A Ballymena woman is behind a heartwarming project which helps alleviate the initial fears of new mothers of children with Down Syndrome.
Clare Cushenan started Special Delivery NI last year.
She brings gift baskets packed with items for mum and baby to hospitals for new mothers - along with positive and reassuring information about Down Syndrome.
And now she is seeking help from retailers and the public to ensure the caring project goes from strength to strength.
Clare explains: “I started Special Delivery NI because when my third child, Aoife, was born (now 7 years old) I was given her Down Syndrome diagnosis shortly after her birth.
“I was shocked and didn’t know what life with a child who was ‘different’ would be like.
“How would this affect my family? Would she be able to go to school with her older brother and sister? How would we cope with this?”
Clare says she was given lots of leaflets on Down Syndrome which seemed to concentrate on all the various the health concerns people with DS might face.
She added: “It appeared to have her life mapped out. It was overwhelming and unfortunately mainly negative, slanted towards the worst case scenario. The midwives though very kind didn’t alleviate any of my fears - but how could they?
“They had no frame of reference, just a memory of the last woman who had a baby with Down syndrome and left with the myriad of leaflets.”
Clare remains determined that no mother and family who have a baby with Down syndrome will leavehospital feeling as she did.
“I have to leave the boxes in the maternity units and the midwives ask the mother if she wants one. I want them to hear ‘congratulations your baby is perfect’ because they are.
“All our worries and concern about Aoife’s future were unfounded. We have a typical family life.
“Yes Aoife takes longer to achieve her developmental milestones but she does achieve them. She has taught us all about patience and determination.
“The gift baskets contain positive information about Down syndrome. They include a ‘Wouldn’t Change A Thing’ book which seeks to portray the true stories of positive, lived experience typical of the majority of real people with Down syndrome and their families.
“There is a letter from me congratulating the new mum and basically saying it is overwhelming but it will be fine - actually better than fine, amazing! And of course the items for baby and items for mum.
“I need help from shops and retailers and individuals, financially (I have a GoFundMe on my Facebook page) and also through donating items suitable for the gift baskets.”
To find out more and for links to the fund-raising page simply go to the Special Delivery NI page on Facebook.