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Ellie Simmonds holding a baby | Ellie Simmonds | Source: Instagram.com/@elliesimmonds
Ellie Simmonds holding a baby | Ellie Simmonds | Source: Instagram.com/@elliesimmonds

Mom Abandons Newborn with Dwarfism, Sees Her on TV as a Champion Athlete Years Later

Taitirwa Sehliselwe Murape
Jul 08, 2023
05:00 A.M.
  • Ellie Simmonds was abandoned by her biological mother soon after her birth when she was diagnosed with dwarfism.
  • She went on to be raised by a wonderful and loving adoptive family.
  • Years later, she became a Paralympic champion and decided to search for her biological mom, not realizing that her mom had already recognized her from TV.
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Ellie Simmonds was diagnosed with the most common type of dwarfism—achondroplasia—when she was born. She was raised in Walsall as the youngest of five by adoptive parents Steve and Val Simmonds. As a young girl, Ellie enjoyed horse riding and ballet until she found her true passion in swimming.

Once she started swimming at age five, Ellie became invested and enthralled in the sport. By the time she was eight years old, she was keeping up at the same level of pace as that of her able-bodied counterparts.

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Five years later, when Simmonds was thirteen, she competed in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing and won her first two gold medals for Britain, marking her as a national hero.

In 2020, Ellie decided to retire from sports and focus on tracing her roots back to her origins. She began to embark on her life story journey, as documented by ITV, which filmed "Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family." Throughout her in-depth analysis of her story, Ellie investigated the sometimes painful and complicated relationship between adoption and disability.

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Her desire to seek out the uncharted elements of her past came from her quest to look for her birth parents. Ellie reasoned that after she had retired from competing, she found herself with more time and space that allowed for such an inquiry to come to fruition:

"I'd achieved everything I wanted to... All my life, I've had so many questions, and I've often wondered if my birth mum looks like me."

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Ellie Simmonds Embarks on a Quest to Find Her Biological Mother

In addition to her desire to meet her biological mother, Ellie expressed being at a point in her life where she was considering settling down with her partner, Matt Dean. Dean also has dwarfism and was a childhood friend of Ellie's.

Throughout Ellie's journey, she learned about some surprising revelations about the lack of awareness about her disability and the systemic bias set against it.

Among these revelations came the discovery that despite having given birth to a daughter without dwarfism and being reassured by medical professionals of her daughter's normalcy while Ellie was still in utero, her birth mother was still convinced that something was amiss.

Official adoption documents and photos that had been kept sealed for the last 27 years disclosed that a couple of days after Ellie's diagnosis was confirmed, Ellie's mom had requested that she be put up for adoption. However, Ellie holds no ill will toward her birth mother.

The mother and daughter met earlier this year, and the conversation spanned over five hours.

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While looking through the notes written by the medical professionals assigned to her birth case, the gold medal winner found out that her mom had actually separated from her biological dad before she knew she was pregnant. Moreover, Ellie's mother had not only felt guilty about her child's disability but also wanted to pursue an abortion, which, naturally, was a tough pill for Ellie to swallow.

The notes also included a fact sheet that her mother was given, which detailed the tragic scrutiny and negative prejudice kids with dwarfism tended to face in broader society. Though Ellie was hurt by the harmful labels and stereotypes that the document associated with achondroplasia, she was able to put herself in her mom's shoes. She understood what reading such information may have done to form her mother's perception:

"I wouldn't be who I am today without that journey, and that involves pain. When my birth mum was handed these papers, that's all she had to rely on as there was no Google. This documentary is so important to highlight the importance of education and awareness."

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Ellie Simmonds Meets Her Birth Mother Years Decades after Her Adoption

During her search, Ellie was pleased to have discovered that both her biological parents were still alive and resided in the UK. She recalled how nervous she had been to contact them but revealed the five hours she and her birth mom spent talking and the laughter that was shared between them.

Before the in-person meeting, in the documentary, Ellie divulges how loving and supportive her adoptive parents Val and Steve were. She disclosed:

"I have four siblings who were all adopted. My parents are my biggest supporters, but they thought that one day I might want to search for my birth family, so they kept anything they could at the time I was adopted for when I was ready."

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Unfortunately, Steve and Val passed, but Ellie was still determined to continue her journey. Through assistance from adoption agencies and social services, a letter exchange between Ellie and her biological mother was initially set up.

A tearful Ellie revealed that the letter from her birth mom had detailed how she came to make the very painful decision of giving up Ellie and how she suffered through self-hatred and guilt. However, her mother was also happy to know that a loving and secure family had raised her.

Following a series of correspondences, the time came for Ellie to finally meet her birth mother in person. They met earlier this year, and the conversation spanned over five hours.

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Ellie was in awe over the whole encounter and confirmed what she felt she always knew—that she and her mom look alike. The conversation went exceptionally well, and Ellie even marveled at how the two shared the same sense of humor. Ellie detailed:

"What touched my heart was that she thinks about me every day. And that really got me because she's always seen me as her daughter. Finding out who I am, seeing the mother who gave birth to me, and having the questions I've carried for years answered, makes me feel more whole."

Her birth mom also revealed how she had followed Ellie's career throughout its longevity and how she immediately knew Ellie was her daughter from the moment she saw her on TV. She was delighted to see the woman her daughter had become today, and Ellie is even more thrilled to count her biological mother as part of her family officially.

Currently, Ellie has expressed her desire to have children and start her own family with her partner. Although she knows there is a great likelihood of her baby being born with dwarfism, she asserts that her love will not waver and will be unconditional no matter the circumstance.

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