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Follower Focus: The Windsors

We have so many fantastic followers on social media. Each and every one of them has an amazing story to tell and we wanted to share some here on thebreakingdad.co.uk. Our first ever Follower Focus is from one of our earliest followers, @WindsorFamLife, an amazing mum of five from Dorset!

I’m Gemma, 40 and a Mum of five from sunny Dorset on the South Coast, married to Darren and together we make up The Windsor Family!

My eldest daughter, Lottie (Charlotte) is 16 and she was diagnosed as having autism in June 2019. My eldest son, James is 15 and was born with Down Syndrome. My youngest son, Ollie (Oliver) is 13 and my youngest two daughters, Emily and Lucy are 7 and 5.

So, if your maths is good, you will have worked out that I had James when I was just 25, which isn’t at all common, as most women that have babies born with Down Syndrome are older mothers.

Darren and I met in 2002 and we had bought our first house together just a year later! A year later again in 2004 we had our first child and in 2005 we got married.

This brings us to December 2005, when we bought our next home and within 2 weeks of moving in we had James!

We didn’t know James had Down Syndrome and at the 12 week scan (which was the day before our wedding) they told me that I had a 1:400 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Not to worry they said, you are very young! So we didn’t think of it again, until the night before I went for my C- section when it suddenly popped into my head! However as quick as the thought was there it was gone again as it was exciting to be meeting our second child.

James was born 5 days before Christmas and as they laid him on my chest in the operating theatre I was going cross eyed looking at his little nose trying to work out whose nose he had as it didn’t look like mine or Darren’s.

In recovery I tried to latch James on for a breast feed but he was so floppy and sleeping, he just wasn’t interested. So the nurse did his baby check on him instead and said to try feeding him again later.

While they did his baby check, a nurse brought me some toast and a drink, so I tucked into that not really watching the baby check but Darren however was watching and later told me they were spending extra time this time compared to our first baby’s check.

A few minutes later, the midwife went off to get a second opinion of another midwife. It was at this point they said they think our baby may have Down Syndrome as he showed several physical characteristics.

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
  • A short neck
  • Small ears
  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
  • Small hands and feet
  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
  • Poor muscle tone and loose joints

There are several different characteristics and James had most so they said they would send for a blood test to confirm if he had Down Syndrome but it would be 5 days for the results.

We took one look at him and it was like the penny had dropped! That’s why we couldn’t quite place his little nose, why he couldn’t latch to breastfeed and why he was so sleepy.

They then said he needed warming up and a tube feed of some formula as he hadn’t fed since birth, so they popped him in the hot cot for the night while I was on the ward expressing breastmilk like fury!

I didn’t get to hold him again until the next morning which was really hard. Once I was able to get up and walk I was straight in to see him and it wasn’t long before he was on the ward with me again.

We stayed in hospital for 6 days, which included Christmas Day which was heart wrenching as it was our first Christmas in our new house and our baby girl was at home without her Mummy on Christmas morning.

We came home Boxing Day night once James had finally managed a bottle feed and had his tube removed!

It hit Darren hard the first day he was told James had Down Syndrome and he came home and cried.

For me, it was a case of carrying on being James’ Mummy. He was a baby who needed me. However as the months went on and all my other baby friends’ children hit their milestones, it started to sink in that James had Down Syndrome and what this meant for him. It hit me hard around 6 months – I went onto antidepressants and was at an all time low.

However with time and support, I got better and excited that James is just an absolute superstar!

He is 15 now and has proved to me he can do anything he wants to in life!

If you’d like to share your story, drop us an email on [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Lifestyle & Adventures

The next chapter: Blended family

Every now and then, there are days that stand out as ones you think you’ll probably always remember. Last Sunday was one of them. 

Life has a way of shifting in little phases like acts in a play or chapters in a book. Your story is unfolding and in no time at all, you might find yourself propelled into the unknown. 

Typical examples might include a change of career, the start of a new relationship, having kids or the outbreak of a global disease – these things can all thrust you into disarray as your mind tries to adjust to the new situation and find that ‘new normal’.

The last chapter of my life came to an end when Evie’s mum and I separated and I felt very much lost about what the future would look like.

Meeting somebody new 

Me and Rosie

I met Rosie after almost exactly a year of being single. I found the adjustment into being in a relationship quite difficult, despite the fact I had absolutely no doubt that being with her was what I wanted. 

Going through a difficult separation can leave a lot of raw and exposed nerves, so allowing yourself to let go fully into a new relationship can often feel tough.

We took our time and gradually, over time, our relationship started coming together. 

Rosie has two kids and I have Evie, so we were both very careful to make sure we were sure things were on the right path before we started to even think about making introductions.

Fast forward a few months and Rosie met Evie – they hit it off immediately. Zoom a little further along the timeline and I met Rosie’s kids, Tilly (5) and Liza (2). I fell in love instantly and, thankfully, they took to me.

Then, it was the big one: Our kids meeting each other, 

On their first meeting, Evie and Tilly decided they were best friends and we all had the most perfect day pumpkin picking together. 

Everything felt so natural and we spent the day smiling.

FINALLY, after years of things never quite feeling ‘right’ in the past, suddenly I understand what it means to be truly happy.

Finding a new normal (Featuring Father Christmas)

Evie and Tilly meet Father Christmas

This weekend we all met my mum, mum’s other half and sister at the Watercress Line for a day out meeting Father Christmas. 

The significance of the day was that it was the first time we were having a traditional family day out with what is gradually becoming our new ‘blended family’. 

You can see some of the pictures below, but I honestly can’t tell you what a lovely day it was. 

I was in awe of Rosie and how she raises her kids; she’s so attentive, hands-on and kind to all of the children, it blows me away. 

The children were so sweet to each other and there wasn’t a single temper tantrum or strop. We had nothing but smiles and laughter all day. 

Tilly, Rosie’s oldest daughter (5), even said to my mum as she said goodbye, “I hope you have a lovely Christmas!”. I mean honestly, what five year old do you know that’s that polite!? 

You can see a few of the pictures here: 

Before the separation, I always felt like I was accepting my lot. I remember speaking to a colleague at work about how miserable my home life was and the conversation going along the lines of, “Well, so long as Evie is at home, I won’t be going anywhere. This is the life I live until then”. 

Oh what a terrible decision that would have been. 

I look back now and realise just how much I was missing out on. My life is happier now than I think it’s ever been. I’m more emotionally and financially secure than I’ve ever felt and I’m with somebody I can call my best mate as well as my girlfriend.

We have three beautiful girls and, though I’m hopelessly outnumbered, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

When one chapter ends, another begins

It can be easy to feel trapped in an unhappy life for what you think are ‘moral’ reasons. I certainly did. I thought I was doing right by my daughter by not walking, 

Ultimately, the decision was taken away from me and it was the best thing that could have happened for Evie’s wellbeing. 

She now has two incredibly loving homes and as she transitions from her mum’s house to mine, she sees two glaringly different perspectives on life.

That’s great for her.

There was a time when I thought the end of the last chapter meant the end of any sort of meaningful future for me too. 

I was totally wrong, the next chapter has already brought more romance, excitement and laughter than I could have ever imagined, and it’s only just getting started.

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