Highs and Lows of 2012

The wonderful Kate of Kate on Thin Ice, who I had the very great pleasure to get to know at Britmums Live this year and who works tirelessly for charities and boosting the morale of many a lacklustre mum, has asked me to complete this questionnaire about my year. As 2013 approaches it seems like a pretty good time to think back andmuse on the year gone by.
1. What was your happiest event? After 2 very sad losses, my brother and his wife welcomed a happy healthy little girl into their family this year, my first 'blood' niece. 
We also received the wonderful news that my husband's son and his wife are expecting their first child in February. I shall be Gi-Gi, his step-grandma, a glamorous role I can't wait to enjoy.
2. What was the saddest thing to happen? Being a part of the online blogging community brings you close to people even though you don't actually get to meet them. This year has been very emotional as 2 online friends have lost precious, much longed for babies. We suffered 5 early miscarriages but that doesn't come close to what they have been through.
A fellow blogger in America went through unimaginable hell when her daughter with DS very suddenly died of sepsis following a stomach infection. She was Natty's age. Selfishly, her story gave me nightmares. My heart goes out to her and her family daily.
Recently, the news that blogger Mulitple Mummy passed away after losing her fight for life following a brain haemorrhage has hit us all terribly hard. I met her briefly at Britmums Live but she was always supportive of Downs Side Up. I send strength to her husband and children.
3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did? In January 2012 I wrote in my resolutions list that I would get onto Breakfast TV shouting about Down's Syndrome and telling the world that our children were beautiful. By April we were sitting on the ITV Daybreak sofa, as a family, doing just that, stealing Kate Garroway's secret stash of Danish pastries and breakdancing with Flawless in the corridors off camera. The hug with Dr Hilary Jones wasn't so bad either ;)

Downs Side Up in the Green Room pre-TV interview.
4. Who let you down? One of my mottos is to expect nothing from others and you will not be disappointed when they don't deliver. I am always too busy focussing on those who are on the same team as Downs Side Up to worry about people that I turn a blind eye to. That said, I find two traits particularly difficult to understand in others: jealousy and lack of integrity.
5. Who supported you? Too many to mention... my husband Bob, our girls, close friends and family, key figures in the media. Scott Dunn, Frugi, Eden Project and Jojo Maman Bebe for using Natty as a model. Parenting guru Sue Atkins, celebs Cherry Healey and Katy Hill, photographer Graham Miller, the teams of inspirational women at Britmums, bloggers such as Her Melness Speaks and Kate on Thin Ice. Mumsnet, Netmums and Tots100, the British Institute of Learning Disabilities and Sharon Paley, the Downs Syndrome Association, Singing Hands, Mencap, Zoe at Saying Goodbye UK, many parents and fellow bloggers in the Down's Syndrome community on Twitter and Facebook. These are people who have reminded me why I am doing what I do, helped spread the word and scooped me up and egged me on on the harder days.
6. Tell us one thing you learned I am no technical chick. I have learnt to write and publish a blog, take and edit photos, court the media and do radio and TV interviews off the cuff with sometimes as little as 20 mins preparation time. I have learnt a lot about myself through my writing and meeting others who I admire greatly. I have learnt much about and from others' lives. I have learnt to survive on even less sleep than I did before I started blogging. (and I am now learning that I can't limit myself to a one thing answer...).
7. Tell us one thing that made you laugh Meeting up for girls' weekends with old college chums, reminiscing. Watching my children's renditions of Gangnam Style. My husband's Movember tash. Giggling with bloggers at Britmums Live over semi-clad waiters bearing champagne, or maybe we were laughing more at the re-finding of ourselves, knowing our children were safe at home and the fact we could still make new friends... many good times.
8. Tell us one thing that made you cry Reading the unmoderated comments of a vile troll on an article about Natty's modelling on Parentdish online. They called for her to be locked away from society and provided links to post-birth (yes, after birth) abortion sites. I didn't eat for days, was fearful, and nearly gave up what I am trying to achieve. I became harder, learnt not to read comments on national media sites, and now just focus on those we are helping, the positives. The light now shines brighter into those dark corners.
9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud. Watching both in their Christmas plays, watching them make friends and play confidently, reading their letters of love and drawings to us as parents and each other, knowing they have a strong sense of right and wrong and will stand up for classmates at school against bullies. Watching Mia win rosettes in a gymkhana, seeing her eyes light up with pride as she took part in a summer school production of Wind in The willows, seeing Natty take her first swim strokes without armbands, watching her actually write a letter to Santa. So much. Every day.
10. Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself. I have been proud of the doors I have opened, the hearts I have lifted and the perceptions I have changed with my simple writings and by meeting people face to face. What I do is tiring and unpaid but I have never felt so rewarded in my life. Chatting on TV a couple of times were amazing moments, but by far and away the most powerful and proud experience of the year was talking, terrified, in the keynotes at Britmums Live London. Me a country bumpkin out of water. Then watching 500 bloggers, authors and PR folks rise in a standing ovation, tears flowing. Utterly unexpected and utterly mindblowing. I then realised my words had the power to move mountains.
Later in the year my blog was voted 8th in Europe by Circle of Moms. Again, incredible.
11. Tell us one challenge you overcame Learning (partially) to use my over-complicated camera.
12. Tell us three things you would like to change about your life in 2013. To spend more time on myself and get a little fitter. More sleep would be nice too, but then I guess sleep is for the weak ;)
I need to spend less time flitting on social media and more time focussing seriously on my writing and speaking.
Finally, I plan to actually meet many people who have greatly inspired me this year. Together we are stronger.

