I had to fight for my child with Down syndrome after the hospital booked me for a termination of pregnancy
A mother has revealed how she had to fight to keep her unborn son after tests showed he had Down syndrome before he was born – and hospital staff assumed she would want to terminate the pregnancy.
Natalie O’Rourke, from Teddington, joined Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning to raise awareness for World Down Syndrome Day, saying that being born with an extra chromosome is nothing to be afraid of.
O’Rourke, who runs a riding school to help disabled people ride horses in west London, spoke of being told her son Woody, 10, had Down syndrome during a routine pregnancy scan.
She said: ‘I didn’t know how far along I was because it was an unplanned pregnancy so I went for a dating scan and you can tell right away something was wrong, the nurse said ‘I need to leave the room and go get my colleague but didn’t tell me what was going on.
“I just really knew, I knew there was a problem, and the colleague came back and just said, ‘We think there’s something wrong with the baby.’
Natalie O’Rourke, from Teddington, has revealed she had to fight to keep her son, now 10, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome before he was born, after hospital staff assumed she didn’t want her pregnancy to continue
Natalie explained that she had been told to go straight to Queen’s Charlotte Hospital in central London, but had not been told why.
She said: ‘It was very frightening and it was like we were put on a path with no choice, I mean this happened 10 years ago so we really hope it’s different for people now.
“They called me to tell me the baby had Down syndrome and I really wasn’t surprised at the time, and then the phone rang again, it was an unknown number and they said, ‘We’re just confirming your appointment for tomorrow’ ‘ and I said ‘I don’t have an appointment for tomorrow, I think you have the wrong person’, and I realized they had me scheduled for a layoff the next day.’
She continued, “And I said I won’t be coming, you can cancel that appointment, but she said, ‘No, we’ll keep the appointment in case you change your mind’.”
O’Rourke said that if she hadn’t already had a baby, she might have felt she should have attended the appointment, saying, “My concern is that I’m really strong-minded and I already have Alice.” [her older daughter] so I have every confidence in it.
“Had I been a first-time mom, I might have thought I’d have to go along with that and might not have realized there was a choice.
“I really hope things change ten years later, but I want to send out a strong message: Don’t be afraid of Down syndrome, there is so much love and kindness out there.
Brentford fan Woody joined Natalie on the This Morning sofa to explain how important football is to him
Natalie told the daytime TV presenters that if she hadn’t been “strong minded” she would have felt bullied into ending the pregnancy
“I remember when I held him in my arms for the first time and he cried and I was so happy he was healthy and I thought, ‘I fought for you and now you’re here.'”
She admitted that what the doctor had said “made her sick,” making her feel that in their eyes, he would be “an assault on society.”
“It’s like his life would have no value, and actually Woody is a life changer, improving the lives of everyone he meets.”
Woody joined Natalie on the This Morning couch to explain how important football is to him.
She said that after he was rejected from a local football club, there was online outrage after she shared the story and Brentford football club invited him to train with them on a weekly basis.
Natalie explained: ‘We love going to football and we have a whole routine of things we do, it’s like we have a whole second family there.
“We have a very supportive network of people who are really nice to us and they hug him and Woody can just be Woody.
Natalie runs the Park Lane Stables in Teddington, where people with disabilities can ride
The London-based stable launched a campaign to protect their center in 2021 after learning their landlord was going to sell the land (Photo: Woody with a horse at the stables)
“He can be himself and people accept him and embrace him. I started writing a blog about football to get the message across that football is for everyone; come as a family or someone with extra needs and they can enjoy it.’
Natalie has been the owner of Park Lane Stables in Teddington for the past 15 years and in 2021 she embarked on a dogged fight to save the tiny stables from closure that captured the heart of the nation.
The Riding for the Disabled Center provides a lifeline and nurturing safe space for more than 350 children and adults with disabilities and additional needs.
She previously appeared on This Morning, with mother Helen Clarke and son Christian, who has ADHD, to share her joy at reaching the stable’s goal of raising a further £225,000.
The stables provide 3,000 riding lessons a year to the children, teaching them how to groom and care for the animals, providing a wheelchair-friendly carriage, and providing special horse-assisted therapy.
What is Down syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that typically causes some degree of learning disability and certain physical characteristics.
- Drowsiness at birth
- Eyes that are slanted down and out
- A small mouth
- A flat back
Screening tests can reveal Down syndrome during pregnancy, but are not completely accurate.
It is caused by an extra chromosome in a baby’s cell due to a genetic change in the sperm or egg.
The risk of this increases with the age of the mother.
A 20-year-old woman has a 1 in 1,500 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome.
Women in their 40s have a one in a hundred chance.
There is no evidence that women can reduce their chance of having a child with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome cannot be cured.
Treatment focuses on supporting the patient’s development.
People with Down syndrome are more likely to have health complications such as heart disease, hearing problems, thyroid problems, and recurrent infections.
Source: NHS Choices