November 13, 2017 2:20 pm
Updated: November 13, 2017 2:28 pm

‘Anything But Sorry’ aims to end the stigma of having a baby with Down syndrome

What do you say to a parent who's just had a baby with Down syndrome? As Adam MacVicar learns, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society aims to answer that question in its latest campaign.

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The message hits home for Meagan Hoffman and her eight-year-old son Jacob.

“Unbenounced to us, (Jacob) was born with Down syndrome, we weren’t aware of the diagnosis in utero so it came as a bit of a shock,”  Hoffman said.

“It was a stressful time; I had just delivered a baby, it was having complications and then the way it was introduced wasn’t positive.”

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The confusion is around what to say to parents who’s baby is born with Down syndrome. What do you say? It can be a difficult and awkward discussion between family and friends.

That confusion is what the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) aims to explain with their latest campaign.

“Parents have enough when they’re going through the realization that they’re having a child with down syndrome,” Kirk Crowther, the executive director of the CDSS, said.

“Any birth should be really celebrated.”

The campaign features a series of videos with colorful suggestions of what to say to a parent whose child is born with Down syndrome.

“Well, there goes your sex life,” one of the video’s subjects said.

“Dont be sorry about a baby,” said another. “Every baby deserves a warm (expletive) welcome!”

Overall, the main message is to say anything but “sorry.”

“Down syndrome doesn’t discriminate, it’s a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement, it can happen to anyone. “ Crowther said.

“Parents are still contacting us saying that they just got out of hospital and they want some more resources or information from the CDSS but they’ve been home for two weeks and no one has said congratulations to them yet.”

He adds that congratulations from family and friends is the first step toward acceptance for new parents.

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According to the CDSS, over 9,300 babies have been born with Down syndrome in North America so far this year.

There are around 45,000 people affected by the condition in Canada.

“People with down syndrome are fully participating citizens, they’re getting jobs,” Crowther said. “They’re being fully included.”

According to the Ability in Me (AIM) program, a resource and therapy program in Saskatoon dedicated to support people with Down Syndrome, about 19 children are born with Down syndrome each year in Saskatchewan.  They’re hoping the campaign helps end the stigma.

“We’re not focused on down syndrome,” Tammy Ives, the executive director of the AIM program, said.

“We’re just focused on a child or an adult who wants to succeed in life and participate in life to their full potential.”

Ives is very familiar with the message the CDSS is trying to get across; her son was also born with Down syndrome.

“They just didn’t know how to respond, so I think it’s an opportunity to say just be happy and congratulate us,” Ives said.

“I almost felt like I had to explain to people that it’s OK, and we are excited about our son.”

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The campaign also encourages people to share an e-card through the Anything But Sorry website, with the goal of sending a warm welcome and congratulations to each of the over 9,000 babies born this year.

For Hoffman and her son, their message to parents is simple.

“It’s nothing to be sorry about, its an amazing thing,” she said.

“It’s the gift of life across the board, and it’s a joyous life.”

According to the CDSS, this campaign raised roughly 200 per cent more than previous campaigns, despite losing smaller donations due to people not being completely comfortable with the language used in the ads.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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