by Hayley Newman at Downs Side Up
Hayley Newman tells us why she and her daughter Mia self-published their book I Love You Natty and how the close relationship between the girls inspired this firm favourite with parents and children everywhere.
See more from Hayley @downssideup on social media or on her blog Downs Side Up
“Natty, you are the best sister in the world and so important to me
and if you weren’t in this world my life just wouldn’t be the same.”
– Mia Goleniowska, Author of I love You Natty.
The Book I Wanted When Natty was Born
In the days and weeks after my youngest daughter Natty was born, I looked for every scrap of information I could find about Down’s syndrome. In particular, I sought an age appropriate and up to date book to read with her big sister Mia. I wanted to explain why the new baby was spending some extra time in hospital and that they would have all the same fun time growing up together as other siblings.
Welcoming a New Baby into the Family
When Natty was born I spent hours reading every book I could lay my hands on and surfing the net looking for every scrap of information on Down’s syndrome that existed. Much of what I found was outdated or negative in tone.
I began to worry about the impact that Natty’s arrival in Mia’s world would have on her. Becoming a big brother or sister takes a period of readjustment at the best of times.
Reading books together was a way of explaining what Natty’s condition would mean. Looking at the picture books together also helped me realise that a full and fun life lay ahead of both girls with a few minor adjustments.
At three years old, Mia took many things which I found difficult in her stride. She helped bathe her tiny sister when she first came home from NICU, helped with nappy changing and dressing and even holding syringes full of milk to feed her through her tiny naso-gastric tube.
Strong Sisterly Bond
The girls grew even closer through the difficult times, such as hospital stays and heart surgery. They were able to show me the beauty of living in the moment, not worrying about the future, or being weighed down by preconceptions. Their relationship was built on a love that was strong, proud and unconditional.
They became my teachers, for as I was busy unlearning the myths about the condition that had taken a lifetime to build up, they just loved each other for exactly who they are.
Created with Love
Mia is a very creative and musical soul. So, when I found a heartfelt note left for her sister a few years later, along with delightful drawings of them both. The message read; ‘Natty, you are the best sister in the world and so important to me and if you weren’t in this world my life just wouldn’t be the same.’
I knew this was the perfect concept for a book that would help other families welcome a new baby with Trisomy 21 into their lives, using Mia’s words, family photos and personal stories. The book was also endorsed by major charities, and includes a resources section at the back to signpost new families to additional support.
I then drafted a series of questions and structured Mia’s answers. I added some factual information about Down’s syndrome and the early interventions that helped Natty reach her potential. A talented friend took care of the design and print and I Love You Natty was launched a year later.
Double Teen Trouble
All these years on, my early worries seem futile, although there is no doubt that Natty has helped shape Mia’s life and personality. Both girls are thoughtful, kind, empathetic and patient, because of their similarities and differences, not in spite of them.
Having a sister with special needs has helped shape who Mia has become, but, as with any sibling, it hasn’t always been plain sailing.
She has this advice for others, ‘It’s sometimes hard work being a brother or sister. Natty used to hide my things, until I learnt to keep them hidden or high up. Talk to your sibling to teach them about the world and tell them how you feel. Go for sleepovers with friends sometimes so you come home more patient.’
I Love you Natty
“I love being a sister and I like reading my pretty book. It’s me!”
– Natty Goleniowska, Downs Side Up
We all need to see ourselves represented accurately in books and Natty adores her little story, even though she is now 14, and her sister 17.
Our colourful little book has sold around the world and is adored by many who see themselves within the pages. It has been gifted to hospitals, schools and libraries and even has a few celebrity owners! Most importantly it is just one of a whole range of current publications where Down’s syndrome is included naturally and positively.
Plans are already under way for a book from Natty’s perspective too. She’s certainly old enough to tell her own tales now…
‘I Love You Natty’ is available on Amazon, priced £5.99 + P&P or can be ordered in to any branch of Waterstones with their Click and Collect service. It is also stocked in the Singing Hands online shop. ISBN 978-0-9929251-0-9
For bulk orders contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This book could be the start of a friendship between siblings.
I give it 99 stars! – Kate Powell (who has Down’s syndrome) from the Down’s Syndrome Association.