One day, soon after I bought Freddie home from hospital, I went to collect my daughter from school. I saw another new mum; she was relaxed and smiling, surrounded by a crowd of cooing admirers. Though we had been due at about the same time, her baby was weeks younger than Freddie, having been born bang on time and healthy, not premature and sick. I did not envy her ‘perfect’ baby, but I did envy her freedom from worry.
On the way home we popped into the corner shop to buy milk. As I was negotiating the narrow aisle with the pram a voice called out:
‘I’ve been looking out for you.’
I turned around to see a lady I knew vaguely by sight from the school, either she, or her sister (I was never sure which), was mum to a boy with Down’s who had been in my daughter’s nursery class.
‘I heard on the grapevine that you’d had a baby with Down’s,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know anyone else who’d got a child with it when I had my boy, and I just wanted to say this to you: the scary times — when they’re little and thy’re poorly — they do get better.’
She cooed over Freddie and we swapped stories, not the usual half-joyful-half-exhausted tales of birth, night-feeds and nappies, but of the moment we first realised, of sobbing into our Christmas dinners because our baby was sick and miles away in hospital. She told me how her son was growing up now that the ‘scary’ baby days were over, and explained that he wasn’t with her that day because he was away on a week-long school trip in the Lakes — the most ‘normal’ of activites for a lad his age.
So, thank you, Marina. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t need to tell you how much that conversation meant to me, you knew before you even spoke.