Daddy Downs Side Up Remembers

A usually intensely private man who holds his cards close to his chest, Natty's Daddy speaks of her arrival into our world.

Daddy Downs Side Up remembers the moment his youngest arrived in this word

A blog about Natty, by her daddy. 

As our second pregnancy progressed we were told there was a one in 300 ‘risk’ that the baby had Down's syndrome.  (I now note with sadness the negative language used.  We think of it now as a 1 in 300 ‘chance’.)  

H and I both felt the odds were acceptable and did not bother with more invasive tests after the losses we had already experienced. We have since thought about what we would have done if we had known our baby girl had Down’s before she was born, and we came to the conclusion that we would have gone ahead with the pregnancy.  Looking at Natty now, it is totally impossible to imagine life without her and all that she brings to our world.

The day Hayley went into labour, we were very excited to be having a home birth. Mia was staying with her Godmother so H and I could concentrate on the birth.  I say H and I, but of course I really mean H.  So, as Hayley always wanted a home birth, we turned the bathroom into a delivery room.  The practical side of me had fears in case something went wrong.  But what could go wrong…?

The birth was quick as births go.  It seemed like no time at all and Natty was there.  But she was not crying, not breathing and blue. I remember looking at the midwife's face.  Her expression was one of fear, even terror.  The senior midwife was late because Natty arrived so fast.  So when she arrived around 2 minutes later, the bathroom was a very tense place.
I was told to call 999 and get an ambulance fast. To say I was scared is an understatement.  My usual calm self was frightened. Frightened for H and Natty as I did not know what was going to happen next.   I remember Natty’s face being rubbed hard to make her breathe.  But I could see she was not.  The midwife said that because her blood was rich in oxygen she was ok for a short time but we must get her breathing.  I think I saw her do ‘mouth to mouth’ and she started very shallow breathing.
I made the call.  I gave address details and waited outside in the winter air wearing nothing but a Tshirt and shorts…my birthing partner attire.  I stayed outside the gates to the house so the driver could see me standing waiting.  The ambulance arrived in 7 mins.  I know because I counted every second, all 420 of them.  During that time I prayed for her survival, making a pact with God by offering myself instead of her, while of course hoping he did not need either of us.  I went into the house with the paramedics and in that time I had decided her living or not was God's plan.  I was terrified to go inside to find out if she had made it.  It was the biggest relief of my life that she had!  The paramedics quickly got Natty on oxygen and her colour improved.

Having an independent doula present at the birth was also a great support for me.  Being present during the labour of your child can be hard for a man, almost feeling like a bystander to someone you love in so much pain. Thank you for your support Katinka.  You made sure I was included, heard and comforted as much as Hayley was.

Soon, we were in the ambulance on our way to hospital.  H was incredible.  Having just given birth she walked to the ambulance.  She was incredibly strong and determined.  We arrived and were admitted.  I carried Natty proudly into the hospital and up to the second floor in the lift.  She was then taken from me.
She was hooked up to lots of machines while lots of masked experts stared at screens. I could hear the bleeps of the monitors checking her heartbeat, pulse and other vital signs like oxygen levels in her blood.  I could see the SATs were low, very low so I knew we were not in a good place.  The doctor in charge said very little.  I guess he wanted to be sure of his facts before he came to any conclusions.  Lots of scanning later, we were eventually told she has Downs Syndrome, high blood pressure and other scary facts.  2 days later, a long distance scan later by Bristol Children’s Hospital revealed 2 holes in her heart.

I guessed she had Down’s but now it was confirmed.  H cried out “I cannot do this!”, only to say moments later that our baby needed us and we were her best hope in life.  For my part, I think my Italian heritage came to the fore at this point as I did not think anything other than she is our baby and we will love her and watch her grow.   “She’ll be fine”, I said.  Was I in denial?  Not at all!  I was just being strong because that was the only thing I knew how to do, for everyone’s morale.

The medical team involved who took care of Natty and watched over her progress for the next 12 or so months were incredible.  They knew most of the answers on the day and even though they did not share everything with us straight away, they saved her life.

When Natty came home for the first time it was Christmas Eve.  It seemed as if she had lots of tubes and wires protruding from her for feeding and monitoring (H tells me there was only one for each purpose!).  And I recall lying on the sofa with her face close to mine.  I was listening to her breathing and I remember thinking I wish I knew how to make her better, make her strong… only right now!  We took her back to the hospital as planned that evening.  The team checked her over, could clearly see that love what she needed most now, and said we could bring her home for good!

Needless to say, the extended family was wonderful and very supportive during those dark and frightening days, but to be honest, I really do not remember much. I was just too shocked and I cope with difficult situations by immersing myself in work.  After Christmas most of the difficult medical appointments were dealt with by H, as I was still travelling at lot.  So I am in awe of Hayley for learning to pull out the tubes, and reinsert them and expressing all the milk she needed.  I know I could not have done those things, especially the expressing!  (H said I was allowed one joke.)

And so to today…since those first scary days, where Natty was a precious bundle of new life ready to take on the world...(we had to be positive)...she has grown into a beautiful, funny, smart, and determined little girl.  She is a handful like Mia.  Sisters together!  All sisters will know what I mean by this.  And thanks to mummy and Mia and, me, she continues to grow and learn.

H and I know we can, and will, do whatever is needed to make life for Natty and Mia, a life filled with fun and happiness, challenges and adventures, educating and nurturing them both so they can be valuable members of our community.  We treat them both in the same way.  We make no allowances for Natty because we want her to be...’normal’, whatever that means.

In the future, I hope to walk both of them down the aisle on their wedding days.

Daddy G 


  1. beautiful honest and heartfull sharing as always ! Thank you Bob for allowing us all a glimpse into your family and heart. Love to you all, amazing dear friends. xxxx Katinka

  2. Wow...what a touching, honest reflection of emotions that you felt...I sat here reading your blog with tears welling up in my eyes and my heart aching for you and your family. May the Lord richly bless your lives with Natalia and Mia...indeed you are already blessed, but may those blessings grow to be something you can always draw on in the times you need them!


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