Share your own feelings
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You may have had any number of reactions when you were first told that your baby has Down syndrome. It’s possible that you experienced a sense of shock. Whether your reaction was positive or negative, it is not something you should dwell on or apologise for. Remember that you are an ordinary person reacting to an extraordinary situation.
At times of transition, we all experience the feeling of being stressed. We may also
experience a wide variety of emotions. But rest assured that the feelings we generally
think of as negative are a necessary part of the process of adjusting to a new
Here we briefly describe some of the common feelings that parents have after
hearing their baby has Down syndrome. Even if you have not experienced any of
these emotions, it is possible that your partner or those around you may have, so you
may find understanding and sharing them a help in supporting each other.
You may experience shock, which is mostly a physical reaction where you may feel
yourself going cold or perspiring. Shock makes it impossible for you to take in what
the doctor is telling you, so do not hesitate to ask questions when you feel ready to
take in information.
You may feel a sense of disbelief but sometimes we find it necessary to shut our
minds in order to cope with an unusual or frightening situation.
You may experience sorrow because, in some ways, you may feel like mourning the
child you thought you were going to have, before you can fully rejoice at the birth
of your new baby.
You may feel a strong sense of protectiveness. This is a natural instinctive response and
is perfectly normal. However, be careful not to become so protective of your child that
you do not allow him/her to develop to the best of his/her ability.
You may feel a sense of rejection but this may be experienced by any parent of their
child, whether born with a disability or not. The bond between a parent and child does
not happen suddenly – it is a process that continues to develop throughout childhood,
so do not worry if this is your initial reaction.
People often feel angry when in a situation that they cannot change. It is a biological
reaction and in a lot of situations actually gives us the energy to fight our way out
Mothers may feel guilt as they have carried their child and worry that there is
something they could have done to prevent this condition. If you are experiencing
this emotion, please remember that the chromosomal error that causes Down
syndrome happens at the moment of conception and your behaviour during
pregnancy played no part. Also remember that just because your baby has Down
syndrome does not make them a lesser person. They will bring you all the joy you
dreamed of when you were pregnant.
Whether immediately or not, you will feel relief and happiness – labour is over and
you have just brought a new person into this world. You’ll experience all the joy
and excitement that’s associated with having a child and you will want to celebrate
Share the feelings of others
Whatever the range of emotions you are going through right now, you can be sure
that many have experienced them before. Here’s just a few shared feelings from
other parents to help put your mind at rest:
“We never tried to cover up the fact that our baby had Down syndrome. We found
that often people coped better by us being open and showing off our baby.”
“At the beginning when I looked at our baby, all I could see was Down syndrome.
It was a terrific feeling the day I realised that I was no longer seeing ‘Down syndrome’.
I was seeing Sinead.”
“When my little brother was born, my Mum and Dad told me that he would be slow
to walk and talk and that we would have to help him a lot. Now he can do lots of
things and I bring him out to play with my friends.”
“I feel our family has learned a lot from one little boy. When I was growing up,
I was never around children with special needs, so I didn’t really know what to expect
when he was born. After spending a small amount of time together, my fears
disappeared. I am proud that my children are growing up with him and have
a positive attitude towards children who are differently-abled. When they see
someone with Down syndrome, they make their way to them and wave and say hello.
My nephew has opened a door to greater understanding that we may never have had
if he had not been given to us.”
“A baby with Down syndrome is wonderful. Respect them as they are and accept them
for who they are. I am an individual first. Maybe he will grow up to play golf better
Person with Down syndrome