I find this kind of blog post difficult to write.
It's sort of embarrassing and I can certainly think of a couple of others who should be standing where I am now, some bloggers I nominated myself in fact.
I rang my mum who was immensely proud. Then I went back to read the email again, just to be sure.
Yes, I had been shortlisted as one of 10 finalists in the surprise category that had been opened after the voting (or nominating as they call it, which confused silly old me, and led me not to ask even my family to vote for me, oooops). This category was called Blogger who has made an Outstanding Contribution.
I can't even write that without welling up again. Good grief.
Now first of all I'd like to say that what I do, the Downs Side Up stuff, is not for any recognition or reward or payment. Basically I saw that the World was fearful of Down's Syndrome, so I began trying to change the World for my daughter and other families, so that they can have the best possible life. I also didn't want any other parents to feel as desperate as I did in the early days, purely out of ignorance and my own fear, so to them I offer tips, advice and hope.
Of course, the blog was how it all began. Downs Side Up is 16 months old now but the blog has long since become the hub of a large wheel of activity. I don't want to bore you, and even I find it hard to remember it all, so here's a list of some of the things I've done this year, in no particular order;
- I've met prospective parents and new parents for coffees and chats, and written to many hundreds of families online, often simply pointing them in the direction of a charity or organisation that can help them.
- The blog was voted 8th Top European Blog and 10th Top Family Blog by Circle of Moms readers.
- I became the Britmums Special Needs Editor, producing a round-up of the best posts around monthly.
- I was honoured to be the keynote speaker at the British Institute of Learning Disabilities annual conference, talking to professionals about my journey.
- I was invited to give Evidence in Parliament at the multi-party Enquiry into the Disability Abortion Law, where I pushed home the lack of support that families get when making such a decision, using anecdotes from those I have chatted to.
- I was asked to speak at the Salvation Army Conference and a local church group working on disability services.
- I've gone into local schools to talk to youngsters about inclusion and Down's Syndrome
- I have met amazing adults with learning disabilities and been inspired by them on my own journey as we have become friends.
- I've produced a little DVD to show to medical professionals, giving guidance on delivering a diagnosis and language used.
- I've posed naked, apart from a pair of mismatched funky socks, to raise funds for our 3 favourite DS charities. Yes, it was terrifying. @Kateonthinice made me do it!
- I've done last minute radio interviews on many subjects from disability benefits to parenting and blogging for BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Cornwall, Spin Radio and Heart Radio.
- Natty became one of the UK's first models with Down's Syndrome. She has worked for Frugi, Jojo Maman Bebe, Eden Project and Scott Dunn.
- I found 7 other models with DS in the UK and organised a meeting at the DSA Head office for a celebratory photoshoot which ended in a lovely positive article in The Sun. See the behind the scenes fun here as our children change the face of advertising and encourage companies to be more inclusive.
- We've chatted on the ITV Daybreak sofa and stolen Kate and Dan's Danish pastries live on air.
- Made 500 people cry and stand in an ovation at Britmums Live after listening to What to Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome. (They are hoping to get Kleenex to sponsor this year!)
- ITV Westcountry featured us and our chickens in a piece about modelling and blogging.
- We've been featured in Bella Magazine, The Sun, Cornwall Today, The Mail and The Express and Woman's Own.
- I've sat through the night writing open letters to bigots, such as Geoffery Clark and Colin Brewer, there was a Girl Guides Brown Owl too. The letters have gone viral.
- I organise linkies and guest posts sessions to encourage others to write and share their experiences, for blogging is so cathartic.
- I've written articles and guest posts for SEN Magazine, Mummy and Me, My Child and Me, Learning Disability Today, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Elite Magazine, the Makaton Charity, MamaUK and so many more.
- I'm flying to Edinburgh to speak at the launch on 21st March of an incredible, powerful new photographic book called 6% My Photographs, Their Words by Graham Miller which features families and young people with Down's Syndrome.
- I am spreading the word that 21st March is World Down Syndrome Day and encouraging as many people as possible to get involved to spread awareness.
Well, you get the idea.
But to have that recognised is... well, I am very proud and it means that my efforts are having an effect.
Downs Side Up now takes up as much time as a full time job, mostly late into the night and when the children are at school. We live in Cornwall, so all that toing and froing to London is a bit of a pain, and we are often out of pocket. I sometimes have to turn things down because I can't fit it all in. We've even talked about moving to enable me to further my work.
I feel I have a duty to carry on, because I can.
And people seem to like listening and reading, so that's a bonus :)
The message is spreading that our children are a wonderful enhancement in life. So essentially all the late nights are worth it. So I'll carry on if you don't mind...
Thank you to everyone who nominated me for this award. I already feel like a winner and am in extraordinary company. I think all 10 finalists should all just have a group hug on the night. And thank you to everyone who has lifted me, inspired me and encouraged me. Those who have heped me through the scary moments when the trolls said unspeakable things and I nearly gave up through fear, those who helped spread the word, those who demanded I continue to shine a light into the darkest of shadows.
Thank you all.