Read more about Downs Side Up's first year of blogging on our anniversary post here.

To share your post about the highs and lows of 2012 and your aspirations for 2013, please do join our linky here.


  1. Hi, I haven't seen your blog before but came to it via the link on Kate's site. I'm so glad to have found it! It sounds like you've had a bit of a whirlwind year and I look forward to following your continuing adventures in 2013.

    Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family!

  2. It was lovely to meet you at BritMums Live last year, will you be going this year too?

    You're doing a great job to raise awareness of Down's syndrome and Natty is an amazing role model. I hope you, Natty and the rest of your family have an amazing year in 2013

  3. Love you attitue and drive Hayley. Here's to making 2013 just as successful. x

    1. Thanks Susanna. Onward and upward for us all x

  4. Thanks for doing this Hayley. Some I knew from stalking you as I do. You are so much saner than me in some respects and I might have to steal that step-grandma name myself as was looking for one with our arrival due in February.
    My fave bit of all was reading about your price in Mia and Natty's achievements.
    I think last year showed up both to expect the unexpected. Here's to you in 2013.

    1. Not sure about the saner bit Kate!
      Here's to an improved 2013 and to Gi-Gis everywhere :) x

  5. This is a fabulous post, thanks to mums like you all children with different needs get accepted. Sometimes it has to be about how wonderful our children are, not just about their 'needs'. It's my first time at brit mums this year and I do hope I get to meet you x

    1. I love this phrase Joanna, "It's about how wonderful our children are, not their special needs'. I'll be at Brit Mums, so please do come and find me :)) x

  6. I can't remember how I found your blog but now I'm glued to it. I love your writing and share many of your thoughts, we're a few years behind you in our journey but because we live in Wales our daughter will start school this September at just 3 3/4. I love your day a week homeschooling and the photo of Natty at school is priceless to me as Lauren will wear the same uniform and it could be her!

    1. Thank you Karin. I'm not sure either, this year has been a blur.
      3 3/4 sounds so very tiny, but take it at your pace and never be afraid to take her out for half days if she is tired. You call the shots remember x

  7. As always, your honesty inspires me. 2013 I will begin to blog our story. My son, an adult with Down Syndrome, has taught me for 22 years and we have much to say, but taking to the on-line "streets" is sooooo scary. Your courage to share has already taught me so much, thank you.

    1. I can't wait to read what you have wriiten. I promises to be life-changing x


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