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A Mother’s Open Letter To The Woman Who Shamed Her In Target

‘If you only knew what I know ...’

via Facebook

Three weeks ago, Kelly Dirkes was holding her baby in a carrier at a local Target when a woman stopped her and made a snide comment. The stranger told Dirkes she would “spoil that baby” by carrying her and the child would “never learn to be independent.” Dirkes, a mother who has adopted two children with Down syndrome, kissed her baby on the head, smiled at the stranger, and continued shopping.


Later, Dirkes decided to write an open letter to the nosey woman, telling the stranger about her child’s strength in the face of unbelievable circumstances. The letter describes how her baby was neglected in a sterile nursery as an infant and learned to trust her adoptive parents and depend on them for love and support. Since April 25, the letter has been shared over 21,000 times.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Woman in Target-

I've heard it before, you know. That I “spoil that baby”. You were convinced that she’d never learn to be “independent”. I smiled at you, kissed her head, and continued my shopping.

If you only knew what I know.

If you only knew how she spent the first ten months of her life utterly alone inside a sterile metal crib, with nothing to comfort her other than sucking her fingers.

If you only knew what her face looked like the moment her orphanage caregiver handed her to me to cradle for the very first time--fleeting moments of serenity commingled with sheer terror. No one had ever held her that way before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do.

If you only knew that she would lay in her crib after waking and never cry--because up until now, no one would respond.

If you only knew that anxiety was a standard part of her day, along with banging her head on her crib rails and rocking herself for sensory input and comfort.

If you only knew that that baby in the carrier is heartbreakingly “independent” --and how we will spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to override the part of her brain that screams “trauma” and “not safe”.

If you only knew what I know.

If you only knew that that baby now whimpers when she’s put down instead of when she is picked up.

If you only knew that that baby “sings” at the top of her lungs in the mornings and after her nap, because she knows that her chatter will bring someone to lift her out of her crib and change her diaper.

If you only knew that that baby rocks to sleep in her Mama’s or her Papa’s arms instead of rocking herself.

If you only knew that that baby made everyone cry the day she reached out for comfort, totally unprompted.

If you only knew what I know.

“Spoiling that baby” is the most important job I will ever have, and it is a privilege. I will carry her for a little while longer--or as long as she'll let me--because she is learning that she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved.

If you only knew…

Here are some of the responses that Dirkes has received to her post:

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