Mary Eyre affords us a fascinating glimpse at the sixth of her eight children, who enjoys a unique lifestyle and who freely gives his own brand of love to the Eyre household
AS PARENTS of Robert, a 13 year old Down's boy, my husband, and I tend to read any article, and listen to any item of news involving similar children, but I'm afraid I could hardly bear even to think about the recent murder of baby Louise Brown; it was just too harrowing.
I had thought that attitudes had changed since the time when a person could sedate a Down's baby to death and go free. How well we remember all the nonsense that was published at the time about the 'quality of life' that a Down's child could expect, its pathetic health, and the intolerable burden such a baby places on its parents.
It seems so sad that, years later, the parents of Louise could be allowed to take her home from hospital in ignorance of her true possibilities, and full of despair about the future.
Was there no-one to tell them that feeble little Down's babies grow into loveable, fascinating and active children, and, even later on, into affectionate, sensitive and industrious adults?
Nowadays we more often read about Down's boys and girls earning their Guide and Scout badges, completing Outward Bound courses or winning the Duke of Edinburgh's Award than breaking their parents' hearts just by being handicapped.
Down's people are by nature the way we ought to be, but rarely are: kindly and tolerant towards others, enjoying the present without any anxiety for the future or grief over the past.
Their families come first in their lives rather than personal ambition, and their droll comments and reactions to situations are an endless source of sibling delight. "What did Bertie say to that?" is a frequent query.
Looking back, I realise that we were very lucky in the circumstances of Robert's birth. The hospital staff were thoroughly up to date on Down's Syndrome. They realised the need for early stimulation and were encouraging rather than pessimistic.
Not realising that our newborn son, so tiny and obviously frail, was handicapped, I put him to the breast immediately, where he reacted with the usual enthusiasm. 1 did not know how significant that nursing was until the following day when the news was broken to us about our son.
They were able to say, even then, that he was a promising baby, with no other setbacks than his extra chromosome. My husdand's immediate reaction was to ask "Does that mean that we can take him home?" That, as far as we were concerned, was all that mattered. Empty arms would have been the final nightmare.
We were sad for about a year, but long before Robert could walk we realised that each milestone in his progress was more wonderful than rockets to the moon and that if you start at rock bottom you can only go upwards.
Each year with Robert has been better than the last, and he is now a responsive teenager who reads, writes, draws, types, computes, and who loves pop music, swimming and racing about on his bike.
We feel that our youngster can look forward to a happy life, serving his fellow men in some humble way and living with a fair measure of independence.
He made his First Communion aged ten, after several years of instruction from a wonderful Benedictine nun, and has even made a Confession, probably rather quaint. It's comforting for a mother to have a child who will go to heaven like an arrow, and possibly drag us all in behind.