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Defending life from the moment of conception

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“You can do anything that you want” – mum writes beautiful letter to baby daughter with Down’s syndrome

16 February 2017


"Suddenly Down syndrome seemed to be the least thing we were concerned about. You had it, so what, we were instantly madly in love with you! Image: Rhona Cullinan.

A mother has written a touching open letter to her five-month-old daughter who has Down's syndrome to reassure her she is loved unconditionally.

Rhona Cullinan, from Dublin, gave birth to Molly on September 20th last year. She found out that her baby had Down's syndrome and a heart defect at her nine week scan. Rhona and her partner Martin were devastated at the news, but, she writes, "we decided then and there that we loved you and no matter what we had to face we would take it one day at a time and stay positive."

"It made no difference"

Molly's parents refused an amniocentesis to confirm the diagnosis, because "it would make no difference". However, Rhona admits in the letter that it was hard to get excited about the pregnancy, and she constantly worried - especially when Molly stopped growing at 25 weeks and needed steroids.

Would my dreams be lost?

Rhona also mourned for all the things she didn't think her baby would be able to achieve: "We then found out that you were going to be a little girl and we were thrilled! Tears ran down my cheek - firstly with joy but then with sadness. Maybe if you have Down Syndrome it would be the end of my dreams of mummy-daughter shopping days with you, seeing you falling in love, doing your makeup when you're getting married and even seeing you getting the job of your dreams."

Would that all be lost? I knew I'd have my little girl but she wouldn't be able to do any of these things. I know now it was selfish and naive but that was the truth of how I felt."

Down syndrome - so what?

However, everything changed when Molly was born. After a traumatic caesarean section, "Your dad was the first to see you - he just looked at me and smiled and said she's beautiful. Straight away he could see you had Down syndrome. But you were alive and didn't need any help with your breathing so we were just so relieved. Suddenly Down syndrome seemed to be the least thing we were concerned about. You had it, so what, we were instantly madly in love with you!"

The perfect reaction

Sadly, many parents have experienced negative reactions from medical professionals when they have a baby with Down's syndrome. Actress Sally Phillips, who presented a documentary called "A world without Down's syndrome?" recounted how the nurse cried and the doctor said "I'm sorry" when her son Ollie was born with the condition. However, Rhona and Martin had a wonderfully positive experience. "The first thing that shocked me was the reaction of the nurses - I expected sympathy and sad pitiful looks but what I got was hugs and cries of 'OMG Congratulations, she's so beautiful' and 'You're so lucky'". Rhona also praised the support given by the Down syndrome community nurse.

"You can do anything"

Molly's parents also realised that Down syndrome was not as scary as they had thought.

"I realised you could do everything I imagined - you can go shopping and probably fleece me - you can have a boyfriend and probably obsess over him - you can go to school and do as well as you can – you can get a job – might not be president but you'll love whatever you do! 

You can do anything that you want – except you'll do it at your own pace - maybe a bit slower than other kids but you'll do it. I also learnt that Down syndrome is simply a learning disability – nothing else – you will feel, you will desire, you will want the same as every typical child – but you'll just do your way!

So Molly I want to apologise – for not enjoying your pregnancy more – for doubting you - for worrying about your future – for trying to limit you before you even start and we promise from this day forward we will push you to be the best you can be – we will show you off to the world, we will treat you the same as your siblings and love you with unconditional love – because that's what you deserve!"

The full letter can be read on the Mail Online.

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