A mum has revealed how she had to fight to keep her unborn son, after tests showed he had Down’s syndrome before he was born – and hospital staff assumed she’d want to terminate the pregnancy.
Natalie O’Rourke, from Teddington, joined Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning to raise awareness on World Down Syndrome Day, saying having a child born with an extra chromosome is not something to be feared.
O’Rourke, who runs a stables to help people with disabilities ride horses in West London, spoke about the moment she was told her son Woody, ten, had Down’s syndrome during a routine pregnancy scan.
She said: ‘I didn’t know how far along I was because it was an unplanned pregnancy, so I went in for a dating scan and you can just tell straight away something was wrong, the nurse said “I need to leave the room and go and get my colleague” but didn’t tell me what was going on.
‘I just knew really, I knew there was a problem, and the colleague came back in and just said “We think there is something wrong with the baby”.
Natalie O’Rourke, from Teddington, has revealed she had to fight to keep her son, now ten, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before he was born after hospital staff assumed she wouldn’t want her pregnancy to go ahead
Natalie explained that she was told to go straight to Queen’s Charlotte hospital in central London, but says she wasn’t told why.
She said: ‘It was very frightening and it was like we were put on a pathway without a choice really, I mean this happened 10 years ago so we really hope it’s different for people now.
‘They called me to tell me the baby had Down’s syndrome and I really wasn’t surprised at that point, and then the phone rang again, it was an unknown number and they said ”We are just confirming your appointment for tomorrow” and I said ”I don’t have an appointment for tomorrow, I think you have the wrong person”, and I realised they had booked me in for a termination the following day.’
She continued: ‘And I said I won’t be coming, you can cancel that appointment but she said ”No, we will keep the appointment just in case you change your mind”.’
O’Rourke said had she not already have had a baby, she might have felt like she should have attended the appointment, saying: ‘My worry is I am really strong-minded and I already have Alice [her older daughter] so I am quite confident.
‘If I had been a first time mum I might of thought that I would have to go along with that and might not have realised that there was a choice.
‘I really hope that a decade later things are changing but I want to get a strong message out there that don’t be afraid of Down’s syndrome there is so much love and kindness out there.
Brentford fan Woody joined Natalie on the This Morning couch to explain how important football is for him
Natalie told the daytime TV hosts that had she not been ‘strong-minded’, she might have felt bullied into terminating the pregnancy
‘I remember holding him in my arms for the first time and he was crying and I was so happy he was healthy and I thought “I fought for you and now you’re here”.’
She admitted what the doctor had said ‘sickened her’, making her feel that in ‘their eyes, he would be a drain on society.’
‘It’s like his life would have no value, and actually Woody is a life enhancer, he enhances everyone’s life that he meets.’
Woody joined Natalie on the This Morning couch to explain how important football is for him.
She said after he got turned away from a local football club, there was outrage online after she shared the story and Brentford football club invited him to train weekly with them.
Natalie explained: ‘We love going to football and we have a whole routine of stuff that we do, it’s like we have a whole second family there.
‘We have a whole support network of people that are really kind to us and they embrace him and Woody can just be Woody.
Natalie runs the Park Lane Stables in Teddington, which helps people with disabilities ride
The London-based stable launched a campaign to safeguard their centre in 2021 after learning their landlord was going to sell the land (Pictured: Woody with a horse at the stables)
‘He’s able to be himself and people accept him and embrace him, I started writing a blog about football to get the message out that football is for everybody; come as a family or someone with additional needs and they can enjoy it to.’
Natalie has been the owner of Park Lane Stables in Teddington for the past 15 years and in 2021 she started a tenacious fight to save the small stables from closure which captured the heart of the nation.
The Riding for the Disabled Centre provides a lifeline and a nurturing safe space for over 350 children and adults with disabilities and additional needs.
She previously appeared on This Morning, with mother Helen Clarke and son Christian, who has ADHD, to share her delight over the stable hitting its fundraising goal – and raising another £225,000 to boot.
The stables provide 3,000 riding lessons a year for the children, teaching them how to care and groom for the animals, providing a wheelchair-friendly carriage and offering special equine-assisted therapy.
What is Down’s Syndrome
Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some degree of learning disability and certain physical characteristics.
- Floppiness at birth
- Eyes that slant down and out
- A small mouth
- A flat back of head
Screening tests can uncover Down’s syndrome during pregnancy but are not completely accurate.
It is caused by an extra chromosome in a baby’s cell due to a genetic change in the sperm or egg.
The chance of this increases according to the age of the mother.
A 20-year-old woman has around a one in 1,500 chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Women in their 40s have a one in 100 chance.
There is no evidence women can reduce their chances of having a child with Down’s syndrome.
Down’s syndrome does not have a cure.
Treatment focuses on supporting the patient’s development.
People with Down’s syndrome have more chance of health complications such as heart disorders, hearing problems, thyroid issues and recurrent infections.
Source: NHS Choices