Dear Baby Kaya,
When I read about your fall in the newspaper, my
heart hurt. I know that the police are still trying
to find out if your mother dropped you or if you
were tossed over the guardrail.
But, in many ways it doesn't matter. The fact
is, as soon as people knew you had Down Syndrome,
that changed the story. Now there was a reason for
you to be thrown away: you are a baby who doesn't
There are two things you need to learn. First,
you come from a group of people who have a history
of being thrown away. We have been thrown out of
families into institutions. We have been thrown out
of schools into special classes. We have been
thrown out of lives of employment into lives of
poverty. And people like you and me, doctors don't
really want us to be here in the first place. But
we, people with disabilities, are glad you are here
and welcome you to the fight.
And I, a woman with Down Syndrome, want to be
the first to give you the second bit of news. Yes,
you come from people who have a history of being
thrown away, but you also come from a group of
people who have learned how to survive.
I am a self advocate, that means that I have
learned to speak up for myself and speak out
against injustice. I take this seriously. There are
some things that I learned that I want to pass
along to you, things that I wish someone had told
me when I was a little girl.
So, from me to you ...
Be proud of who you are. Having Down Syndrome is
kind of cool. I think we have beautiful eyes.
Everyone tells me that we have the greatest smiles,
and I think they are right. Being proud will help
you in so many ways. It will insure that you 'land
softly' every time someone treats you badly or
calls you a name. You will hear them all, Retard,
Reject, Dummy. I've heard them and really don't
care what people who use those words think. They
may think I'm Retarded, but I know they are
Don't listen to people who say you can't do
things. All sorts of people told me that I couldn't
learn. Guess what. I went to college, right along
with typical students and I passed the same courses
that they did. Oh, I had to sit up real late at
night and study. I knew it was harder for me to
learn, but I did it.
I can read. I can write. I can think. I can
speak. There are more things that I can do than
things I can't. Just remember, don't give up on
yourself because someone says you can't do
something. Try it. You may surprise yourself.
I really hope this was all an accident and you
will know a mother's love like I have, but if not,
there are lots of places where you an find love and
acceptance. Find people who love you for who you
are. Spend time with people who like you because of
who you are. You will get tired from always having
to teach people that you are a real person like
everyone else. So find other people you can just
have fun with.
I go to People First and other places where
there are other people who have disabilities --you
wouldn't believe the fun we have and the things we
get up to. In my groups I've met other people with
disabilities who are married, who have full-time
jobs, who own their own homes, who decide their own
fates. It's fun just to be part of the group. It's
a relief from being special.
Discover!! Life is fun and full of surprises.
You know, I never kissed a guy until I was twenty!!
But I discovered I liked it.
Life is full of great things, like first kisses
and chocolate. Every day I sit down and enjoy
strong coffee, real strong coffee, with milk and
sugar. When I treat myself, I eat seedless grapes,
cold and green.
You too, have lots to look forward to. I
remember my first crush --on an older man. I
remember playing races with my parents. I remember
swings and slides and skipping and jumping. I
remember playing with a puppy and rubbing his
belly. Enjoy it all. Life is full of trials, but
it's also full of excitement, and fun, and green
grapes and chocolate.
I read in the paper (that part still surprises
people) that you are a 'miracle baby,' that maybe
God caught you and carried you safely down from
that bridge to the earth.
I believe, Kaya, that God gave me an extra
chromosome. It's an odd gift, but it's a gift. I
believe that God does love you. And, I hope you
realize, so do I.
Welcome, dear baby, welcome.