‘When he came along I was just a child myself and suddenly I had a child of my own with special needs. How 15-year-old became Britain’s youngest mother of a Down’s Syndrome child
A schoolgirl who became the youngest mother in Britain to a Down’s Syndrome baby after falling pregnant aged 15 has spoken of her pride in proving her doubters wrong.
Despite being just a child herself, single teen mother Catherine Moore, 19, refused to give her baby up after learning he had Down’s Syndrome, vowing to raise him herself despite concerns that she wouldn’t cope.
Recent figures show up to 90 per cent of Down’s babies are aborted – a figure which Catherine finds distressing.
Now as her son starts pre-school aged three she wants to pay tribute to the little boy that far from ruining her life, she says may even have saved it.
Catherine, from Maghera, Northern Ireland said: ‘Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to cope and my life was over if I kept Tyler.
‘But they were wrong, having Tyler was the best thing that ever happened to me. He changed my life for the better and I am so grateful to have him.
‘I was going off the rails but he saved me. We are a team and I am so very proud of him.
‘When he came along I was just a child myself and suddenly I had a child of my own with special needs. But I never once thought of giving him up.
‘He needed me and I needed him, it was as simple as that. I could never be without him and he is quite simply the most wonderful thing ever to happen to me, he really is.
‘I hate it when people say they are sorry he has Down’s because I am not. It’s who Tyler is and I would not change him for the world. I’m so glad I had a Down’s baby.’
Catherine was weeks away from her GCSE exams when aged 15 she learned she was pregnant after splitting up with her boyfriend.
She said: ‘When my period was late I went straight to my mum and told her.’
Mother Georgina McClure, 39, said: ‘When Catherine told me her period was late my heart sank. I bought her a test and watched the line turn blue. We both started crying.
‘I took her to see a doctor who talked through the options. But Catherine refused a termination. She wanted her baby and as a mother I agreed to stand by her even though I was worried for her future.
Because she was so young Catherine had monthly scans. Speaking about her pregnancy, she said: ‘Mum came with me and we both cried seeing this little bean on the screen. I couldn’t believe I really had a baby inside me. Suddenly it felt so real.’
Catherine spent her 16th birthday shopping for a cot and at her 28 week scan found out she was having a boy.
Georgina said: ‘She was so focused on being a good mum. I was impressed with her attitude. She was reading about birth and parenthood all the time on the internet and I wondered if maybe with my help she would be able to finish her studies.’
But there was another surprise in store for the family.
The morning after her daughter had given birth at 36 weeks to a seemingly perfect baby, Georgina received a call from the hospital.
‘It was a midwife and she just said she was sorry but she had some bad news. Tests had shown my grandson Tyler had Downs Syndrome.
Catherine’s mother Georgina has supported her daughter and Tyler and they are like a team
‘I was shocked and utterly devastated for Catherine. Because she was so young they hadn’t told her in case she didn’t understand. They wanted me to come back and do it.
‘I remember thinking to myself “if she’s too young even to know what it is how on earth is she going to cope?”
‘It didn’t seem possible. I always thought it was older mothers at risk of having Down’s babies and Catherine was young. I wondered if there had been a mix up,’ she said.
But when Georgina told her daughter the news, she reacted surprisingly well.
Shrugging, she said: ‘Is that all?’ Then she scooped him up out of the crib and cuddled him.
‘Tears rolled down my face. I was proud of how strong her mothering instinct was already yet frightened for what the future held for them both,’ said Georgina.
Catherine was just a child herself when she fell pregnant and the tender age of fifteen
Catherine added: ‘I was panicking that she was going to say he was seriously ill. I was terrified so when mum said he had Down’s I actually felt relieved.
‘I’d watched the Eastenders storyline with Billy and Honey’s baby so I knew what it was and I wasn’t upset at all. I just knew then he needed me more than ever and whatever I needed to do for my son I would do it.
Scans showed Tyler also had two heart murmers and a problem with his left heart valve.
They warned he might need surgery and constant checks and care but Catherine remained unfazed.
In fact everything they threw at her she vowed to do her best. She learned Tyler would have delayed walking and speech as well as impaired vision and hearing.
Catherine said: ‘It was daunting yes but I knew that somehow we would manage. We had to manage, he was my baby and I was his mother and I knew it was my job to manage whatever life threw at the two of us.
‘It never crossed my mind for a second to walk away from Tyler. I had loved him before he was born and I loved him even more in my arms.
Catherine is now engaged to partner Nathan Woods, 22.
‘When I told him I was a teenage single mum with a Down’s Syndrome baby I thought he would run a mile but he didn’t,’ she smiles.
The couple are planning to wed next year with Tyler as page boy.
Catherine said: ‘ I never thought I would be lucky enough to find love. We are quite a package but Nathan isn’t fazed at all. He adores Tyler.’
The couple are planning to wed next year with Tyler as page boy
With Catherine’s help Tyler has met all his milestones for children with Down’s. He was crawling at one and started to learn sign language to communicate.
‘I wanted to be a vet and maybe one day I will go back and sit my exams but for the moment being Tyler’s mummy is rewarding enough.
‘Nobody could have prepared me for the challenges of raising a baby with Down’s, but then they couldn’t have explained the joy either.
‘Having him wasn’t the end of my life it was just the start.’
‘It breaks my heart reading about women aborting Down’s babies. They are a real joy and if I can make a success of it, anyone can.’