Before I had my son Seb – now eight – I had an idealistic view of motherhood. But becoming a mum was overwhelming, especially when, at six days old, Seb was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.
It was the midwife who first raised concerns, when Seb was just one day old. I had been given low risk odds at my 12- week nuchal scan so, until then, Down’s syndrome was not something I had considered. After five days of agony, his blood tests confirmed our fears.
When the doctor broke the news to my husband Simon and me, I remember looking at Seb – his beautiful, unknowing face wrapped in the hood of a white bear suit – feeling devastated. I feared the worst, and the hospital leaflets reaffirmed my anxieties.
One midwife even sat and cried on my bed when she heard the news. She made me feel having Seb was a tragedy. In reality it’s been anything but.
At first, life with a newborn was tough, but every day I fell more in love and Seb’s diagnosis become inconsequential. He was utterly enchanting and enriched my life beyond measure.
Seb has an incredible way of engaging with people and brings an air of magic wherever he goes. His younger siblings – Dominic, six, and Polly, three – adore him, but the most beautiful relationship he has is with my 100-year-old grandmother. She comes alive just for him.
One thing I found frustrating was lack of representation of children with Down’s syndrome on TV. On the day I took Seb to buy his first school uniform, I spotted a massive ‘Back to School’ ad and it hit me again: where was the representation?
That night, full of fire, I wrote a Facebook post and tagged in three major retailers. It went viral.
One of the retailers dished out generic advice, one never responded, but Marks & Spencer got in touch – and offered Seb a slot in their 2012 Christmas campaign!
A week later he was in a studio being photographed. He did such a great job that he was asked back for the TV advert.
That day was emotional, in the best of ways. To see director Jake Nava (who has worked with Beyoncé) engage with Seb was wonderful. Seb hit his cue every time. The footage perfectly captured his beaming smile and lust for life.
Seb was in his first term at his mainstream school at the time and, although he already had lots of friends, the advert gave him extra kudos. The other kids wanted to know if he was going to be on Strictly next!
When I appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, one listener was considering a termination after having been given a high Down’s syndrome risk.
She decided to keep the baby – and now has a lovely three-year-old daughter. Having that impact spurred me to write a book about having a child with Down’s syndrome.
Eight years ago, when I was struggling to understand Seb’s diagnosis, everything I read made me feel depressed. Now I realise it needn’t have been that way.