The mother of a seven-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome, who hit the headlines for appearing in Sainsbury’s clothing adverts, has said there was an “assumption” she would abort her daughter.
Hayley Goleniowska, 43, and her husband Bob, 59, told The Daily Telegraph they have no limits now on their expectations for their daughter Natalia – or Natty – who swims, rides horses and is in mainstream school.
The Goleniowskas had their first child Mia in 2004, and after several miscarriages Helen became pregnant again with Natty.
Following a scan at 15 weeks which showed there was a 1-in-300 likelihood of Down’s Syndrome, they decided not to have any further testing.
Hayley said there is a “conditioning to fear Down’s syndrome” coupled with an “assumption” that if the baby tests positive for the condition, you will “automatically” have an abortion.
But she said it was a good thing they had a “fantastic midwife who just reassured us we could cope, so we got on with it”.
After Natty was born, doctors confirmed that she had Down’s Syndrome and Hayley described the “very real fear” for Natty’s life, as her daughter was also diagnosed with two holes in her heart.
She said: “I had a flash of the stereotype – of what I thought my daughter wouldn’t be able to do”.
She spoke of the muted reactions to the birth: “People don’t send cards, they don’t know whether to congratulate you or not”.
Bob added: “Someone actually said they were sorry to hear the news”.
“But a baby is always something to rejoice about.”
Hayley said that Natty is totally unaware of the stigma attached to her condition.
“And when we realised that”, Hayley said, “we knew who she was – our daughter, not a set of symptoms or predictions for the future”.
Hayley has started a blog offering advice and support for parents of children with Down’s Syndrome, which now gets 30,000 hits a month.
She said, “when you get an email from a family or a mum on a ward who says ‘Your blog has thrown me a lifeline; now I can see what the future could hold’, then we know we’re doing the right thing”.
In March this year, a video to promote World Down’s Syndrome Day called “Dear Future Mom” showed 15 people with the condition from around Europe outlining what mothers can expect.
It was produced by communications company Saatchi & Saatchi and the Italian Down’s Syndrome association CoorDown, in response to a question the organisation received from a pregnant mother whose child was diagnosed with the condition.