'll be sitting there as I turn the corner to his street. Honestly, I was starting to wonder if he was still with us, so I was relieved to see him this morning.

I stopped to talk with him and he quickly alerted me that he did not have his hearing aids in this morning. Our conversation went something like this (with a lot of "huh", "what's that", and "could you repeat that dear" in between):

"Good Morning"

"Good Morning. Let's see your baby."

I pull back the hood on the sweatshirt Nate has on.
"Is he an oriental baby?"

"No, he has Down Syndrome."

"Oh, like the Governor of Alaska's baby?"


"Did you know ahead of time?"


"Would you have done anything about it if you did?"


We tried to talk a little more, but he was starting to get frustrated that he couldn't hear me well, so we agreed we'd talk again when he has his hearing aids.

So, this was the first time someone actually came right out and asked me about Nate. Sure, it wasn't the most PC way, but I just chalk that up to the fact that he grew up in a time when people like Nate would be shipped off to institutions.

Anyway, I can honestly say I had kind of convinced myself that others don't notice Nate's almond-shaped eyes (and flatter face, protruding tongue, crinkled ears, low muscle tone, etc). So, this morning was a good reminder. A reminder to be aware of the awkwardness that so many feel as they meet Nate. Most don't have the guts to just put it out there (I know I never did), but are certainly thinking that there must be something a little different about Nate.

I still haven't quite figured out if I just throw it out there anytime I introduce Nate, but I certainly want to be sensitive to sharing it if I see someone wants to ask, but is not sure how.

Surprisingly, my conversation with Harrison did not make me sad this morning. It actually felt good to have him say something so I didn't have to. I think I wish more people would just say something (with a bit more tact than Harrison, of course) so it didn't feel like the elephant in the room.



  1. This is an interesting post. Gabby is now a year old and only one person has ever come out and asked if Gabby had Down syndrome and that was because she happens to be a mother of a daughter with Ds.

    I have always wondered if people just didn't notice but I think you are right...they do, it's just they don't know how to go about asking.

    Harrison sounds like a pretty cool guy. I am glad your conversation with him didn't make you sad. Progress!

  2. I too wish people would just ask about the elephant in the room. It's always refreshing (and surprising!) when people say something and honestly for me too it is most often mother's of children with DS that will come out an say something. Like just the other day at our local co op, a checker came over to admire the babies (Joey and Joaquin) and made a point to tell me her daughter has DS too without even asking if the babies had DS. She already knew! Anyway, her daughter is now 20 years old and doing great. It was an awesome interaction. I love it when people start the conversation so there is none of that awkwardness.

  3. Danielle...what an amazing walk you've had - both literally and figuratively. I think that you are paving the way for families with children that have DS as well as those that do not know how to embrace your situation. You are getting the word out, talking about it and changing the world. Nate is so fortunate to have you as his mommy!