Ingerlise Svaleng | Gift of hope

Rewriting the opening act for babies born with Down syndrome

Ingerlise Svaleng is the founder of 21 Gifts, an initiative she started with her husband after their first daughter, Maia, was born with Down syndrome.

Maia’s ‘welcome to the world’ was not as Ingerlise wanted, not because of her daughter’s diagnosis but because of the response of the medical staff around her. Becoming a first-time mum should have been a joyful celebration, but suddenly everyone was saying ‘sorry’ instead of ‘congratulations’.

The idea that her beautiful daughter was something to be sorry about was absolutely crushing… but then a special delivery to her hospital room in the form of a little suitcase completely turned everything around.

Now, Ingerlise is on a mission to pay forward that gift of hope to other parents facing a similar child diagnosis, and she’s working with hospitals across Australia and New Zealand on better ways to talk to families about babies born with ‘a little extra’ – leveraging her background in communications, organisational coaching and positive psychology.

In this episode, Ingerlise talks about her journey to launching 21 Gifts, how she succeeded in getting more than 100 hospitals on board in the first year, what the reality of having a daughter with Down syndrome has actually been like and how she now juggles her day job with growing the movement that 21 Gifts has become.

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