For most mothers the hours after child birth are a relaxing holiday compared to the ruthless contractions and intense hours of labour. However, for nineteen-year-old Kyia Jane Judson, giving birth to Hayley in three and a half hours was only the beginning of a long and complicated journey.
“We both just went silent – you could hear a fucking mouse scurry across the floor”
Kyia can feel Hayley’s warmth radiate through her pink, woollen blanket as she lies nestled in the crook of her arm. Kyia’s mind races as she ploughs through her thoughts of sadness, grief and confusion. She glances at Christian as the tears silently make their way down the bumps on his cheek “We both just went silent – you could hear a fucking mouse scurry across the floor.” Dr De Susouza’s voice cracks through the silence “your daughter will live an absolutely perfect life if you give her the chance. Nothing will stop her unless you do.” Blame was the only thought ricocheting through her mind at the time: Was it something we did? No. It was just an extra chromosome “My chances of having a child with Down syndrome was 1 in 1, 365 and I got that one.”
Later that night, Jacinta wraps her arms around Kyia, whose shoulders quiver under her touch “It will be ok,” Jacinta whispers, holding back her own anguish “I was bit taken back when we found out because I had never known anyone that had a child with Down syndrome.” The sixteen-year-old Aunty sits with her legs crossed on the leather lounge, telling me “I was pretty excited when I found out that Christian and Kyia were having a baby. I like babies because they are just so cute.” It is evident through Jacinta’s gentle words “Kyia and Christian are doing really well as parents” that Kyia has the support of a caring and compassionate Aunty, who knows all too well the challenges that lie ahead.
“Hayley’s fine, I’m The One Who Almost Died Last Night”
Kyia explains to me that conceiving a baby with Down syndrome is more common amongst older couples “Christian and I, which we know of, are the youngest parents in New South Wales with a Down syndrome baby.” Kyia’s story begins with her standing in her tiled bathroom where the white stick shakes between her trembling fingers. She stares intently at the pee soaked rod counting the seconds before a pastel red line appears. Positive. The hours that follow are riddled with worry as Kyia waits for Christian, her boyfriend of only two months, to come home from work “Shocked was an understatement – I was like stressing out.” Flash forward to November where Kyia’s heart pounds through an intense ten-minutes of shuddering pain. The contractions are sharp stabs, making her jolt in agony. Kyia’s lips press together tight, hands grasping the cold bed rail for support. Rasps of breath fill her lungs temporarily before they are gushed out. Seconds turn to minutes as Hayley Dakoda Thompson is born.
Suddenly the angst beings to build and Kyia’s hands shake. Doctors rush to and from her room, as a sea of blood fills the bed “it was traumatic, especially for Christian. He was handed his new born baby daughter and told that your girlfriend is going to theatre.” Kyia’s three hour labour led to severe haemorrhages, a torn placenta and a collapsed uterus “I had, to put it nicely, a water balloon put in my uterus to push against the sides of it, to stop the bleeding.” Sleep that night was impossible as plastic drips snaked their way out of Kyia’s wrist, tangling around her arms. However, the wellbeing of Kyia’s newborn baby girl was the only thought on her mind “We have a special baby. We have a baby that has a little extra and it is not a bad thing like everyone makes out.”
“This is life now, stop fart-arseing around with it”
Shrugging off the stares that judge them on their youth, Christian and Kyia plod across the wooden floored hall, sifting their way through the older parents. The hum of childhood laughter and clumsy footsteps roll throughout the room where the NSW Down Syndrome Baby Day is being held “Christian didn’t quiet accept the fact that our daughter had Down syndrome, or that this was our life.” As parents who knew little about Down syndrome the couple stood awkwardly amongst the others, listening to the facts that impacted their daughter’s life.
Dressed in her pink and black Nikes, a pink unicorn printed t-shirt and blues jeans, the girl ponders shyly up to Christian. “Same” says the three-year-old, pointing at the sunglasses that rest on Christian’s head, while touching her own sunglasses with her free hand. Christian nods carefully, “You’re shoes are pretty cool” he responds, watching the girl as she laughs loudly. “From that moment forward, Christian was a bit taken back and he thought: our daughter is going to be like that.” From a few meters away the girl’s dad wonders up to Christian and tells him in a husky voice “you do realise that she does not speak to anyone.” The girl’s beaming blue eyes and her bubbling energy is a stark contrast to the unmoving girl that was promised by the doctors “Basically they gave us the impression that she was going to be like a vegetable.” According to Sue Buckley, an expert in the education and development of young people with Down syndrome, most children are late in saying their first words and their vocabulary grows more slowly than in ordinary children. However, the liveliness exhibited by the young girl gave the Kyia and Christian hope of a bright future.
“People Don’t Really Get Excited to See Me Anymore, They’re Excited to See Hayley”
As a young Bomaderry High School student, Kyia pictures her future 19-year-old self, standing on the white sweeping cement of HMAS Albatross. The helicopter rolls into B hangar where Kyia awaits, standing solid with fellow Aircraft Mechanics. However, in reality Kyia sits cooped in Hayley’s rainbow play pen, making silly faces while pelting out the theme song for Phineas and Ferb. From the outside, Kyia’s post-natal depression is difficult to spot as her strength echoes throughout the room “I could have told you that right now I would be in the navy and I would be fixing helicopters – and I look at it now and I’m like fuck, none of that even happened.” A lack of control over her life is difficult to cope with as Kyia’s daily roles of mum and fiancé leave little room for the engine-obsessed teenage tomboy who became an adult too quickly “I see it as I am not Kyia anymore. I’m constantly in mum mode…it’s something that I’ve struggled with.” Kyia is one of seven women in Australia who are affected by post-natal depression; However, Kyia’s love for Hayley gives her the strength to carry on as a brave young mum.
Christian’s gurgling ute lurches up the driveway. Thud. The car door slams shut and the clunk of Christian’s work boots echo down the path. After shuffling through the door of their granny flat, Christian lifts Hayley from her cot and softly cradles her back and forth “I feel like people never ask how I am. I’m like: Hayley’s great but I’m right here!” Kyia holds back, watching her fiancé stroke their daughter’s hair, witnessing the bond between father and child “it’s only recently that I’ve come to terms with it: You are mum but you still are you.”
“Why are you sorry that I was given something that I knew I could handle?”
Sitting on her brown leather couch, Kyia tells me in a clear voice about the battles she has faced at grocery stores, cafes and even walking down the street. It was at scenes like these where Kyia would hear the dreaded words “I’m sorry.” Astounded, Kyia’s words cut through the air like a knife “I was like why are you saying I’m sorry? What are you sorry for?” The frustration behind Kyia’s blunt words echoes through the room as her blue eyes hold mine “What if Hayley and Down syndrome people are the way that people are supposed to be and we are the fuck ups?” Kyia’s sharp tone exemplifies her perspective; Seeing her daughter as a person, rather than a person with a disability, a point-of-view that is still yet to be adopted by society.
In the years to come, Kyia envisions red rose petals covering her dress as she floats down the aisle towards Christian. Hand in hand with Hayley, Kyia looks across the room filled with friends and family who gaze at the mother-daughter-duo. The sound of soft bells echo throughout the church as Kyia and Hayley stride elegantly towards Christian, the man who stood by his family through thick and thin. However, Kyia knows all too well that plans do not always work out “I just want to live my life with my beautiful partner and my beautiful baby.” The determination behind Kyia’s eyes radiates throughout the room as she slowly utters the words “You handle it because you have to. And that’s life. You have get used to it.”