Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

'I can't imagine her any other way'

Frances Dine
Mother of a baby with Down's syndrome

Erin Dines
'Erin is developing her own personality'

When the sonographer carrying out my 12-week scan turned to me and my husband Paul and said "there's a problem with your baby", I felt totally numb.

It was only later, when we were sitting in the car in the hospital car park, that I cried.

Up until that point in my life I'd never even heard of a nuchal fold, and certainly had no idea that a thickened one could indicate that a baby was at increased risk of having Down's syndrome.

We were both very much of the opinion that we didn't want any further tests.

We'd wanted this baby for a long time. We didn't want to do anything that might risk a miscarriage, however small that risk might be.

We said "what will be will be" and tried to enjoy the pregnancy, although I suppose the possibility that our baby might have Down's syndrome was always at the back of our minds.

'Our fears came true'

A few weeks after the first scan we discovered that we were having a little girl, and decided to call her Erin.

Frances Dine and her daughter Erin
The knowledge that Erin had Down's didn't change the way I felt about her one tiny bit

As I got closer to my due date, the possibility that Erin might have Down's began to occupy my thoughts more and more.

I didn't really know anything about Down's, but the prospect of having a baby with a disability, a "syndrome", was a scary one.

Since Erin's arrival, Paul and I have had many conversations about her birth and the time immediately afterwards.

Paul has told me that as soon as he had the opportunity to have a close look at Erin he did so, and looking down at her little face, he knew that she had Down's.

He handed her to me and said: "What are you seeing?". I replied: "Has she got Down's?". Our fears had come true - our baby daughter had Down's syndrome.

I can honestly say that the knowledge that Erin had Down's didn't change the way I felt about her one tiny bit.

From the moment I held her in my arms I loved her more than I can possibly describe, and those feelings have never changed.

An exclusive 'club'

The day after Erin was born a very nice doctor came to have a chat with us.

He brought us some booklets and leaflets about Down's, but tried to impress upon us that there was no urgency to read them. The most important thing Erin needed, he said, was the same thing every other baby needed - lots of love and kisses and cuddles.

I sometimes worry about Erin's future, but I try very hard not to let those worries spoil my enjoyment of the present

I've often thought about his words since and feel certain that Erin will never want for those things with me and Paul as her parents because we love her so much.

I've been very impressed with the amount of professional support we've received since Erin was born.

From doctors, nurses and therapists at St James's Hospital to the wonderful staff at the Mencap nursery that Erin and I attend once a week, there are a lot of people looking after my little girl.

In some ways I feel like I've become a member of a rather exclusive "club".

'Little person'

Before Erin was born I didn't want to be part of it, but now that I am I can't imagine life being any other way.

Erin is nearly six months old now, and she's becoming a little person with her own personality.

Gone is the tiny baby who had to be fed through a tube because she was too sleepy to feed by herself.

These days Erin can drink a bottle in no time, and has just started on solids.

She loves lots of attention, likes to suck her thumbs (sometimes both at the same time), is determined and sometimes a bit stubborn.

I sometimes worry about Erin's future, but I try very hard not to let those worries spoil my enjoyment of the present. To me she's just my daughter, and I can't imagine her any other way.

It really is that simple.

Born with Down's will be transmitted on Radio 4 at 2000 BST on Monday 24 November.



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