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Turning stares into smiles – Pick Me Up

Here at Phoenix Features, we love a story that makes us smile. And little Erin knows just how to make us smile. When Beth fell pregnant aged 17, she knew the road ahead would be tricky, but rewarding. Naysayers figured she wouldn’t be able to cope when her daughter was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.

But Beth and Erin have other ideas. They’re here to show the world it doesn’t matter how old you, if you’re happy and you know it then you’re really got to show it…

One look at this mum and daughter smiling away like Cheshire cats and I think we can all agree that they make each other’s lives complete. You can read more about Beth in this week’s Pick Me Up, or below.

 

 

If you’d like to share a story about how your children changed your life, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch today.

 

 
Pregnant at 17, people thought Beth wouldn’t be able to cope with her daughter having Down’s syndrome. But there’s nothing about Erin that Beth would change…

Beth, now 20, explains:

I got pregnant by accident when I was just 17. Although the boyfriend and I didn’t stay together, I knew I wanted to keep the baby.

I was at college and worried I wouldn’t be aamyny good at motherhood, but if I was pregnant, I wanted to give my child a chance.

At my 20 week scan, they detected that the baby’s heart had two chambers instead of four.

‘It’s common in babies with Down’s syndrome,’ the sonographer said.

‘Down’s syndrome? It can’t be! I’m too young!’ I blurted out, astonished.

Like most people, I thought only older mums were at risk of having a child who had Down’s syndrome. In fact, the average age of women giving birth to a child with Down’s is 28.

Down’s syndrome was confirmed at 32 weeks. The antenatal team showed me around the ward, gave me lots of tips and told me all the positive things about having a baby with Down’s syndrome.

When Erin was born in January 2013, I felt so overwhelmed. She was purple and had multiple heart problems and I realised I was responsible for this tiny little person who had so much wrong with her.

She had her first heart operation straight away and I wasn’t allowed to hold her for months because she was in too much pain.

When we came home, we shared a bedroom and at night I’d listen to her struggling to breath because of her heart problems. I felt totally out of my depth but determined to do whatever it took to look after Erin.

In July 2014, Erin had her final heart operation, which lasted 10 hours and fixed the valves in her heart.

For two years, she’d just always put on a brave face and seemed so happy, yet her heart was struggling to pump blood around her body so she was surviving on so little energy. She’d learned to crawl and was a mischievous little thing, yet she had such a big battle going on inside.

I hadn’t realised how much she’d struggled before the operation, until she woke up after it with colour in her cheeks and a steady heart rate. She gave me her biggest smile yet and I knew that she’d be even more on the go now.

I’m used to getting looks in supermarkets. All parents in the Down’s syndrome community get used to their child being stared at. We get stared at twice as much because I’m such a young mum.

At first I’d get so paranoid. Were they judging me for being a young mum? Was it somehow my fault she had Down’s syndome?

But Erin has a special way of turns stares into smiles. She just reaches out her hand and gives them a big smile.

It’s such a graceful way of dealing with it and has taught me a lot. I don’t need to snap at people or stare back. If I take Erin’s lead and smile too, then together we can change the perceptions of everyone we meet.

As for other parents of special needs children – I’ve found out there is a secret code between us. We don’t stare, we just smile. We know our journeys have been tough but that the good outweighs the bad.

Erin being Erin has changed my life for the better. I wouldn’t wish her heart problems on anyone, but I wouldn’t change the Down’s syndrome. She has made my life complete and I’m glad I had her young, so we can grow together.

I’m not just a teen mum. I’m learning to drive, I’ve got a part time job as a kid’s club manager. I want Erin to be as proud of me as I am of her.