Special Needs Parenting: Storytelling Week - My life: The Novel by Kerry Fender.

Kerry Fender by Kerry Fender Additional Needs

Kerry Fender

Kerry Fender

Down’s Syndrome, my family and me – one mum’s account of family life with an extra chromosome.

Rapidly approaching forty, Kerry thinks she has nothing new to look forward to in life; all that lies ahead is a depressing decline into old age beside a husband who’s stopped noticing her. But a birthday surprise leads to consequences that will change her life forever.'


For Storytelling Week I decided to look at my life as though it were a book blurb. Is it a story I would want to read?

My journey into ‘Special Needs’ motherhood certainly has many of the elements essential to an engaging novel.

If it were to write it as one I would call it The Best Christmas Ever.

It has a main character who, at the start of the story is on the cusp of a crisis – she is about to turn forty and is depressed about crossing the threshold into middle age.

But cross it she must, time will continue to tick by, she will get older, whether she likes it or not.

How will she deal with this?

It has dramatic tension: just when the reader thinks they have a handle on the character and her problem, the situation changes: what she took for the first signs of menopause turns out to be an unplanned pregnancy – an unexpected turn of events that places her under stress and both tests and reveals her...character.

All of which creates the next element:

Conflict - both internally (in the character’s emotions or psyche): she feels both dismayed at being caught out at an age when she ought to know better, and relieved at the ‘reprieve’, is worried about the reaction from her spouse, children, parents and friends, concerned about how a third child will change things, and even how they will fit an additional child into the house, not to mention the prospect of being the oldest mum at the school gate.

And externally: between herself and her partner, who had rather different ideas of what life in their forties would look like, and also with her parents, who are concerned about her age.

As the story moves along, of course, the conflicts change; as one is resolved another appears.

No sooner do she and her partner accept the idea of having another child and even begin to look forward to it, than tests reveal a higher than usual chance of the baby having Down’s Syndrome.

Her partner, parents, and doctor are keen for her to have an amniocentesis, but, with a history of recurrent miscarriage, she really doesn’t want to risk it, especially not since she has a growing feeling that she would not act on the information; and if the test was to prove positive she would come under pressure to do just that.

How will the decisions she makes affect other members of her family?

Like any well-paced novel, though, it has a varying rhythm: the tension slackens off just after the mid-point of the story, after no ‘soft’ markers for Down’s are detected at the twenty week scan.

The main character and her husband now set about preparing themselves for what promises to be the best Christmas ever, with the baby due in the middle of the festivities.

It picks up again when we reach November.

With the baby not moving so much, and mum’s body showing signs of going into premature labour, the consultant decides that the birth must be induced straight away, but if there is no neonatal bed at the local hospital, that will mean transfer to Manchester, or possibly even London.

You see, it even has suspense.

All good stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end.

They don’t have to end with ‘happily ever after’, though, and indeed, this story does not.

That is not because the baby, my baby, was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, though; rather it is because it ends with ‘to be continued’.

Because having a baby with Down’s Syndrome is not the end of the world.

Nor is it the end of your story – it is simply the start of a new one, a sequel.

The sequel to The Best Christmas Ever will be called A Degree of Difficulty: A ‘Special Needs Mum at University.

In the first book our character went on a journey of growth and development: she went from thinking that she wasn’t much good for anything to believing she was, perhaps, stronger, smarter and more positive than anyone had given her credit for.

Now it’s time for her to put that to the test.

How will she juggle domestic life, disability and a dissertation?

But that’s another story.


Other Articles You Might Enjoy ...

No results found