Here, Cassandra Dinkelman, 45, tells the story in her own words.
For 13 painful years I’d tried for a baby with no success so I thought I couldn’t fall pregnant. And now, the one thing I had always wanted was finally happening. But I’d broken up with my partner and I was leaving the UK,where I was living, to return home to Australia.
Together we came to a mutual agreement that he’d come over to visit the baby, but I’d raise our kid.
‘It’s just you and me now,’ I whispered down at my belly as I got on the plane.
Back at home, bursting with happiness, I told my family the good news. Then at 13 weeks I happily headed to hospital for a scan. But afterwards I was called in for a follow-up appointment.
‘There’s a high chance your baby has Down syndrome,’ the specialist said. ‘I’m going to refer you for more tests.’
The results confirmed there was a 99 per cent chance my baby would have the condition, which causes developmental and intellectual delays.
I broke down sobbing, grieving for the future I’d imagined for my little girl or boy.
‘We can offer a termination if it’s something you’d like,’ the doctor said, gently.
My mind was torn as I tried to decide what was best and fairest for my child.
At 20 weeks, another scan revealed the baby had other complications.
‘There’s a small bubble in the baby’s stomach. It might indicate there’s no connection between the oesophagus and tummy, which means they won’t be able to swallow,’ the doctor explained.
They also suspected there was excess fluid on the bub’s brain, which could cause it to be severely disabled.
‘We could argue that termination is necessary,’ a nurse told me.
My heart sank, I already loved my baby so much, but I still couldn’t decide what to do.
‘I’m worried about the baby’s quality of life,’ I admitted to a specialist.
Smiling, she put her hand on my arm. ‘I’ve worked with adults with special needs, they can have independent lives,’ she said. I felt instant relief.
‘Even though this is not what you imagined, I promise you this will be the most amazing journey,’ she said. They were the words I needed to hear. I was going to keep my baby.
Because of the other complications, I’d been warned my baby might not survive.
Strolling on the beach, I’d rub my bump and will my bub to live.
‘Come on baby, you need to be strong,’ I’d say. ‘I promise you we’ll have the best life together and explore the world.’
As the due date edged closer, I was moved to accommodation near the hospital so they could closely monitor the baby.
At 33 weeks, my doctor said the baby’s heart rate had dropped and I was booked in for a caesarean the next day. As my baby was plucked into the world, the midwife told me it was a precious boy. Then he was whisked away to be assessed before I even got to see him.
Thankfully, they discovered there was a connection between his stomach and oesophagus, and the fluid on his brain wasn’t as bad as feared.
Weighing just 1.17 kilos, he was in an incubator the first time I met him. I’d decided to name him George.
‘Hello my darling,’ I said, holding his tiny hand.
George’s battle wasn’t over yet though, as he had to endure operations to remove his adenoids and tonsils and fix the fluid on his brain. But he was here and he had survived. He truly was a miracle boy.
After 56 days in hospital, I got to take him home. As he grew, he had such a cheeky smile and an infectious giggle.
At 12 months, he was holding his own bottle.
‘Well done, my clever boy,’ I’d tell him, causing him to break into a huge grin.
Now four, my gorgeous George is the love of my life. I was so ill-informed about Down syndrome before George arrived and had always imagined that he’d be miserable and unable to enjoy life. But now I know just how wrong that was.
He adores music and his face lights up whenever the Wiggles come on TV.
George is learning to walk with a frame and working with a speech therapist to develop his babbles into talking. And my aim is to make sure he’ll be independent enough to live by himself when he grows up.
Life as a single parent is exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I want everyone to know that having a child with Down syndrome doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. There’s a tribe of us parents who are always dishing out advice and encouragement to each other. And when my loving boy touches his elbows signing for his umpteenth cuddle of the day, I tell him, ‘I’m so glad you chose me to be your mummy.’
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