My Story:

Deborah Frenchs story

Becoming a mum aged 24 was so exciting. When I was 25 I became a mum for the second time. The excitement lasted for the few seconds after birth before I saw my daughter; she was born unexpectedly with Down's syndrome. A year later my 2 yr old son was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. As a mother you instinctively learn to anticipate the unexpected, but this kind of unexpected, twice, can be too much for anyone to bear.

It is very difficult to explain the depths of the pain that takes hold of you the moment you find out your child has special needs. I have experienced two very different types of diagnosis; one almost immediately after birth and the other following two years of unanswered questions. Neither circumstance is pleasant but without doubt the unexpected shock at birth was horrific. A day after my daughter’s birth, my husband and the doctors finally confirmed their suspicions that she had Down’s syndrome. In my book, A Brief Moment in Time, I described the moment in this way:

"I do not know how long we sat like that. We were devastated and totally heartbroken. The pain was excruciating, the situation unfathomable. We held each other and cried. There can be no preparation for a moment like this. There is no manual that instructs you on what to do or how to react. You are simply stunned into grief; a lonely, isolated place where you are not yet ready to clamber onto a glimmer of hope or acceptance. Nothing can be said or done to alleviate the pain. It was a moment suspended in time that would haunt me for years to come."

Chapter 1; The Moment, A Brief Moment in Time

A year and a half later, my husband and I met with a Clinical Psychologist and listened with heavy hearts that our son, then two years old, had high functioning Autism. The moment the diagnosis was delivered was again, captured in my story:

"I slowly closed my eyes and gradually lowered my head. There was nothing else I could do to express how I felt at that moment. I was empty and beaten. Before I had children I had always been able to rise to challenges that I had faced in my life, but at that point I had no idea how I was going to make it through. We had just begun to recover from the shock of Amariah’s birth and right there and then I felt our strong foundation start to crumble…I resented the fact that within the space of two years we had been forced to face such a devastating challenge twice."

Chapter 7; Claustrophobia, A Brief Moment in Time

A Brief Moment in Time by Deborah FrenchI spent the early years engrossed in deep rooted feelings of denial and sadness. I felt ashamed that soon after my daughter’s birth I harbored prejudice thoughts and spent my time desperately trying to handle similar traits inflicted upon me by the many people that I encountered. I felt alone and in unfamiliar territory. Not only was I responsible for parenting two children with special needs, I was supposed to instinctively know how to navigate the school system, fight for my children’s rights and then at the end of the day, sleep at night, totally at peace with my emotional pain regarding their circumstances.

The skill sets that I had mastered in my life up to that point rendered useless. Prior to my son’s birth I was an Account Director for a sports sponsorship agency a position that I excelled in. I had established a business at home so that I could work and be a stay at home mum that flourished. I was an avid cook, my husband and I had cultivated good relationships with family and friends. I was able to trust my reactions to challenges, I was able to find solutions to problems we faced but my daughter’s birth changed everything and years would pass before I was able to regain my confidence and strength.

When it was suggested by my publisher to document my personal journey, up to that point there had never been a consideration for me to share my story. Yet when the opportunity arose to write, I embraced the emotional roller coaster I was on and through sharing my pain I have been able to face my demons and analyse attitudes and prejudice that had plagued me for so long. Ultimately, writing my story has liberated me.

Through telling my story, I hope to empower and inspire other parents that face the same challenges as we do and to provide an insight to our world for the relatives and friends who are very often, at a loss of how to support grief stricken parents.

A Brief Moment in Time is available for download from

Read Deborah's blog on talkhealth here

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