#1146 Dear future mom, I have Down syndrome and a lifetime of love to give

Video for World Down Syndrome Day

One of 15 young people with Down syndrome addressing a worried pregnant mother; photo clip from video below

The worried mother’s letter to CoorDown, expressed a fear I’ve heard many times from pregnant friends: “I’m expecting a baby. I’ve discovered he has Down syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?”

CoorDown, a national organization for Italians with Down syndrome, hired the advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, to create an ad campaign in response to that poignant query. In the video, 15 young people with Down syndrome give reassuring answers to the future mom.

It is a joy-filled, touching video CoorDown hopes will reassure parents worried about the future of their Down syndrome children. That it has gone viral is not surprising.

Will it change hearts? That’s hard to say. Among the blizzard of comments are many from people who would abort a child they knew would be born with Down syndrome. I don’t judge them for believing they do not have it in them to be good parents to a child with special needs. None of us can crawl inside another’s heart, nor live another’s life. But I hope knowing more people with Down syndrome (and there are some standouts on this blog) will raise expectations and rewrite the future.

Children don’t come with guarantees. What they do come with is a set of challenges. They need parents who can handle the curve balls. My mother could. My father couldn’t. Parents don’t come with guarantees either.

This campaign may help ease fears and erase some stereotypes about children born with Down syndrome. What makes it so effective is the skillful storytelling. Without denying the challenges, it holds out the prospect of joy.


#1123 Fashion for the one- and no-breasted woman

Monokini 2.0

Photography Pinja Valja, Model Katja Mäkilä, Design Mert Otsamo, Styling Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts; from Monokini 2.0 Facebook page

Whether sexualized or service oriented (think infant feeding), breasts are a significant part of a woman’s identity. When cancer takes one or two of them, we can feel diminished, adrift, identities as carved up as our bodies.

Enter Monokini 2.0, “a touring photographic exhibition that challenges what is considered beauty in a female body.” If this were an audience, I would be on my feet, cheering for a stage full of women challenging the idea that only a woman with intact breasts can be beautiful.

Some of us are old enough to remember the 1964 photograph of Peggy Moffitt, modelling a monokini for an issue of Women’s Wear Daily. The designer behind the eye-popping, breast-baring swimsuit was Rudi Gernreich. He was railing against what he viewed as a repressive society way back then.

Fifty years later a new design team is doing it again, only this time the target is women who have had mastectomies. Thanks to cultural focus on breasts, women who lose one, or both, can feel de-sexualized, unattractive, unwomanly.

Stuff and nonsense. After a frustrating decade trying to find a swimsuit that did not demand a prosthesis, Elina Halttunen approached artists Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metter. They enlisted Finnish fashion designers to create ten haute couture swimsuits that defy such stereotyping.

Although their Kickstarter campaign fell short of its goal, they are not giving up. Their traveling collection will bring attention to their vision and just might attract the financial support they need.

The world is awash with one- and no-breasted women. It gives me hope to think one day they will no longer have to undergo reconstruction surgery or weary prostheses. They are beautiful just the way they are.

You can follow Monokini 2.0 on Facebook.


#1099 Singing doctor greets every newborn as a Future Important Person

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja, singing to newborn in Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja sings a welcome to every baby he delivers at Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. As an intern, he learned the practice from a doctor at Allegheny General. When that physician retired, he asked Dr. Andrew-Jaja to continue the tradition. He has been doing it ever since.

The singing starts when the baby enters the world. When the mood in the birthing room is right, Dr. Andrew-Jaja leads the staff in singing the birthday song to the newborn. Sometimes he adds a soothing lullaby, and he often comes into the hospital rooms of new mothers to sing “What a Wonderful World.”

After the Magee-Women’s Hospital posted a video of the singing doctor, Reddit picked it up, garnering nearly a million views. In the video Dr. Andrew-Jaja says:

When I’m singing to those babies I think that I’m singing to a future important person. That’s the credit I give to all of them. So, to me, it’s a wonderful thing in my hand, the miracle of life. And the rest of it is that it’s a beautiful world we live in. You forget about all the crisis going on everywhere for a moment, when you see that miracle of life in front of you.

It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of crisis and despair. We see plenty of reasons for hopelessness in the daily news. But every baby is a new spark of hope. We have a responsibility to welcome those new lives and to do our best to ensure they are loved and supported to reach their full potential. The future depends on that.

My thanks to Mike Lancaster for telling me about the good doctor.