A couple who found love through the power of Down syndrome

 In DS Community Bonds, The DS Advocate
“My name is Nicola and my partner is Thomas . Our love story is unique. We found love because of Down syndrome.
 
In 2007 I became a single parent to my beautiful and very lively 3 year old daughter, Jessica when things didn’t work out between her Dad and I. We ended our 10 year relationship somewhat acrimoniously and although she still enjoys seeing her Dad at weekends, parenting her on my own made me and Jess inseparable.
 
We did everything together. Wherever she was, I was not far behind. I was lucky enough to be able to give up work when Jessica was born so my life was completely devoted to her from day one. I didn’t know where she ended and I began. When we began our journey on our own we clung to each other and lived in our own little bubble.
 
I was not expecting to meet someone who was in the same situation as me.
 
I had many unhelpful comments such as, “Who will take you on with a disabled child?”, and “Men don’t love other mens children” but I didn’t care. If it ended up just me and Jessica for the rest of my life I would have everything I needed. Until I received an email from a man called Thomas.
 
In 2009 when Jessica was 5, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to trek across The Great Wall of China. Jessica had not long had further emergency heart surgery and her bravery inspired me to be brave too. I was so proud of her and I wanted her to be proud of me too. I wanted to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association and for our local support group Down Syndrome Liverpool. And that’s where Thomas got in touch with me.
 
Thomas was a committee member of Down Syndrome Liverpool and was responsible for publishing stories in the newsletter and on the website. He emailed to ask if he could feature mine and Jessica’s story and hopefully raise the profile of the fundraising mission. After a few emails backwards and forwards I discovered that he was also a single parent with a five year old daughter called Charlotte and the girls were born with the same heart defect which needed open heart surgery and round about the same age.
 
Curiosity got the better of me and I did some delving online and the more I found out about Thomas, the more I was intrigued. Over the months the emails became less about the China trek and more about each other, talking to each other nearly every day, until he asked me out on a date. I thought he’d never ask!
 
We met in a pub in Liverpool on a cold and windy October evening in 2009 and we hit it off straight away. We nearly missed our meal booking because we were talking so much! We instinctively knew the light and dark of having a child with Down syndrome and we were both passionate about actively changing negative stereotypes of people with Down syndrome and supporting their families too.
 
The following weeks turned into months and it was time the girls met each other and despite our anxiety they got on like a house on fire! I heard Jessica whispering not very quietly to Charlotte that, “my Mum likes your Dad”. And that was the deal sealed.
 
We are celebrating our tenth year together and although it is far from easy at times our relationship has withstood more extreme highs and lows than most couples will ever go through. The unspoken understanding of being a parent of a child with a disability is the strong foundations that we have built our life on and now we have a child of our own, Patrick. Patrick is 3 years old now and is very lucky to have two older sisters to care and play with, alongside Thomas’s two older children from his previous marriage, Thomas, 25 and Christopher, 20.
 
Meeting Thomas has transformed my very lonely world into one with vibrate colour, noise, laughter and most importantly love.”
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