Putting your foot in your mouth: “To say something something foolish, tactless, or offensive – usually without meaning to.” (idioms.thefreedictionary.com) I’ve done this way more times that I care to admit. Sometimes it’s a minor, harmless comment. Other times, it’s exactly the opposite. I’ve done both, for sure.
Like the definition says, the person making the statement usually doesn’t know that it’s going to be offensive. They may be able to figure it out by the look on a person’s face, being told later, or finding out some other way. However, the person it offends knows right away. And that person has a choice – to say something or to stay quiet.
When I was pregnant with Moses, I had to go to to physical therapy because my SI joint slipped out of place. The physical therapists I worked with were great and quickly got me back to being able to walk as normally as an 8 month pregnant woman can. During one session, one of the therapists asked me if I had a name picked out for the baby. I told her that if it was a boy, we had it narrowed down to 2 or 3, but if it ended up being a girl, we had no idea what the name would be. At this point, the therapist said, “Whatever you do, if it’s a girl, don’t make her middle name Grace.” She then went on to inform me about how many little girls these days have the middle name Grace. As she gave her informational spiel and stretched my leg, I laid there and wondered if I should tell her that my daughter’s middle name is Grace. In the end, I decided not to because it really wasn’t a big deal to me if this person I barely knew approves of the middle name I gave my child.
A few weeks ago, I saw a person that I haven’t seen in over a year. We exchanged pleasantries and she commented on how much Josie had grown in the past year. She asked me to remind her if I had another child, and I told her yes, that Moses was a little over a year old. Talk turned to hysterectomies and vasectomies (you know, the fun topics of conversation). She then started talking about how when women start to get older, they have to “think of certain things before they decide to have another baby…” At this point, I went on high alert. In my mind I was thinking, “Please don’t say it, please don’t say it” and then thinking, “What do I do if she says it? Do I say something or let it go?”. Sure enough, she said it. She opened her mouth and put her foot right in it. “You know, they have to think about the baby. It could have Down syndrome or…” At that point I interrupted and said, “Moses has Down syndrome.”
Here’s the thing. I really wasn’t offended by her statement. I was sad. I was sad that there are still people that would let that thought possibly keep them from trying to have another baby. I was sad that there are still people that would let that thought lead them to talk someone out of trying to have another baby.
Yes, babies with Down syndrome come with challenges. So do babies with other birth defects. So do babies with everything perfectly formed and in place. The challenges may be different with a child with Down syndrome or other disabilities, but the joy and love they bring is absolutely the same as any other baby. What I told the woman who made the statement is what I truly believe in my heart. I said, “I believe that most moms and dads choose to have a baby so they can love it no matter what it has or doesn’t have.” I pray that one day the possibility of having a baby with Down syndrome will not keep a couple from trying to have a baby at any age. I pray that one day getting the news that an unborn child has Down syndrome will be no more disappointing than finding out that the baby is a boy when the parents were hoping for a girl. I pray that everyone embraces the joy and love that a child like Moses brings.