It always floors me when strangers feel like they can butt into someone else’s life with unsolicited and unkind “advice.” They don’t know what that person is going through or the circumstances surrounding their situation, so why do they think their opinion matters or would be helpful? Kelly Dirkes is used to this kind of unwanted advice from strangers. She and her husband have adopted two babies with Down Syndrome and many random strangers have come up to them with some not-so-helpful advice. A little while ago, Kelly was carrying her young daughter in a baby carrier while she shopped at Target. As she walked down one of the aisles, a woman stopped her and told Kelly that carrying her child would “spoil that baby” and she would “never learn to be independent.” Caught off-guard, Kelly didn’t know quite what to say. She wanted to put the woman in her place right then and there, but instead, she smiled, kissed her daughter on the head, and saved her response for when she had cooled down a bit. That’s when Kelly sat down and wrote an open letter to the woman, and her words are so important for everyone to hear.
Dear Woman in Target- I’ve heard it before, you know. That I “spoil that baby”. You were convinced that she’d never learn to be “independent”. I smiled at you, kissed her head, and continued my shopping. If you only knew what I know.
If you only knew how she spent the first ten months of her life utterly alone inside a sterile metal crib, with nothing to comfort her other than sucking her fingers. If you only knew what her face looked like the moment her orphanage caregiver handed her to me to cradle for the very first time–fleeting moments of serenity commingled with sheer terror. No one had ever held her that way before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do. If you only knew that she would lay in her crib after waking and never cry–because up until now, no one would respond. If you only knew that anxiety was a standard part of her day, along with banging her head on her crib rails and rocking herself for sensory input and comfort. If you only knew that that baby in the carrier is heartbreakingly “independent” –and how we will spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to override the part of her brain that screams “trauma” and “not safe”. If you only knew what I know. If you only knew that that baby now whimpers when she’s put down instead of when she is picked up. If you only knew that that baby “sings” at the top of her lungs in the mornings and after her nap, because she knows that her chatter will bring someone to lift her out of her crib and change her diaper. If you only knew that that baby rocks to sleep in her Mama’s or her Papa’s arms instead of rocking herself. If you only knew that that baby made everyone cry the day she reached out for comfort, totally unprompted. If you only knew what I know. “Spoiling that baby” is the most important job I will ever have, and it is a privilege. I will carry her for a little while longer–or as long as she’ll let me–because she is learning that she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved. If you only knew… Do you applaud Kelly’s response to this woman? Then share it!