Why I'm Not at Britmums Live 2016

Why I'm not at Britmums Live 2016 and I wish I was... 

I'm walking around heavy of heart this weekend, watching the Twitter feeds and wishing everyone well, smiling from afar, but still regretting that I am not among them.
This would have been my 5th BML, the largest blogging conference in the UK has been a crucial part of Downs Side Up right since the very beginning.

I cannot begin to tell you what Britmums has done for Downs Side Up, I'll add a few pics below to try, but basically you wouldn't have heard of my blog without the organisation.

Keynote at Britmums Live 2012 @MotherScuffer
The first year I attended, I read a keynote speech, What to Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome. Everyone sobbed, it was a momentous moment for me too, the first time I realised that people were moved by my words.

Process with the Wine Buffs
It was also the first time I had left young Natty at home with Bob and Mia and had respite from my carer role. The freedom to remember my own identity, to meet new friends, to have my confidence boosted again might have gone to my head just a smidge, along with the Prosecco.  (Something that the person who reported this photo on Facebook might not have factored in.) 
In subsequent years I have been honoured to be asked to sit on panels talking about Digital Activism and Blogging with Heart and host round tables giving new bloggers tips on Campaign Blogging.

Camilla Batmanghelidjh, Lindsey Aitkin, Hayley Goleniowska and Chris Mosler

Many Media interviews have taken place there, including this one for the Financial Times. "Downs Side Up is one to watch from the front line." was their tip.

And this one with a Sun journalist and Alice Hassell. 

And the BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour interview too and BBCWorld Service I recall.

I wouldn't be writing for the Huffington Post  if it weren't for a nudge from Britmums. They also asked me to be their Special Needs editor which I did for 3 years before handing over to the amazing Steph Curtis.

They also got me naked. Long story, ask Kate on Thin Ice. It was for charity and to celebrate our Mummy bodies though, so don't report this one on Facebook too.

Downs Side Up uncovered

And the friends. It's mostly been about the friends, many of whom will remain close for the rest of my life. The Britmums blog network is a safety net I will fall back on time and time again. Thank you to everyone who has ever supported Downs Side up. 

Renata at Just Bring the Chocolate is a treasure indeed
And then last year a shock. Having been a finalist in the Inspire category every year, I was honoured and humbled but never expected to win. It had a profound effect on me, I felt quiet and wanted to share with so many other wonderful life changing bloggers. And I felt at peace with my blog. It had turned full circle.

I had never expected to win a BIBs Award for writing

And that, coupled with a second blogger keynote reading of my open letter to Richard Dawkins, and speaking in three different sessions last year, I decided that BML had seen enough of me. 

That it was time for new blood, new ideas, new people who come on stage and make everyone weep. I vowed that I would put BML in a beautiful box and cherish it for ever, but that I wouldn't go back, that I would leave it there, on a high note.

However, the day drew closer this, I was listed as a finalist again much to my surprise, and I began to realise I was wrong. My calendar was full, I hadn't made space for Britmums, but I began to hatch a plan, a last minute dash, because my chest was aching in a way that you feel when you miss a loved one. I was missing my blog family and I wanted a group hug. I needed that reunion.

It wasn't to be. The night train was full and the one for the next morning would get me there too late. It was a sign. I am meant to watch from afar.

And so hear I sit, following your wonderful glamorous day wearing my elastic waisted trousers and wishing you all the inspiration and collaboration in the world. I am cheering on my fellow finalists and I hope that any one of you win this year but me.

Please raise a glass to every one of us in the Inspire category.


Raise a glass to Britmums. Thank you Susanna and Jennifer.

A Question We Should Never Have Been Asked?

Growing up
Mum used to make ends meet by opening our home up to English language students and providing accommodation during their study trips.

We'd all budge up and various European youngsters would fill our home with exotic stories, gifts from afar and new exciting fashions. I learnt from a young age to speak more clearly so they could understand me, and would delight in helping them with their homework and playing board games round the table.

An Unlikely Duo: Sally Phillips and I Take to the Stage

Phillips and Goleniowska is never going to trip off the tongue, and indeed our pairing was less about the giggles and more about the opening of eyes and the changing of hearts and minds, but last week we took to the stage together. 

Sally Phillips and I share our stories with healthcare professionals

In fact the tears in the audience's eyes stemmed from raw emotion rather than belly laughs, although with Sally Phillips being an accomplished comedy actor her honest story and true emotion was balanced perfectly with quick-witted moments of hilarity at the event organised by Daniel Marsden and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Learning Disability Community of Practice.

Moments of hilarity with actor Sally Phillips at LDCoP16

"Parenting a child with Down's syndrome is more like a sitcom than a tragedy." Sally Phillips

Value Your Worth: Bloggers ARE Writers

As I put the finishing touches to a Telegraph article I've been commissioned to pen, and read through several magazine pieces and a book chapter that I am fortunate enough to have been asked to write, I remembered listening to an esteemed speaker at Blogfest last year (it could have been a newspaper editor or Sandi Toksvig, so many wise and wonderful words spoken there) but whoever's advice it was stuck firmly in my mind.

'Bloggers ARE writers. If you are a blogger, you ARE a writer. Value your worth.'

That was the moment where a switch clicked in my mind. We must stop doubting our words, our abilities to reach out to others and to paint pictures with our stories. 

How Do Passionate Campaigners Change the World?

The beauty of being an intermittent Radio 4 Woman's Hour listener means that you often find the answers to pertinent situations in your life precisely when you aren't looking for them.

How do passionate campaigners change the world?

When pondering the ethical conundrum of new antenatal screening programmes whilst peeling potatoes in the kitchen yesterday, I heard National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clark talk about her poem Letter From a Far Country

She had written it in protest but instead it was lauded as a celebration upon launch. She explained the sudden realisation back then that being positive is what creates real change. 

"Now, if I want to save the planet, I praise the planet," she advised.

Win: Oxford Reading Tree Book Giveaway

Grab your chance to win a copy of Oxford Reading Tree Stage 2 Traditional Tales featuring The Tortoise and the Hare with our giveaway!

Win: Oxford Reading Tree Giveaway via Downs Side Up

How to Spoil a Special Swimmer

Natty is one very special swimmer indeed.  She's also very good at surprises...

How to encourage a special swimmer

Since her naso-gastric tube was removed, she'd had her jabs and the all clear from our GP, Natty has been a little mermaid.  From splashing in the bath, to languishing under a shower, to sitting in the Caribbean Sea with her toes in the sand to taking swimming lessons, she just loves being in the water.