Thank You for Having Me

I have just returned home from one of the most worthwhile, life-changing, yet surreal weekends of my life.  I have been to the blog writers' conference hosted by BritMums Live in London. 

I signed up and set off with my student hat metaphorically pulled on hard, my notepad and pen in hand and my brain set to 'absorb' mode.  I knew this was going to be a huge learning curve for me as a newbie blogger, technical numpty and country bumpkin, so I decided to put as much into it as I could... for you always get out what you put it in life.

I was actually a finalist in the Inspire category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. Quite frankly, this terrified me. The other women in the category were accomplished, polished writers with far more worthy messages than mine to spread. I felt like a fraud in part.

As the Friday progressed I became more and more fearful. I knew not one soul. I didn't know what to expect, what awaited me, and I really didn't want to sit at the front with the other nominees that evening. 

However, the lovely Butterflies welcomed me with open arms on arrival and I then felt able to throw myself into chatting to as many people as I could, and trying to recognise as many blogging names as I could.  Oddly, when you meet someone you've talked to online and, more importantly, whose blog you have read, there is very little need for small talk. You already know so much about each other, so that all that remains is to decide whether you warm to each other's personalitites. This was what it was all about for me, the people and the wealth of knowledge and experience that they shared between them. So lovely to meet @Sara @RenataBplus3 and @StephNimmo

That evening I attached myself to fellow finalist @KateonthinIce's side, with a large glass of bubbles in hand. When @MummyWhisperer won our category, I was overjoyed for her and her funny, accomplished blog.  Selfishly too I was relieved that I could now sit back and enjoy the company of the amazing women I had met that day.

But inside I knew that I had already won. I had won a personal battle against my fear of going to London alone, I had navigated day one of the event without hiding in the loos, I'd learnt a thing or two about making my blog more user-friendly and I had been asked to take an active part in the following day's proceedings...

For I had been asked to read one of my blog posts as part of the keynote speech at the close of the event.  This was the biggest opportunity of my lifetime.  I knew that I only had a few minutes to engage a captive audience and leave them thinking differently about Down's Syndrome.  I knew I had to get it right. There would be hundreds in the audience, so I had to conquer my nerves and think of the bigger picture.

I decided that I would ditch my usual jeans and unattractive wellie-shoes look, in order to make an impression.  The un-madeup, ponytail-wearer would have to shout loudly in the face of subconscious ideas of what a mother of a child with Down's Syndrome looks like.  So, a new shorter hairdo was adopted, nails were stained a flash of shocking pink, and I dug out some sky high stilletoes to match, that had once been worn to a wedding long ago.  I slapped on some makeup and prayed that I wouldn't fall over my heels on the way to the stage.  

This had an amazing effect. For although I had simply planned to show the world that Mums with children with disabilities are not, by definition 'Frumpy Fuddy Duddies' (I quote Frankie Boyle), it was like putting on a uniform.  I became an even more confident version of myself.  I knew I could speak loud and proud.

Once I had reached the stage an inner voice took over. I began to read What To Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome. Every single ounce of emotion I had felt at the time of the episodes I was reading about came flooding back. The inner voice quaivered and cried, but I  knew in a moment that you were all listening to me, feeling the emotions with me. I felt as if I were talking to old friends, people on my side, and there was nothing to fear in cracking a little here and there.  Once or twice I had to stop and take several deep breaths before repeating my tearful words more clearly, feeling a sense of desperate urgency that none of them should remain unheard.

My fingers numbed, then my hands, probably from the mixture of fear, adrenaline and deep breaths. I began to realise that I would need to get to the end of the speech swiftly before I passed out.  Then I spotted people crying with me, lots of people. My inner voice smiled, feeling carried forward by the support and love in the room.

When I finished, my body shaking wildly by this point, I stepped away from the podium. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted one or two people stand, clapping. I turned and looked up to see the entire hall rising in a wave. This was a standing ovation. People had put away their smart phones and listened. They had connected with the words. They had cried with me because what I had written was for every single one of them in the room.

@AllforAlenya came forward and helped me to my seat, hugging me until I stopped crying and shaking.  The shock still hasn't stopped and tears keep filling my eyes when I think of that evening. The pride will always be there.

Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to talk to you. 
Thank you for listening. 
And thank you for helping me to gently change perceptions of Down's Syndrome from within hearts.

