Because of you I will always have a friend My husband Chris and I have three kids. The eldest is Oscar, who is turning five this month. We also have Alfie, three and a half, and Flo, who's about to turn two. A pretty typical family of five for the most part I guess, apart from the fact that Oscar, my eldest, has Down’s Syndrome. I could bore you with all the emotions that went part and parcel with getting the news of his diagnosis in the beginning. How we didn’t know prenatally. How it was a big old shock. How I lost it there for a while, feeling so very sad that my longed-for baby hadn’t been the “perfect” one I’d ordered. But now here we are, five years down the line and a further two kids on and all that’s behind us. We’re here. We made it. It was always going to be three. That’s if we were lucky enough of course. And I remember as clear as day, sitting in The Spotted Horse in Putney on something like our fifth date and Chris telling me he was going to marry me one day and discussing how many kids we’d both wanted. Oscar, Alfie and Flo are still pretty young at the moment. Alfie and Flo certainly have no idea at all that Oscar is any different from them, or anyone else for that matter. But it's become apparent now, most especially from Alfie, that he has taken over the leader of the pack status developmentally and Oz is seemingly happy with that and blissfully unaware of why. You may wonder what relevance this has to anything, but when I had Oscar, in addition to a kergillion other concerns about what effect having a child with Down’s Syndrome would have on us, I was also concerned about what effect having a child with Down’s Syndrome would have on our other children, if indeed, we were able to have more. At the time we didn’t have any others. Oscar was our first. But it was something, always at the forefront of my mind. It’s apparently one of the top concerns listed by women who choose to terminate, following a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, but it is no doubt also a concern of mums who choose to continue as well. The results of research are surprising. 96% had affection towards their sibling with Down’s Syndrome; 94% were proud of their brother or sister with Down’s Syndrome; 88% felt they were better people because of their sibling with Down’s Syndrome. Also, 91% of the people asked, said they felt like they had a good relationship with their sibling who had Down’s Syndrome. Dare I say it, but are 91% of the general population happy with THEIR relationship with their sibling? Unlikely, is my thinking. When I brought Alfie back from the hospital, Oscar was only 16 months. He wasn’t bothered at all about the new bundle of joy that we were all cooing over. He literally couldn’t have cared less. But every once in a while, the tell-tale signs of jealousy would crop up. He was cruising then, not walking, but when I’d be feeding Alfie on the sofa, if I wasn’t looking, Oscar would side step over and bite Alfie’s foot. To hurt him? I’m not so sure… I’m guessing it was for attention. As Alfie’s grown older, Oscar started to pay him a bit more attention. And as Alfie has surpassed him in the development department, I have watched as Oscar has benefited from having Alfie and more so recently Flo, as siblings. I’ve spoken to friends of mine who have two or three children, one with and one or two without Down’s Syndrome and they tell me the bond between their children is like no other. They say, without even needing to make an issue of it, the sibling/siblings have this inbuilt protectionism that kicks in when needed. When we’re not there, because I guess we’re not always going to be, I’ve always said I hope Alfie and Flo will look out for their brother. One of my initial biggest fears when we had Oscar, was that I was worried how a new sibling would feel about him. Would they love him as much as we do? Would they resent the extra attention he’s more than likely to need? Would they feel we weren’t giving them the time? But I kept coming back to other children I knew with Down’s Syndrome who have the most amazing relationships with their siblings. And since writing my blog, the amount of people who’ve contacted me about their brother or sister with Down’s Syndrome , who couldn’t be more grateful for having had them in their lives. I see already how my boys and Flo are bringing each other along. Oz tries desperately to keep up with Alfie. But for a while there it was the other way round;big brother teaching little brother the ropes. And as the gap between them gets bigger, Alfie and Flo will more than likely, overtake Oscar in language and physicality. We’re aware of this and we’re ok with it. What I do know is while they will help Oscar come on, in turn, Oscar will be OUR biggest teacher. When you fall pregnant ADS (after Down’s syndrome), you can see the worry for you in some people’s eyes. Will she have another child with Down’s Syndrome? Will she be able to cope with the worry of knowing she’s potentially carrying another or not knowing either way? People worry for you. Fact. But honestly, from my own experience, I only ever wanted a family network for Oscar - a supportive environment for him,a friend for him,a helping hand for him,someone to watch his back in the playground should he need it. It didn’t even occur to me that we shouldn’t go for a second baby because of Oscar’s diagnosis. When Oscar’s at school, Alfie will often turn to me and say “Mummy, where’s Oggar (how he says Oscar)?” And when I say that he’s at school and that we’ll see him later, Alfie will often say “Ohhhhhh, I miss him Mummy. I want to see Oggar!” A few years ago, before we had Flo, Chris and I took the boys out shopping. We’d just finished lunch and Chris decided to whiz into a shop to pick up some coffee capsules. The boys and I were waiting for him, when a man approached us. “He’s adorable,” he said gesturing towards Oscar. “I’ve been watching him with you and he’s so cute.” It’s not usual for people to approach us these days, and I don’t mean that to sound cocky, but it IS unusual for a man of his age (late 30s) to approach us as typically it appears to be women or older men. Just as I was thinking, we don’t normally have men of his age approach us… He went on to say that he has a brother who has Down’s Syndrome and that the age gap between him and his brother is roughly the same as my boys. We talked for a while about Oscar and his progress, about the man’s brother and their life together. Anytime I come across anyone who has a family member with Down’s Syndrome , you instantly feel at ease, like in a strange way, you have a bond. I felt this today. It was a brief exchange and was over in a minute or two but as he walked away he stopped and turned back to add one last thing. “Unconditional love,” he said “they’ll have unconditional love for one another… Forever.” “Thank you,” I smiled. He had no idea, but he’d just made my day. As a mother of a child with additional needs I think you’re always wondering if you’ve done enough. If you’ve made the right decision to bring a sibling or two into that child’s life. So in that very moment, that man outside the shop had just reaffirmed the fact that we had ABSOLUTELY done the right thing. Read more of Sarah's blogs at Don't be Sorry.