The youngest mother of a Down’s syndrome baby in the UK — who fell pregnant at the age of 15 — has said her miracle son “saved her”.
Catherine Moore, from Maghera, ignored the concerns of those around her, refusing to give up her baby when she discovered she was pregnant.
The Co Londonderry schoolgirl was weeks away from her GCSE exams at the time and had just split up with her boyfriend.
As her three-year-old son Tyler starts his first days at pre-school, Catherine has paid a moving tribute to her toddler who “saved” her.
“Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to cope and my life was over if I kept Tyler,” Catherine said.
“But they were wrong — having Tyler was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“He changed my life for the better and I am so grateful to have him.
“I was going off the rails, but he saved me.”
The schoolgirl spent her 16th birthday shopping for a cot.
She learned she was having a boy at her 28-week scan.
However, the morning after Catherine gave birth her mother Georgina McClure (39) received news that she feared would devastate her teenage daughter.
Georgina said: “It was a midwife and she just said she was sorry but she had some bad news. Tests had shown my grandson, Tyler had Down's syndrome.
“Because she was so young they hadn’t told her (Catherine), in case she didn’t understand.
“They wanted me to come back and do it.
“I remember thinking to myself: ‘If she is too young even to know what Down’s syndrome is, how on Earth is she going to cope?’”
Georgina added: “It didn’t seem possible. I had always thought it was older mothers at risk of having Down’s babies, and Catherine was young.
“I wondered if there had been a mix-up.”
Catherine, who had followed a soap opera storyline of a couple who had a child with Down’s syndrome, merely shrugged, lifting her baby son from his cot to hold him in an embrace.
She concedes that she was a child herself when she gave birth to Tyler.
“Suddenly I had a child of my own with special needs.
“But I never once thought of giving him up,” she told the Daily Mail newspaper.
“He needed me and I needed him — it was as simple as that.
“I hate it when people say they are sorry he has Down’s, because I am not.
“It’s who Tyler is and I would not change him for the world. I’m so glad I had a Down’s baby.”
Early scans highlighted two heart murmurs and a problem with Tyler’s left heart valve.
Doctors advised that the baby might require surgery as well as constant checks and care — a prospect which Catherine took in her stride.
She was also told that her son’s walking and speech would be delayed, and his vision and hearing impaired.
Tyler displays his mother’s spirit. In his short life he has reached all his milestones on target.
The little boy was crawling at the age of one and began to learn sign language.
“It was daunting,” Catherine added.
“But I knew that somehow we would manage.
“We had to manage — he was my baby and I was his mother, and I knew it was my job to manage whatever life threw at the two of us,” she said.
Tyler will be the page boy at his mother’s wedding to her fiance, Nathan Woods (22), next year.
Recent figures indicating that up to 90% of Down's baby pregnancies are terminated are heart-breaking to Catherine.
“Having him wasn’t the end of my life, it was just the start.”
“I could never be without Tyler.
“He is quite simply the most wonderful thing ever to happen to me,” she added.
Now aged 19, Catherine is busily planning her wedding to fiance Nathan Woods next year, at which Tyler (3) will be a page boy.
She also hopes to finish her educational studies — she was about to take her GCSEs when she became pregnant at the age of 15 — and follow her dream of qualifying as a vet.
“But for the moment being Tyler’s mummy is rewarding enough,” she said, adding: “Nobody could have prepared me for the challenges of raising a baby with Down’s — but then they couldn’t have explained the joy either.”