My One In A Mil­lion Marvel

De­spite her son’s Down’s syn­drome, Kerry wouldn’t change a thing...

Pick Me Up! Special - - Front Page - Kerry Robles, 37, Belfast

From the off, my fi­ancž, Damian, and I had talked about hav­ing kids Ð one day. We met in De­cem­ber 2008 in a salsa bar in Mex­ico City. He was Mex­i­can and I was teach­ing English there.

Af­ter that, our feet didn’t touch the ground!

By De­cem­ber 2010, he had asked me to marry him.

Then, two months oné ÔI’M preg­nant,’ I told Damian. He was as shocked as me! Once the news had sunk in, though, we were thrilled.

My preg­nancy went well, apart from ter­ri­ble morn­ing sick­ness.

I was wor­ried about how I’d feel at our wed­ding in April 2011, but luck­ily it was a per­fect day.

My fam­ily even flew to Mex­ico from Ire­land to see us say our vows.

Soon af­ter­wards, we dis­cov­ered we were ex­pect­ing a boy.

ÔI wouldn’t have minded ei­ther way,’ I told Damian. ÔAS long as the baby’s happy and healthy.’ The scans in­di­cated as much. And, in the July, we de­cided to move back to Ire­land, so I could be near my fam­ily when our baby boy was born.

Then, early on 19 Septem­ber, Damian took me to the Royal Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal, as my con­trac­tions started.

My sis­ter, Sara, now 23, came too.

By 6am, baby Hanaki – a Mex­i­can name mean­ing ‘lit­tle river’ – had ar­rived, weigh­ing 6lb.

He had a shock of red hair and was ut­terly beau­ti­ful.

‘He’s got a Mo­hi­can,’ Damian laughed, as he held him.

Sara held our boy next, then I got him into my arms. The love was in­stant. But the more I looked at Hanaki, the less I could see Damian or me in him.

He was just five min­utes old, though. I was sure we’d see more of our­selves in him as he grew and de­vel­oped. Then… ‘I think he has char­ac­ter­is­tics of Down’s syn­drome,’ the mid­wife ex­plained, gently.

I was stunned, her words com­pletely floored me.

Shak­ing, I looked closer at my baby boy and my heart sank…

He did have a slightly flat face,

I looked closer at my baby boy and my heart sank

and his ears were a lit­tle low-set.

Shocked, I burst into tears as Damian and Sara com­forted me. I felt com­pletely numbé Weõd had no warn­ing. Sud­denly, our fam­ily pic­ture looked very dif­fer­ent.

How would we cope? How would our boy be af­fected?

ÔHEÕS our son and weõll love him re­gard­less,õ Damian, 32, said. Ôweõll do our best by him.õ

Within hours, tests con­firmed Hanaki had Downõs syn­drome and a hole in his heart. It was one thing af­ter an­other. Still reel­ing, I strug­gled to bond with my son. I could barely look at him. My ma­ter­nal in­stincts just did­nõt kick iné

Damian and my fam­ily were bril­liant, though.

ÔHEÕS got the fam­ily but­ton nose,õ my twin sis­ter, Shelley, said. Ôand al­mond eyes like you.õ

Still, I did­nõt feel ma­ter­nal to­wards Hanaki.

Di­ag­nosed with post­na­tal de­pres­sion, I was pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion and had ther­apy.

Fi­nally, a few weeks later, I was feel­ing bet­ter and started to see what my fam­ily had seen in Hanaki all along.

ÔHEÕS a lit­tle ray of sun­shine,õ Shelley al­ways said. She was right. ÔHEÕS amaz­ing,õ I told Damian. Ôand all ours,õ he said.

As Hanaki and I bonded, I started re­search­ing Downõs, wanted to know ev­ery­thing.

A con­tent baby, our lit­tle lad slept well and was al­ways smil­ing.

He strug­gled with feed­ing, though, as he did­nõt have a strong suck.

I just felt so lucky to have him though.

By 6 months old, Hanaki was hav­ing phys­io­ther­apy and other help.

When doc­tors warned our boy may not walk or talk, I re­fused to lis­ten to them.

Ôno-oneõs go­ing to tell me what my baby canõt do,õ I in­sisted.

But I was flab­ber­gasted by some peo­pleõs re­ac­tions to Hanakié

Once, in a clothes shop with him, an older woman came up.

Ôyou ob­vi­ously did­nõt know about the Downõs when you were preg­nant, oth­er­wise you would have aborted,õ she said.

I was ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fied and spent the rest of the day in tears. How dare she? ÔITÕS ig­no­rance,õ Damian said when I told him. Ôthey donõt know Hanaki like we do.õ He was righté De­spite our not know­ing how our lit­tle boy would progress, he played well and learnt to sit up.

And when his lit­tle sis­ter, Mar­ley, ar­rived in March 2013, Hanaki was be­sot­ted.

Six months later, on my birth­day, Hanaki crawled for the first time.

Ôlook!õ I shouted to Damian, weep­ing with hap­pi­ness. A week on, our re­mark­able boy started walk­ing. And he’s come on leaps and bounds since then. He uses Maka­ton, a form of sign lan­guage, to com­mu­ni­cate, and can say the odd word, but his un­der­stand­ing is im­pres­sive. In Fe­bru­ary 2014, Hanaki had open-heart surgery, and made a quick re­cov­ery. Those dark mo­ments af­ter his birth seem a dis­tant mem­ory. Yes, his di­ag­no­sis was a com­plete shock. But we strongly be­lieve in putting a per­son or child first, be­fore their con­di­tion. I’m ashamed to think I could barely look at him. But now, I wouldn’t change him for the world. Hanaki’s the light of my life.

I’m ashamed to think I could barely look at him

Me and Damian on our wed­ding day

HANAKI’S THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE

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