“When I first found out that she has Down syndrome I was heartbroken, and full of fear of the unknown. But as I started to educate myself and meet beautiful mothers who helped and supported me a lot, the hopelessness turned into strength and joy,” says mother-of-two Abeer Nafi, who later launched the Instagram page Baby Kinda to document her journey wither her now two-year-old daughter.
Inspired by Western blogs for kids with Down syndrome, Abeer realized how impactful personal blogs could be to give hope to new mothers of children with the same diagnosis –especially that they’re not very common in the Arab World.
“I wanted to let them see that it’s not the end of the world, and it does not define our kids. I wanted to raise awareness about Down syndrome, since we have a lot of misconceptions and lack of information in our communities about the issue,” she adds.
Through pictures and videos, the blog gives a glimpse of the real life of mothers of the differently-abled; the ups and downs and everything in between, aiming to help people become more understanding –and accordingly more supportive to the community and the kids. “We need to understand that it is okay to be different, and that difference doesn’t make our kids any less. More awareness would help our kids have their rights to live a normal life, and have equal chances in the society, schools, sports, and more,” Abeer adds.
Having to deal with some harsh or ignorant comments is yet another motive for Abeer to use her daughter’s platform to educate people about the issue. “It is very challenging and heartbreaking at times, but I try to be strong and educate people as much as I can,” she states.
For Abeer, restructuring one’s priorities is crucial and challenging when raising a challenged kid –especially when caregivers work or have other children to look after. Before having her daughter, Kinda, Abeer was a marketing research analyst, but she decided to quit to be there for Kinda’s first years. She stresses on the vitality of giving her other daughter enough care and attention, so she does not feel neglected or unimportant.
Since the family currently lives in Saudi Arabia, they do not have access to pediatricians specialized in Down syndrome; so finding affordable centers with high quality is another challenger they’re currently facing.
When it comes to Kinda’s future, Abeer has big dreams for her baby girl, starting with love and acceptance.
“I want her to grow up healthy and strong; happy and loved for who she really is. I hope she can overcome any struggles she might face in her education, and become very successful and independent,” Abeer says.
On the short term, the family is not planning to send their daughter to schools for the differently-abled only since they find it both unfair and unacceptable. They’re planning to talk to her sister’s school about the issue, but if it does not work out, they’ll either move back to Egypt or the USA.
Despite all the challenges and stressors, Abeer expresses how Kinda brought joy and love to the family’s life. “She softened my heart and mind, yet made me realize how strong I can be. She also strengthened our family bond, and made our life more meaningful,” she concludes.
Tips from Abeer Nafi on raising empowered children with a different ability:
- Early intervention is the key. I encourage all mothers to start the early intervention program that includes therapy, activities, exercises and nutrition programs for their child as soon as they receive the diagnosis.
- Believe in your child, fight for their rights, never settle for less, and have faith that there are no limits.
- Don’t forget to take care of your physical and emotional health, because you’re important.
- All family members should be involved in developing the child and supporting them; everyone should have a role not only the mother.