Pardon the language. There is a story that goes with it. My friend Katie and I know the story as the "Cutest Damn Baby Story".
Charlie was just a little baby. Maybe 4 or 5 months old. He and I were at the Co-op where we bumped into Katie and her sweet little Anna. We were in the produce section chatting when a scruffy fisherman-looking type man in his 60's (are fishermen scruffy?) walked past, and noticed our darling babies each tucked in their slings. He stopped briefly to engage the babies in some sweet little baby-talk banter. Later I past the same man in the bulk food section, where he again took notice of Charlie. He doubled back a third time to take another look. Upon that last time he past by I overhear him mutter, "That is the cutest damn baby I ever saw."
Down Syndrome is one of the special needs that comes with a "look". When we, and other family members and friends, were first letting the Down Syndrome diagnosis sink in (which, lets face it, takes a while sometimes) we heard the sentiment "He really does not 'look' Down Syndrome at all." Should it matter? I don't know. But one of the aspects of raising a baby with Down Syndrome is coping with a child that looks different.
When Charlie was a baby, I would debate about whether I should blurt out to people that he had Down Syndrome, or if they would already know from the way he looks, or if it was important information for the world to know, or if it was better people not know if they could not tell, or, or, or.
Call me shallow, but I'm not alone. When you never imagined your life would be inexplicably linked with a child who has special needs--never really considered it at all--and then all of a sudden you are not only processing what this means, but everybody around you can tell... well, it is something a parent needs to wade their way through. And fast, 'cause everyone knows.
So how did we feel about it? I did feel sensitive about Charlie's looks at times. His tiny little nose. It seemed impossible to me to get a photo of him from an angle that did not make it look like you could see straight up into his sinuses. His short little arms and legs and big tummy made it hard to dress him. I worried people would think he was overweight. His tongue stuck out a lot. And when he got his hearing aids, well, it was one more thing to look at. To make him stick out.
But also, we loved the way he looked. We were quite vain about it at times! He really was a darling baby. All those Down Syndrome features seemed to make him seem even more baby-cute. His button nose. Cupid lips. Round chubby cheeks, and roles of sweetness all over his little body. His head was perfectly round. People at church would practically take a number to get a Charlie-cuddle. Ladies would gush over him in line at the super market. Weathered fisherman-types would go out of their way to look upon him.
Cutest damn baby, indeed.
More about Babies with Down Syndrome can be found here.