As I watched my sons unwrap their latest computer game and charge into the sitting room to sit glued to the computer, it hit me.
‘I want a girl,’ I thought.
I’d always thought I wanted boys. When Dan, 25, and I found out we were pregnant, I really wanted a boy. And after Alfie, now six, was born, I wanted another boy so they could grow up together.
When Harry, five, came along and granted my wish, I thought my family was complete. I didn’t long for a girl until I started noticing all the pretty dresses my friends’ daughters were dressed in, while my boys didn’t care what clothes they were in as long as they were comfortable.
‘Dan, do you think we can have one more?’ I asked. Dan wasn’t sure.
The boys had started school, and we’d passed the sleepless nights and nappy changing stage. ‘Do you really want to go through it all again?’ he asked.
‘I do, for a daughter!’ I said.
Then, last autumn, a home test confirmed I was pregnant. I had to have lots of scans because the baby was measuring up small, but at 18 weeks, the sonographer had news for me.
‘I think it’s a girl,’ she said.
As an auxiliary nurse, I knew I shouldn’t get excited until we knew for sure. As the baby was measuring small, I was given scans every two weeks.
At 20 weeks, they were more confident it was a girl. At 22, it was definite.
While I celebrated that I was having a girl, the sonographer wasn’t happy with her size. But Alfie was around 2.6kg at birth and Harry was about 2.9kg. Maybe I just didn’t make big babies.
At every scan, I asked the same questions. ‘Is her heart OK? Is her brain OK? Are you sure she’s OK?’
When I had their assurance that all was OK, I’d ask one more question. ‘What gender do you think the baby is?’ Every time, they’d assure me I was having a girl.
Despite my doctor asking me to get a Down’s syndrome check done during pregnancy, I declined, as I knew I’d love my special needs baby no matter what.
After each scan, I had to see the consultant, due to the baby’s small size. Every time, he’d ask me: ‘Why have you declined the Down’s syndrome test?’ And every time, I had the same answer. ‘Because it makes no difference to me if she has Down’s syndrome or not.’
If my child had special needs, I’d give her extra love. I didn’t need to know.
Finally, Florence was born on May 8, 2015, in a calm, natural birth with just Dan and a midwife present. The moment she was placed on my chest, I felt a rush of love.
‘Hello, little girl,’ I whispered. Looking up at Dan, I burst into tears. ‘Thank you, you’ve given me my baby girl.’
Florence was perfect. She had dark tufts of hair and a nose like Dan’s, but had my eyes and my lips. She was a little bit of both of us.
Then, the moment Florence opened her eyes and peered up at me, I recognised the almond-shaped eyes that characterise Down’s syndrome. I knew then that she’d be diagnosed. But the rush of love didn’t change. The smile stayed plastered to my face because nothing had changed about my feelings for my baby. I was still so happy. I felt lucky. I’d wanted a girl and now I had one – and an extra chromosome too!
My sons, Alfie and Harry, were besotted by Florence’s gorgeousness when they came to visit after she was born. To them, she’s the perfect doll.
The next day, Alfie and Harry came to the hospital to meet their little sister. ‘She’s like a perfect little doll!’ said Alfie, holding on to her foot and gently squeezing her toe.
‘She’s our baby! She’s here!’ said Harry, bewildered by her gorgeousness. They were besotted by her.
Back in a routine at home, there was one occasion that my mum was looking after her, so Florence didn’t come with me to pick the boys up from school. They were furious! They need kisses and cuddles with Florence before they go to school and when they’re picked up. So when they didn’t see her in my arms, they threw a mild tantrum.
Florence’s personality soon blossomed. Typically, babies start to smile around the six-week mark, but sometimes for children with Down’s syndrome, it can take a little longer as they have poor muscle tone. But Florence wasted no time. At just six weeks old, she started to smile all day, every day.
Her smile made me so happy, I wanted to share it with friends and family. So I put a picture of her smiling in her sleep – taken by a professional photographer Katy Hibberd – on Facebook. It captured what Florence was all about.
I expected a few likes from my friends, but within moments of posting the photograph, my smartphone beeped. Then it beeped again. Then again.
Within a couple of hours, the picture had been shared and liked thousands and thousands of times, by people all around the world! My phone would not stop beeping and pinging with all the likes and comments. People I’d never met or even knew were sending me lovely messages to say my daughter was beautiful and that her picture put a smile on their faces.
So far, Florence’s picture has made 185,165 people smile right back, and I’ve had messages from Australia, America and Asia.
‘I was having the worst day until I saw this picture,’ one woman wrote. ‘Florence makes everything OK!’ Another wrote ‘Your daughter’s picture is so awesome and cute.’
The NHS is considering introducing a more precise prenatal test for Down’s syndrome, but I think it’s a real shame. A world without kids like Florence would be a less happy world. I wish I could say to parents given a prenatal test who are scared or wondering if they could cope, come and meet Florence! She’ll make you want your baby more than you’ve ever wanted a child.
Florence has a faulty valve in her heart, which is being monitored, but that’s all I worry about. Never do I worry about Down’s syndrome. I wouldn’t take away her extra chromosome if you gave me a million pounds. Each of her chromosomes is perfect, including the Down’s syndrome one.
All my dreams about what it would be like to have a daughter are coming true. I dress Florence in cute dresses with hair bows and I know that one day soon, her brothers will turn her into a tomboy and she’ll tell me she only wants to wear muddy clothes, like they do. And that’s fine by me – Florence can be whoever she wants to be.
I think Florence she was born to make the world smile. If she doesn’t worry about Down’s syndrome, then why should we?
Kathryn Witt, 26, lives in Hampshire, UK.