OPINION: Emmerdale controversy: Norwich mum shares her Down’s syndrome story

Zoe Lee and her son Mason, who has Down's syndrome. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Zoe Lee and her son Mason, who has Down's syndrome. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

The ITV soap opera Emmerdale has a controversial new storyline about a couple who decide to have an abortion after learning their unborn child has Down’s syndrome. In response, Old Catton mum ZOE LEE, 37, shares her experience of raising a child with the condition.

Mason Lee at a balloon release for Down's Syndrome Day at Norwich City Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mason Lee at a balloon release for Down's Syndrome Day at Norwich City Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

I am a mother of three boys.

My younger son Mason is six years old and was born with Down’s syndrome.

Before Mason was born, I had a normal pregnancy and underwent all the pregnancy tests.

I had the routine Down’s syndrome test which came back low risk and during the pregnancy had three scans and nothing came up on any of them.

The mums of Mason Lee (centre left) and Eli Taylor(centre right) have started a Facebook page so peo

The mums of Mason Lee (centre left) and Eli Taylor(centre right) have started a Facebook page so people can follow their lives. Here they are pictured with thier families, from left, Jaden Lee (brother), Steven Lee (dad), Zoe Lee (mum), Mason Lee, Eli Taylor, Emma Taylor (mum), Chris Taylor (dad) and Logan Taylor (brother). Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

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Mason was born seven weeks premature weighing 3lb 9oz. I got to hold him for 10 minutes before he was whisked away to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

A week after Mason was born doctors approached my husband and I asking if we thought Mason looked any different from our older boys.

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On asking why they thought this, they said due to Mason’s low muscle tone and his daddy being of an ethnic race, they were unsure if the low muscle tone and face features were because he was premature or possibly Down’s syndrome.

We agreed for blood test to go ahead and a few days later we had confirmation that Mason had Down’s syndrome.

In total honesty, we cried. We didn’t know what to expect, we were scared, we had never met anyone with Down’s syndrome.

If I had found out whilst pregnant, abortion would never have crossed my mind. It’s not something I believe in.

I believe that a baby is the biggest gift anyone can be given. A tiny human being.

I just would have liked to have prepared myself by doing research and meeting people and joining groups.

I am very pro-choice I do understand some people have their own views on whether they think they could cope or not with a child with Down’s syndrome.

In all honesty I can say it’s not easy - what child is easy? But as individuals, people have a right to do what best for themselves.

Having Mason had shown me what unconditional love is. Mason makes me so proud of him every day. Mason is slightly delayed in his development and non-verbal. We celebrate all his achievements in a big way.

Mason is a loving little boy with a massive character who always draws people to him where ever we are.

We have met so many lovely friends along the way and we have a few hospital appointments but that’s nothing major.

Mason attends mainstream school and he is doing amazing.

We refuse the let people place him in category. People with Down’s syndrome are not textbook.

When you have a baby you don’t get a manual. And people with Down’s syndrome are people; human beings with feelings like anyone else. So please if you refer to a person with Down’s syndrome use their name first. Down’s syndrome does not define who they are.

I think anyone who is pregnant and gets told that their unborn child has Down’s syndrome and they are unsure about what to do, first arrange to meet parents like myself or message us.

I and my good friend Emma, who also has a son, Eli, aged six, met through a mutual friend. We set up a Facebook page called Best Buddies and their Adventures so everyone can see having a child with Down’s syndrome is not scary.

MORE: Mothers of infants with Down’s syndrome share honest account and dispel myths surrounding the condition

We are always there for anyone to contact with questions or to meet up for a chat with concerns and we will 100pc do our utmost to support them and answer questions or point them in the right direction for help.

My thoughts on Emmerdale’s Down’s syndrome storyline

The Emmerdale storyline covers very sensitive subject. I understand the show’s producers have said that they wanted to tell a different side to the story, as they already have an actor/character with Down’s syndrome.

I feel this needs researching in depth, and consideration needs to be given to the Down’s syndrome community, some of whom watch the show because it has an actor with Down’s syndrome and thought that the show had shown support and inclusion.

This storyline could be very hurtful for some people.

I know this situation happens in real life, and as a show they want to show they have covered everything but I feel it could be looked at from other angles.

Especially when we have been working so hard as a Down’s syndrome community to promote awareness, and fight towards the whole abortion limit.

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