Strictly's Ellie Simmonds reveals she was adopted as she is reunited with ....

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Strictly's Ellie Simmonds reveals she was adopted as she is reunited with her birth mother despite her saying she wished her baby 'died at birth' after she was born with dwarfism

By Rebecca Davison for MailOnline

Published: 07:42, 27 June 2023 | Updated: 11:10, 27 June 2023

Paralympian Ellie Simmonds has revealed that she was adopted when she was three months old and has now been reunited with her birth mother.  The Strictly star, 28, has never revealed she was adopted before and has said that last year, she decided to search for her blood family after finding out she had been put up for adoption at just 10 days old.  Born with achondroplasia (dwarfism), Ellie was devastated to discover her mum wished she had died at birth after medics told her Ellie would be ridiculed and seen as 'evil' and 'stupid'.   But that didn't stop Ellie from wanting to find her.  She revealed the pair had an emotional five-hour first meeting and are still in touch and rebuilding their relationship.  She said in a new ITV documentary: 'Until now, it's never emotionally affected me, it never made me feel rejected or ask why do my birth parents not want me.  I've been so focused on the future and never thought about it.'

Ellie has often talked about her parents Val and Steve as her biggest supporters but never before revealed how the couple, who have four other children, adopted her as a baby.  The swimmer was able to track down her hospital records through the help of a specialist social worker and was horrified by the medical notes made about her at birth.  An information sheet given to her birth mother claimed that children with dwarfism 'have to deal with being stared at and laughed at by other children. Indeed, there are those with normal height who equate short stature with evil and stupidity.'

As reported by The Mirror, Ellie noted: 'Can you imagine reading that and thinking, "That's my child?" In a way, I understand, when you don't know anything about the disability and you get this. You're going to be scared.'

After reading the notes, Ellie was so disheartened that she came close to calling off her search but opted to persevere and discovered that her birth mother lived nearby.  Before meeting, the pair exchanged letters and Ellie was left in tears reading out her mother's note which explained: 'I've suffered with guilt and self-hatred for not being strong enough to cope.  I cannot express the happiness I feel to know your parents and siblings have provided you with such a loving environment, that you're so happy. You've achieved so much.'

Ellie, who has decided to protect her birth mother's identity, then had the chance to meet her face to face and said she felt 'more whole' knowing where she had come from.  Recalling the 'amazing' meeting she said: 'We were howling with laughter, we've got the same sense of humour. I kept looking at her and thinking, "Wow that's my mum."  I felt like her face was just like mine. What touched my heart was she said she thinks about me every day, and she still sees me as her daughter.  It's helped with finding out who I am, looking at someone who birthed me, the nature I'm from, it makes you a bit more whole.'

As well as exploring her own history with adoption, Ellie is set to explore why up to an estimated 40 per cent of children in the England and Wales care system have a registered disability, far higher than the eight per cent average for the rest of the population.   Attempting to unpick the truth behind these figures, Ellie will spend time with families who have adopted disabled children, meet those who felt they could not raise a disabled child, hear deeply personal stories and highlight the pioneering work of social services teams around the UK.  Ellie wants to explore past and present day barriers on both sides of the adoptive process both social and institutional and ask if we are perpetuating an unfounded stigma around having disabled children.  She said of the documentary: 'I'm really looking forward to working with ITV on this film about the relationship between adoption and disability, which is so close to my heart and which needs much greater awareness.'

Ellie has previously spoken about her happy childhood with her adopted parents. She has not specified when she learnt that she was adopted.  Although three of her siblings do not have the genetic condition, her sister Katie, who is five years older than her, also has achondroplasia. Ellie did not reveal if her siblings were also adopted.  As a result, her parents  were already involved with the dwarfism community and ensured Ellie attended a summer camp run by another couple called Arthur and Penny Dean, founders of the Dwarf Sports Association charity.   Their son Matt is now Ellie's partner.  While she was small compared to her friends, it didn't affect her childhood and she went pony riding, ballet dancing and performed in school plays.  'I grew up with average height parents and they always ensured I was surrounded by other people with dwarfism,' she said in the BBC documentary Ellie Simmonds: A World Without Dwarfism.

'There's never really been a time in my life where I've thought "I want to be tall, I want to be different".  It's given me some of the most amazing things, like representing my country, going to the Paralympics, and the friendship, the people I meet along the way.'

She fell in love with swimming age five, and three years later, was racing to the same pace as her able-bodied peers, telling the Daily Mail in 2012: 'I just wanted to keep up with my friends, so I worked even harder.'

When she was just 11 years old, Ellie and her mother relocated to Swansea so she could train with coach Billy Pye in a 50m pool.  Meanwhile, Ellie's father Steve and her siblings remained in the family home in Warsall, and she would travel back and forth to visit on the weekends.  Ellie became fully dedicated to the sport after watching Nyree Lewis (now Kindred) from Wales win gold in the 100-metre backstroke at Athens 2004, and Ellie began to train three hours a day, six days a week.  Ellie's parents wore T-shirts adorned with her face as they watched Ellie break the World Records at the London 2012 Olympics.  After she made history, her father Steve who previously served as director for Ellie Simmonds LTD told Business Live: 'That was the most incredible thing I've ever seen her do.'

He added: 'There were seriously loud noises for all the British athletes. It was an unreal atmosphere. I think the encouragement from the crowd will have made a difference.'

Ellie's mother Val director of Ellie Simmonds LTD added: 'You want to give your children the best possible opportunity. It certainly rewards that. I was shaking all the way through the race. It was only in the last 20 metres we were confident she would win.'

Ellie has previously spoken about wanting to have children of her own with her partner Matt, who also has achondroplasia.  Asked previously if they would have to take their genetics into consideration with children, Ellie told The Daily Mail: 'Yes, and you don't know what you would get. You could have a child who is a dwarf, or a child of average height.  We could get a double dose. You just don't know. I would like to have children in the future, though, and what I do know is that I would love that child whatever, just as my parents loved me.  You don't know until you have a test, when that baby is growing inside you.'

Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family, ITV1, Thursday, July 6, 9pm.

What is Achondroplasia?

Achondroplasia is a form of short-limbed dwarfism. The word achondroplasia literally means 'without cartilage formation'. However, the problem is not in forming cartilage but in converting it to bone, particularly in the long bones of the arms and legs.  All people with achondroplasia have short stature. The average height of an adult male with achondroplasia is four feet, four inches, and the average height for adult females is four feet, one inch.  Characteristic features of achondroplasia include an average-size trunk, short arms and legs with particularly short upper arms and thighs, limited range of motion at the elbows, and an enlarged head with a prominent forehead.  Fingers are typically short and the ring finger and middle finger may diverge, giving the hand a three-pronged (trident) appearance.  Health problems commonly associated with achondroplasia include episodes in which breathing slows or stops for short periods (apnea), obesity, and recurrent ear infections.