Audrey Starts School!

Audrey holding a picture of me at primary school

I’ve just dropped off a piece of me in a classroom with lots of people I don’t know. The little lady has started reception at primary school.

My daughter is friendly, kind and gentle. She loves imaginative play and reading books. She likes routine. I have no doubt that she will enjoy school, I’m just not sure how much I’ll enjoy her being there!

Anyone who knows me that I will cry at TV programmes, songs that come on the radio and a fleeting thought about someone’s sad situation, so it was a huge surprise that I didn’t cry today dropping Audrey off at her first day of school.

Several factors helped – school drop off is not a romantic, sound-tracked moment.; it’s carnage! We went as a family, with a child in a buggy and one on the loose, we battled through a crowd of legs and shouting and hugging and hellos and goodbyes to get to her class. Also, Audrey was very excited. She managed to (almost) walk all the way there (major achievement) and she jumped, sang and hugged her way down the road, she was genuinely happy to be going to school. It’s tricky to feel the true emotion of a momentous occasion when you are in it. It’s actually easier for me to be tearful anticipating it or reflecting on it.

And so, here I am in a cafe. Ted and Rex are off shopping (typical boys!) and Audrey is in her school classroom, with her teachers.

Of course I can’t help but reflect on 5 years with her. 10 months of maternity leave of just us, followed by a mix of us and nursery, us bump and nursery, us Rex and nursery… and now Audrey has her own thing, she is a schoolgirl!

“They” say it goes in a blink of an eye. I don’t know if  I feel quite like that, but I do feel immensely proud of Audrey and how far we have come from tiny baby on oxygen to confident 5 year old.

As I analyse my feelings, I can see what is creeping in… I felt it during maternity leave with Rex. She had her nursery days and we went to groups but I was suddenly a different mum, I was seemingly a mum of one typical child but that was not my whole identity. She is a part of me, a part of me that I am truly proud of and it can feel very strange to be out and about without her. What a mix of emotions this brings and a new chapter for us all – I have handed in my notice at work and plan to work on freelance writing. I am very lucky to have a supportive husband allowing me to take this leap and it also means that I can be there to drop off and pick up Audrey from school.

Happy September and good luck to everyone in their “firsts”, I love autumn and I’m feeling so very happy that its crisp and sunny outside and the leaves will soon be crunchy under our feet. My favourite time of year.

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If I Could Go Back…

It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month (predominantly in the US, but happy to embrace it as I always do), so what better time to direct you to a short film I had the pleasure of contributing to.

I have mentioned The Specials before (an online series that also aired on OWN in the US), they have been a fabulous, fun part of our journey with Down’s Syndrome.

I used to work for a company that sold documentaries internationally and we represented The Specials before I was pregnant with Audrey.

It was quite a moment for me, when, back at work visiting colleagues with my small baby, I bumped into Katy (producer of The Specials) and for the first time, I felt excited to tell someone that my baby had Down’s Syndrome! I knew that she would get it.

Anyway, the company I worked for went into liquidation, time passed, but I thankfully remained in touch with Katy because she’s just one of those lovely-type-people you stay in touch with.

She asked if we (my family and I) might be interested in being filmed for some content for The Specials website. They were interested in representing a different part of the Down’s Syndrome journey – the early part with a little one like Audrey.

Of course I said yes, I am always thrilled at the prospect of showing off Audrey and reaching people with our story – showing what life is like.

Katy started filming us the summer Audrey turned 2 and continued into the winter when I was heavily pregnant with Rex.

I’m pleased to be able to share with you a short film that came from some of that filming: a project called “If I Could Go Back…” that has given a voice to a variety of parents of children with Down’s Syndrome, explaining what those early days are like and what we’d like to say to ourselves if we could go back…

Click here to view on YouTube

It’s a perfect film to share during Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month and one that I hope will be useful to new mothers, fathers, grandparents… basically anyone who fears what it might be like to have a child with Down’s Syndrome in their life. What we thought “then” and what we know “now” = just wow. I could literally talk all day about what I thought it would be like to have a child with Down’s Syndrome and what it is actually like.

Audrey makes me so happy, so proud and she continues to surprise me every day with what she is learning and has achieved. So different to the fear in my heart that moment I first looked at her face.

More links to come no doubt, but for now, I hope you enjoy this one, it’s certainly emotive!

Bragging

I wanted to list some stuff Audrey can do, I’m not really bragging, just want to remember how well she’s doing and have an excuse to document small things we may forget.

Don’t get me wrong either, I am fully aware typical children can do all these things and much, much more and that other kids with DS might be ahead of us too, but I am super proud of every little thing Audrey has achieved. The bar was set low when we realised she had Down Syndrome (sad but true), but those low expectations mean BIG celebrations when she achieves. We are a family of clappers and cheerers!

Ok, so signs-wise Audrey knows loads, but these are words she also says whilst signing:

Dada (putting this at the top as it is her most successful word-sign combo!)

Mama 

Banana (narna)

More

Cake (don’t judge! She has rice cakes and pancakes a lot, so associates the word with those things as well as the odd nibble of Mummy’s lemon drizzle!)

Audrey can sign (without saying):

Bibi (Grandma)

Finished

Food

Blueberries

Yoghurt

Milk

Biscuit

Water/drink

Nappy

Where

Cuddle

Hello and goodbye

Baby

Bird

Dog

Flower

Bus

Bath

Sleep

Brush

Glasses

Monkey

Elephant

She also signs the actions to Incy Wincy Spider, Row Row, Twinkle Twinkle, the Wheels on the Bus and a few other songs.

She can high five and fist bump, blow kisses, give tickles and reach out to be picked up.

She knows her feet and toes, her nose and her head.

She can wash her face and hands with a wet wipe (although she is started to just suck on the wet wipe!).

She loves to take off and put on hats and glasses, she also likes putting things in and taking them out of boxes or bags.

She can brush her hair and ours. She can feed herself with a spoon (but doesn’t like to do it!), she mostly eats finger foods.

She can hold a beaker and drink (she stopped having a bottle around 18 months when she decided she no longer wanted it).

Physically, Audrey definitely suffers from low muscle tone. She is extremely flexible and started bum shuffling properly at Easter time. Now she is into anything and everything. She has only just started to show interest in standing and it is a million miles away from the stiff standing typical children attempt. She is pushing onto her feet, with us holding her under her arms and can stand for a second before wobbling out of it. It still feels like a huge step forward, walking is the next big thing to master… the day that I can buy her shoes will be a great day indeed 🙂