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Norfolk mum tells of her baby heartache

A Norfolk mother has spoken of how she faced heartache and despair on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life – when her first child, Peter, was born with Down's syndrome. Sandie Shirley reports.

PeterVenn400Lucy Venn, from the Diss area, was ushered into a side ward and as the diagnosis was tested by a series of blood tests she cried for days. "My husband Tudor rang all our friends and family telling them about the birth. Then he had to ring round again and tell them Peter had Down's syndrome.
"I did not think why me – it was more about how I would cope. My husband found it very hard and spoke to our vicar." 
The man of faith suggested that God had entrusted this professional couple – a teacher and a banker – with a special baby to love and nurture. And despite stretched emotions, outside prejudice and an unexpected future, little Peter has flourished into adulthood.
"Having Peter challenged and enlarged our faith and trust in God; I know that all life is precious and God does not make mistakes, so we had the quiet assurance that he was going to carry us through this, one day at a time," says Lucy, who continues her counselling  training after helping those with crisis pregnancies in Thetford
"Being Peter’s mother was a steep learning curve. I had to cope with being a mum for the first time as well as the slow development that called for added patience.  Each task had to be broken down into small sections, but although he walked late, he was a great bottom shuffler and became a great climber.
"I also learnt about the support and benefits that have helped Peter to make the most of life," says Lucy.  At times it was a tough and lonely road. There was no genetic evidence to pinpoint the reason for a baby with a medical problem. So, at first, Lucy blamed herself. She had stopped taking the pill prematurely and used valium to cope with her stressful teaching job.
LucyVenn415"A geneticist at the hospital told us not to have any more children but to devote our lives to Peter. One family member suggested an old medical practice of leaving our new-born wrapped in brown paper at the bottom of the hospital bed. Later, a member of my ante-natal classes crossed the road to avoid meeting," says Lucy who also saw the jeers from other children as Peter advanced in years.
After baby Peter's birth, it took Lucy six months before she had the courage to accept the invitation to join the Down's syndrome baby group.  "Until then I was in denial," recalls Lucy.
But despite the penalties and pressures, Lucy and husband Tudor dismissed suggestions of adoption or concentrating on baby Peter instead of enlarging their family. "We wanted a well-rounded family and decided we would function as normally as we could," says Lucy, who had two more children within the next five years.
During that time, Peter went to a special school. "Peter would visit the primary school to tell them the dinner numbers. I think children who see a disability when they are young become more accepting and understand it is not something to be afraid of or to snigger about," says Lucy, who sees the value of integration within mainstream society to show that these children are valuable.
"Having Peter has given Lucy an awareness and empathy that she would otherwise not have had.

Nurture and encouragement through both his family, their local church and Christian disability charity Prospects have also helped Peter develop and express his own Christian beliefs.  
Pictured above is Peter Venn and his mother Lucy.

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