By Sarah Costerton
I am Sarah and I live with my husband David and our three girls Hannah (11 years), Beth (8 years) and Jessie (4 years). I can remember clearly that lovely time before our 12 week scan when only David and close family knew that we were expecting our second child. We had a lovely holiday camping in France with Hannah then aged 20 months and I couldn’t help but daydream constantly about ‘this time next year ……’ It was going to be great, the new baby would be about 6 months the following summer and Hannah 3 years – what fun we were going to have and how blessed did I feel?!!
During the scan the sonographer suddenly announced that the baby’s neck measurement was ‘a bit thicker than normal’. This statement blissfully bypassed David but I understood the possible implications of this. I expected the subsequent blood test to confirm that all was ok but the following morning the hospital geneticist called and after a five minute chat I was left with the knowledge that our baby had a 50% chance of being born with Down syndrome.
Initially I was very positive; times had changed, people with disabilities could do all sorts of things that were never dreamt of before and I was going to give my child everything she needed to succeed. However, I couldn’t deny that this was not what I had wanted or dreamed about. I worried my child was going to be ‘different’, that Hannah now had a little sister who was going to be a burden rather than a friend, and I feared a loss of the full life that we were lucky enough to enjoy.
We were sitting in a park watching loads of kids running about having fun when David commented that you don’t see many kids with Down syndrome. I shared my fear that we would be isolated and cut off by people as I watched groups of friends and families enjoying time together. We started to walk home across the field and for a while it was just me, David and Hannah until the moment was broken by a young boy charging towards us with a huge smile and his arms open wide followed by his Dad. The boy was called Joe and he had Down syndrome. Our fears of being the only one with a child with Down syndrome and being isolated from people subsided instantly. We told him about our situation and felt so reassured, ‘the highs will be higher and the lows lower‘ he said.
Beth arrived a little early and she needed surgery to fix a bowel problem (duodenal atresia) and it was then we found out about the hole in her heart. At 6 months she had open heart surgery at The Royal Brompton Hospital and it is this day that we celebrate the most, because it was the turning point for Beth. Whilst the thought of surgery was daunting, the surgeons saw it very much as routine and we were home in eight days.
So, we fast forward to today and I feel so fortunate to have my three little ladies. It turns out Beth isn’t a ‘burden’ to Hannah and Jessie but rather ‘the best sister ever’! The bond between them is very special and the adoration is mutual. Beth is an amazing little girl with her own character, dreams, strengths and challenges. She is a valued and much loved friend, a hardworking pupil, a Brownie, she enjoys dancing, horse riding and reading. She also appeared as Orphan Mandy in the 2018 Call the Midwife Christmas Special! She is writing her own story and we support her where she needs it.
As for daydreaming about camping……well we had to wait a bit longer for that camping holiday which made it all the more special; after all, we all know ‘good things come to those who wait’ and Beth has taught us all the power of patience. I still feel very blessed and our life is full. As for David, well he couldn’t love or be more proud of his three girls. We no longer have to try and be positive because we ARE positive about our life now and in the future.