I am so proud too that others have written about their experience of listening to the reading of What to Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome and what it meant for them. 
A Standing Ovation - @MummyBarrow
The Tracks of my Tears - @Wife.Mother.Me


  1. Hayley, you are not alone! Tears keep filling my eyes when I think of your keynote too. You were amazing, inspirational and have made the difference you hoped for. Your voice and your message was heard by everyone in that room on Saturday afternoon and by many many more since the event. Absolutely incredible, thank you for sharing your story x

  2. Hi Hayley, I was there listening to you read, it was such a powerful moment. It was a privilege to be there. Thank you for sharing that incredible post. You have helped so many of us to be the best support we can if we're in that situation, which is completely what we would want to be, but perhaps it would not have come out right. Sharing your point of view and your experiences of that time gave an incredible insight.
    Thank you thank you thank you. You're an incredible lady and you have a gift for writing x

  3. Hi,

    I wasn't sure whether to stay on Saturday, but I decided to come and listen to a few of the speeches - I could always leave it it was boring. And I'm so glad I did!

    I thought your reading was amazing - mostly because it was so personal and honest. It's so brave of you to stand up and recount such a difficult time for you and your family - and talk openly about the good and bad of peoples reactions.

    I found you extremely inspiring - and have been telling people about you since I got home!

    Well done you,


  4. Hi Hayley, I blubbed along with the rest and wished to God I'd have read your post when a friend had a baby with Downs. I was struck dumb with the fear of saying the wrong thing when all I should have said was 'Congratulations'. Thank you so much for educating me and a for baring your soul so we could understand better.

  5. This made me well up all over again! Hayley, you were one of the highlights of britmums for me and I thought you also looked fantastic! Your standing ovation was so thoroughly deserved.

    I look forward to meeting you again at the MADs! x

    1. Thank you so much! You are very kind. I am happy to be back in my comfy casual wear though ;)

  6. Eveyone at BritMums is behind you Hayley. Well done. x

  7. You looked a million dollars! What can I add - you were amazing. I feel so privileged to have been in that room. Your keynote was one of my absolute highlights. I haven't stop telling friends about it. You are a star it was lovely to meet you. X

  8. Your reading was the point of the weekend. I was so moved. And I have mentioned your reading, aswell as many others, in my Brit Mums write up. It was wonderful to be introduced to your blog by your powerful and inspiring story.

  9. Thanks for sharing - your reading was the highlight of the Bloggers Keynotes and the highlight of the conference for me. I was crying, and clapping, and standing .....all at once!

    Wish we had met up ---- next year!

  10. It was an amazing moment, a truly beautiful post and everyone was so captivated by your words. Thank you for sharing it.

  11. What can I say? You know I love you. So pleased we met and hope the connection lasts for a long time yet.
    I knew I would stand even if I was the only one in the room who did. Have never felt that before in my life. Here's to you, amazing lady.

  12. Oh my goodness! Just reading this post has made me cry so I would have been a mess if I had heard your reading.Congratulations on having the courage to speak. I met you at lunchtime on the Saturday and we exchanged cards.I really wanted to talk to you as your card was gorgeous and I thought your blog sounded both interesting and inspiring.I'm afraid it all got a bit busy and you left before I could pick up my nerve to chat. My fault entirely - maybe next year? I wish now that I had stayed for the keynote speeches, but I headed home early feeling quite emotional.I look forward to reading more of your blog and following you on Twitter. Take care - and again I'm sorry I didn't get to chat to you. Sarah x

  13. You are one awesome lady and I can't tell you how privileged I felt to have been a butterfly and so to have got to meet you so early on in the conference. I am sooooo pleased you have linked this up to Memory Book this week as it absolutely has to go down in your family history as a life changing historical moment for you and for your audience. I thought your delivery was AMAZING, the way you went back to reread that last sentence - ultimate respect for you xx

  14. You were amazing.

    I hope this has spurred you on to keep blogging, and to realise your message is important.

    It's not a message about Downs Syndrome, though that of course is important.

    You are here to teach us acceptance of difference, the beauty in all children, and that whatever life throws of us we can make something brilliant and beautiful.

    I feel honoured to have met you and look forward to supporting you and your blog for years to come.

    1. Thank you Kylie, and yes, i suddely realised that that night. Life is beautiful and precious inwhatever form it comes and goes x
      Thank you for your inspiration and support x

  15. Was wonderful to meet you in 'real life' and I am still spreading the word of your wonderful writing. You were brave and honest when you spoke and I bet Natty is so proud of her mum x

  16. I wasn't there this yeat as my own daughter was preparing for yet more surgery on the Monday morning. My girls disability isn't life threatningm life limiting or long term, but your blog is inpirational. When others use that word about Erin I am humbled. Our children really are incredibly special. xx


Thank you for joining in the conversation at Downs Side Up