It’s World Down’s Syndrome Day and there is no better time to celebrate the life and achievements of those with the condition.
To honour the day, UNILAD caught up with mum of Lily Beddall, the incredible tot with Down’s Syndrome who has just scored herself a huge modelling contract with Matalan at just two-years-old.
Little Lily was picked from hundreds of child models to land herself the amazing opportunity to be the face of childrenswear for the clothing giant in all of their 217 stores.
The toddler’s mum, 37-year-old Vicki Beddall, is understandably proud of her daughter.
We always say ‘No Limits’ for Lily and this is just one more thing we can add to her list of achievements.
Lily’s parents almost burst with pride for their child, as they took Lily to see herself up on an advertising campaign at their local store.
She pointed and recognised herself, posing on her 44-year-old dad Eddie’s shoulder and signed her name.
This is a landmark moment not only for Lily and people with the condition, but also for Matalan and the fashion industry as they take one step closer to channelling diversity and inclusivity.
Because children with disabilities in the fashion world/advertising are still in the minority and so it’s wonderful that Lily is able to represent the minority and hopefully in the future this won’t be a newsworthy story, it will just be the norm.
Things haven’t always been plain sailing for the Beddall family though, as Vicki revealed in an honest blog post about the difficulties she faced when accepting her child had the condition.
My first thoughts were that this can’t be happening. I don’t want this. I won’t ever be a grandparent. I don’t want my baby to look different.
I don’t want my baby to talk funny. I want all the things I had planned. Why? What did I do? Why me? Why us?
And my world fell apart. Life as I know it disappeared and this huge chasm of pain erupted. Pain I didn’t think was possible.
In the early days after the birth, Vicki admitted she found it difficult to adjust to her new life as the mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome.
She confessed although she loved her baby, it was hard to accept her new life and found she was sad for the baby she thought she had been carrying for nine months.
I also found that although I loved Lily so very much, I didn’t have the overwhelming feeling of love that I expected and that the mums of babies around me were describing.
I felt something was missing and then I realised I missed the baby I had bonded with during pregnancy, I actually missed her and it hurt.
I was grieving for her. Now I can look back and realise that it felt as if they had taken away the baby I had bonded with and replaced her with Lily.
However, things took an upwards turn after it was confirmed her child had the condition and Vicki realised life may not be how she had planned it, it was going to be different, but in a new exciting way.
The day after the diagnosis was confirmed I said to Eddie that I didn’t want to get out of bed and for him to take the baby downstairs.
After about three minutes I said to myself: “What on earth are you doing? This is the baby you have always wanted, the baby girl who is downstairs now waiting for her mummy.”
At that point I stopped feeling sorry for myself and went downstairs to start our new lives.
Reflecting on her initial thoughts and reactions at her child’s diagnosis, Vicki feels very differently to how she did in the early stages.
I am actually very ashamed of the way I reacted. I reacted as if Lily had died. Looking back I see how selfish all those thoughts are.
Dealing with an unexpected change in the condition for a child must be extremely difficult for anybody, so it is completely understandable Vicki felt this way, but she now knows this is all a part of the journey.
I now know that grief is a very normal part of getting a diagnosis as we did. You have to grieve for the baby you were expecting and the plans you had made. But it’s OK to hurt. Hurting is a normal part of the healing process.
Nowadays, even though things may not be easy, Vicki feels blessed to have a child with a ‘so-called’ disability and feels her life has changed for the better.
It [life] has changed forever. For the wonderful. I am not exaggerating when I say she brings the light to our lives.
She is the brightest star, you know on the hottest days, the summer days when you look up into the sun and you can feel the warmth on your face, and you feel all is good with the world?
Vicki will readily admit they had been ‘wrong’ about Down’s Syndrome and the feeling their world was ending.
We thought Down syndrome was the end of everything. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s only the beginning. The beginning of something wonderful. I wouldn’t change Lily for anything.
These days there are increasing opportunities for those with Down’s Syndrome and old prejudices against the condition seem to be dying out.
Vicki’s mum told us:
We are very lucky that Lily was born in today’s society. Even since Lily was born I have noticed that society is slowly becoming more accepting.
One of the many reasons why World Down Syndrome day is so important is to promote the importance of smashing down misconceptions.
This is only our third WDSD and for us it’s about trying to break down the stereotypes and preconceptions that people have about Down Syndrome.
That Down Syndrome isn’t the end of the world or the worst thing that can happen.
Unfortunately people do have plenty of negative comments to say about children with Down’s Syndrome, but Vicki has a powerful message.
She told us:
There are obviously some ignorant trolls out there, and in the last few days I have read some awful things written about myself and Lily.
But I actually couldn’t care less, I’d rather have a child with a disability who is kind and has a lovely heart than a child who grows up to be a horrible human being who is mean and nasty about small children on the internet.
But Vicki also knows life is not always going to be simple and they will come up against difficulties.
We are not delusional or think that life is going to be an easy ride, because we are very aware there will be many obstacles ahead.
And what parent who is raising a ‘typical’ child can say that it’s been easy or without challenges?
I am grateful every day that Lily ONLY has Down’s syndrome!
She is on this earth to change the world. There are no rules.
Here’s a video of Lily’s achievements so far in celebration of World Down’s Syndrome Day:
Lily has already done great things for diversity and let’s hope Matalan can pave the way for others to join in on their beacon of hope for others in the future.
As Vicki said the condition is ‘only’ Down’s Syndrome and there is absolutely no reason why people with the condition can’t live a fantastic and fulfilling life.
People with Down’s Syndrome are to be celebrated and not shied away from. The fact there is so much diversity on our planet is a huge part of it’s beauty and this should always be encouraged.
Let’s hope as time progresses, the remainder of prejudice diminishes and there are even more opportunities for those with disabilities.
Happy World Down Syndrome Day everyone!