Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.07 6 Nov 2020


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A mother whose daughter has Down syndrome says people should congratulate parents if their child is born with a disability, not say 'I'm sorry'.

As part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October, Bernie Bradley posted a picture on Twitter of her daughter Jinny as a newborn.

Her message was for people to say 'congratulations', and not 'sorry', to parents when their baby is born with Down syndrome.

Bernie is calling on people and medical workers to be more careful in the language they use as the birth of all babies, regardless of whether they have a disability or not, should be celebrated.

Her tweet received a huge amount of attention, gathering 1.6 million impressions online.

Speaking to Lunchtime Live, Bernie says she hopes to raise awareness on the issue.

She said: "One of the days I tweeted a photograph of Jinny from the day she was born.

"Very frequently when she was born, on the day and afterwards, we heard lots of 'I'm sorry' and not 'congratulations'.

"At the time it didn't really strike too much with me because there was so much else going on but since then, it's just become something I've discovered has happened to a lot of parents

"Whether its the initial diagnosis from the medical team or family friends, colleagues, the community, the message is 'oh I'm sorry'.

"Twitter can be quite negative but every single interaction on that post was so positive and encouraging and for the most part, people were saying, of course, you should have been hearing congratulations, she's a beautiful baby.

"It was just something of wanting to get a bit of awareness on a personal level, I think a personal story resonates with people a lot more quickly than statistics and the reaction was incredible."

Jinny's birth

Bernie explained how Jinny was born eight years ago by caesarian section and was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth.

She added: "She was born and the doctor said it was girl and Jinny did a big sneeze and I thought, oh she's ok.

"Then the baby is taken away and all the checks are done.

"The room just went deathly silent and I was lying on the table with my husband beside me and I began to panic, was there something wrong, I thought she had died.

"There was panic within the medical team and then we were told, oh I'm really sorry, your daughter is displaying some of the signs that she may have Down syndrome.

"Children with Down syndrome would have low muscle tone, so while all babies are floppy she was a bit floppier."

Bernie continued: "That was the starting point, and I'm not in any way being negative about medical staff, they were incredible, I suppose it was the lack of awareness or training of how to deliver that diagnosis.

"It wasn't something I really thought about at the time.

"It's something when you have a child with a disability, you come into contact with other children who have Down syndrome, it seems to be a very common thing where delivery diagnosing was I'm sorry.

"What struck me was a few years later in the hospital where I had Jinny, my father passed away and we got the same message, I'm really sorry he's not going to make it.

"That was appropriate, his life was going to and it was really sad,  but it wasn't appropriate for the start of a new life.

"I want to get that message out there that whether you work in a hospital or you gave cousins or sisters or brothers, if they've had a baby with Down syndrome, the first thing you say is congratulations.

"I've had a range of emotions since I've had Jinny and none of them were pity for myself or for her.

"So there's absolutely no reason to be sorry for someone who has had a baby with a disability."

'Jinny is fabulous'

Bernie's advice for parents who have just had a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome is that they will be ok, and to reach out to other parents in the same situation.

She added that if you have a family member or a neighbour or a colleague who has just had a baby, the first thing you should say is congratulations.

She said that Jinny is doing great, and is "as bold as brass".

She added: "Jinny is fabulous, she's probably the best craic out of anyone I've ever met

"She has challenges, there's no doubt about it

"But Down syndrome is just a small part of who she is but first and foremost she's an eight-year-old girl."

Main image: Jinny Bradley. Photo: Bernie Bradley via Twitter

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