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Jade Pooley learned of her daugher's Down Syndrome condition at birth

'The Unexpected Joy of Mothering a Daughter with Down Syndrome'

On World Down Syndrome Day, Jade Pooley opens up about the hours after birth when she discovered her newborn daughter's Down Syndrome diagnosis, a reality faced by approximately one in every 1,000 UK families. From initial fears and anxieties to how, two years later, an extra chromosome has surprisingly not changed their family life, Jade invites us into the world of joy that Ottilie brings to their home - and yoga studio - in Folkestone, Kent.

Not long after giving birth, I slipped out of the delivery room for a shower. As I made my way back down the hospital ward, I saw my partner in a new room with our daughter, surrounded by doctors and nurses. The doctor was performing tests and something in the air felt amiss. "It is really likely that your daughter might have Down Syndrome," he said. 

In that moment, my world transformed in ways I could never have predicted.

Jade Pooley and daughter, Ottilie

Let's start at the beginning

Pregnancy was a surprise, a twist in my partner's and my story that we hadn't anticipated but quickly embraced. We’d only been together a matter of months but we truly trusted that this was meant to happen to us, and so, I felt a real privilege in being pregnant.

My pregnancy

At our 12-week scan, we underwent the classic screening tests and received a low-risk result. Down Syndrome never crossed my mind.

Our 20-week scan revealed our daughter was smaller than average, but multiple follow-up growth scans offered no explanation. Yes, she had a slightly smaller femur but there were no other markers of complications or trisomy 21. Even a consultant was baffled, so we agreed that no early interventions were needed.

"She’s going to get picked on at school"

My labour

My labour began at 38 weeks, quietly in the night. After my waters broke all over our bed, things calmed. Lying next to my partner, I alternated between sleep and wakefulness as contractions gently nudged our daughter closer to birth. Throughout my pregnancy, I’d leaned on my background in Embodied Flow yoga to stay grounded, and during the pause between night and day, as I laboured in bed, I drew on my breath and hypnobirthing to feel supported and safe. 

As my contractions intensified, we headed to the hospital, where I’d chosen for the next stage of labour. Pushing was an intense ordeal, physically and emotionally, but it unlocked an inner strength in me. And although I was fully present, the final moments of labour did take me by surprise - I’m normally an emotional person but as Ottilie was put on my chest, I was the only one in the room not crying. I think I was in a bit of shock. 

Jade Pooley in the hours after Ottilies Down Syndrome Diagnosis at birth

The hours after birth

So, back to that moment after my shower. When the doctor spoke of my tiny daughter's almond eyes and the need for blood tests, my mind raced to her future, "She’s going to get picked on at school."

In the hours following Ottie’s suspected diagnosis, my partner and I huddled in my hospital bed, cuddling and crying, sharing the news with family over text. A whirlwind of emotions—confusion, fear, vulnerability—engulfed me. I was unfamiliar with Down Syndrome and what it meant for our lives, especially as we were in limbo as the test results would take days to confirm. 

Over the next week, the initial shock softened into acceptance and I recognised Ottilie’s role in our lives; she was here to enlighten us, to offer a new perspective on life. In the beginning, I refrained from researching Down Syndrome, choosing instead to know Ottie as she is, without labels. Joining a local support group later on, I learned that children with Down Syndrome, like all children, possess unique personalities and traits that define them and hit their milestones in their own time and on their own terms.

Jade Pooley and daughter Ottilie who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at Birth
Ollie Chester, dad to Ottile

Navigating early motherhood

Today, Ottie, with her infectious laughter and love for dance, is the heart of our family. She begins each day commanding Alexa to play "Happy" by Pharrell Williams before heading to her mainstream nursery.

Our journey hasn't been without challenges. Looking back on our time in hospital I feel that more could’ve been done to support our feeding journey, while many of the medical team lacked knowledge of how to care for babies with Down Syndrome, or the language that can be detrimental to a mother’s mental health. 

"Ottie has taught us to embrace the moment; to never underestimate her or make assumptions"

Further down the line, baby classes were tough, often with unspoken judgments. I realised early on that I found the most support with close friends and family who saw Ottie for the joy she embodies, not her extra chromosome. Meanwhile, I dedicate myself to creating a truly supportive environment for new mums at our studio, Yoke.

Jade Pooley, Ollie Chester and their Daughter Ottilie
Ami Robertson

Life today

Reflecting on those early days, I realise how much Ottie has taught us—to embrace the moment; to never underestimate her or make assumptionsHad we been aware of her diagnosis beforehand, the circumstances of her birth might have been different. Yet, in true Ottie fashion, she defied expectations related to her size (at only 5lb 6ozs she was teeny), making her own entrance into the world unassisted - no extra help needed. 

If I could return to that labour ward, I'd tell myself to skip the shower, to not leave the room, and just to sit and cuddle my baby. Because, even though Ottie’s diagnosis seemed to change everything, in truth, it changed nothing. Ottie is strong, she’s resilient and she’s meeting her milestones just as any other child does. In fact, she’s not defined by her extra chromosome; rather, it's just a part of the incredible person she is and the remarkable life she leads. From football to dance to welcoming customers at our studio and cafe, Ottie is pure joy


Jade Pooley, Ollie Chester and their daughter, Ottilie
Jade Pooley, founder Yoke, Folkstone, with daughter Ottilie

Jade Pooley

Jade Pooley is founder of Yokea beautiful yoga studio and cafe in Folkestone, Kent. Jade and her team create a welcoming environment for the community, including holding space for local parents.

About Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is when you're born with an extra chromosome.

You usually get an extra chromosome by chance, because of a change in the sperm or egg before you're born.

This change does not happen because of anything anyone did before or during pregnancy.

What it's like to have Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome will have some level of learning disability . This means they'll have a range of abilities.

Some people will be more independent and do things like get a job. Other people might need more regular care.

But, like everyone, people with Down syndrome have:

  • their own personalities
  • things they like and dislike
  • things that make them who they are

Having a baby with Down Syndrome

In almost all cases, Down's syndrome does not run in families.

Source: NHS UK

If you have any questions about Down’s syndrome, big or small, you can call Down's Syndrome Association Helpline on 0333 1212 300 or email the team on .

As told to Amy Lane, For the Creators

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