MAIMIE McCOY on how her daughter Agnes enriched her life (2023)

Table of Contents
RELATED POSTS Share this article

Actress Maimie McCoy thrived throughout most of her pregnancy. It was her first baby, she felt strong and fit, her scans were normal, but at 30 weeks her small bump was having a growth spurt. That was the signal that sounded the alarm.

"My midwife thought it was diabetes, I thought it was the Ben & Jerry's I was messing around with," says Maimie, 43. In fact, it was a buildup of fluid. Scans, tests and measurements followed. They quickly told us, "We think your baby has stopped growing," she says. "You don't know what to think at this moment. Then they mentioned this big word that didn't mean anything and it took us a long time to grapple with it.'

That word was achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism, affecting one in 25,000 people in the UK. It occurs when cartilage in the bones of the arms and legs doesn't grow properly, resulting in shorter limbs - Olympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds andGame of ThronesActor Peter Dinklage both have the condition. While 20 percent of those affected inherit it from one parent, the remaining 80 percent are born to parents of average height. For them it is a spontaneous genetic mutation. This happened to Agnes.

A familiar face from TV dramas like Grantchester, Van der Valk and All Creatures Great and Small, Maimie has come a long way since those dark days of diagnosis.

A familiar face from TV dramas like Grantchester, Van der Valk and All Creatures Great and Small, Maimie has come a long way since those dark days of diagnosis. Back then, she didn't google, research, or contact other parents in a similar place. "You're in massive shock, like you're in free fall," she says. “As a parent, you realize that you are embarking on a painful journey. You mourn the child you thought you were going to have. I kept thinking, 'She's not going to be able to do this or that. I'm a dancer, but she won't be able to dance. Your brain goes into a negative state, as if something has been stolen from you.

At the time, Maimie was married to Agnes' father, although they have since divorced. "I can't speak for him, but it was a different experience for both of us," he says. "Parenting is different for men and women anyway, I was the one who carried it. Along with all the pain and shock, I also felt this immense sense of power. I had to keep my composure for her.

Along with the pain and shock, I also felt this immense sense of power.

The birth wasn't what Maimie had wanted, a natural birth with "all the pain" as her baby's excess fluid and proportions made an elective caesarean the safest option.

Luckily, says Maimie, Agnes soon proved healthy and robust; he still has a rock solid constitution. However, Mamie remembers her first two years as a mother as a difficult time. “There was late trauma, an easy breakup. It seemed unfair to me, I don't usually think like that, and I had moments to ask, 'why is this happening to us?'

"I went to mother-child groups, although I found it difficult at times, very emotional and lonely. I had to put my blinders on and avoid "milestones". She didn't know when Agnes would crawl, when she would sit. I took her to France on the Eurostar when she was 11 months old and she needed a car seat because she couldn't sit up. Most babies can do this at this age.


  • Anterior
  • 1
  • Next
  • Serena Williams' reckless road to sports stardom: How... Woman, 37, reveals how she found out her father was a secret...

Share this article


Fast forward to now, with Agnes now seven years old, and those milestones are a long way from them. "All these thoughts I had about things she would never do are now the things Agnes does," says Maimie proudly. “Your body is your greatest instrument. She is very active and athletic, she jumps everywhere. I saw her tap dance in her class last night and because her center of gravity is low her balance is exceptional. She is a natural dancer.

She's also a great personality. 'Agnes is very sociable, daring and curious. They look at her a lot, so now she's doing a show. I think she's thinking, 'If you look at me, I might as well give you something.' It's a wonderful thing, although the shy girl in me finds it difficult.

Maimie lives in north London with Agnes and shares her care with her ex-husband. For now, he says, the main problems posed by achondroplasia are practical. Agnes is the size of a two and a half year old so she needs steps to reach things or the right chair at school, a ground floor classroom so she doesn't have to climb stairs. However, Maimie knows other challenges await.

"When Agnes was very young, we used simple language to talk about how her bones were special and grew differently than other people's," says Maimie. Since then we've had all sorts of conversations. Sometimes it's hard and she says, 'I don't want to be like that' and 'when will I be as tall as my friends?' By the time the schools came back after the closure, a lot of the kids had shot themselves and it was a shock to her.

Last summer the couple traveled to Amsterdam for Maimie to work on the second season of the ITV drama Van der Valk, a remake of the 1970 crime hit. One night after filming, Agnes was very upset. She said to her mother, "My best friend won't want to marry me when I grow up because I won't be big enough then. You won't like me the way I am.

"When you hear that, you feel like you've been hit by a bus," says Maimie, "but in a split second you have to recover. So I told him if someone doesn't like you or love you the way you are, then they aren't worth having you and they don't deserve you."

Maimie with Marc Warren in Van der Valk. Being a mother to Agnes has taught Maimie a lot, she says.

When Maimie returned from filming that same summer, Agnes out of the blue announced that she wanted to meet someone like her. Luckily, Maimie already had someone in mind. "Some people I've shot with have told me about a really accomplished actress called Tessa Jonge Poerink who's a big deal in the Netherlands. They arranged for us a day to hang out. Agnes watched Tessa's limbs, taking it all in, asking questions. We were at the park so she asked, "Can you climb that?", "Can you do that?" He was curious about Tessa's bike, he wanted to know if she could ride it too. So she would ask anything. 'Do you know this song?', 'Do you have a boyfriend?' Children ask questions, share and speak very well. We lose it as adults because we're afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Being a mother to Agnes has taught Maimie a lot, she says. "One of the best gifts I have from Agnes is that she urges me to be braver, braver. I'm incredibly shy, but I have an outgoing son who everyone stares at. It forces me to be on top.

"It also relaxes me in how I feel about myself, my face and my body," she continues. “Aging is coming, older actors are disappearing from screens. If you have a daughter who looks different, you don't want to obsess over your looks or botox. You need to emphasize the importance of being yourself. We can be proud of our looks and style, but it's not our best. It was a wonderful gift.

Agnes has become a dear companion. "The time with her is pleasant. We dance a lot together. We cook too. She's also very loving and wise," says Maimie. I caught my thumb in the car door a few weeks ago. I almost passed out and went into shock and when we got home Agnes said, 'Mom, you've been looking after me all my life. I'll take care of you now I know what to do. Mom I got this!

It's an image that couldn't be more different than what Maimie saw when she was heavily pregnant, but she doesn't feel guilty about her initial reaction and urges other parents going through a similar phase to feel the same way.

"You have to allow yourself to have bad thoughts and not be ashamed of all the things you can't say but feel. It's part of the journey. But to look at her now," he continues, "if I knew that was going to happen... Agnes is an absolute delight."

Van der Valk continues on ITV tonight at 8pm

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rubie Ullrich

Last Updated: 01/23/2023

Views: 5953

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rubie Ullrich

Birthday: 1998-02-02

Address: 743 Stoltenberg Center, Genovevaville, NJ 59925-3119

Phone: +2202978377583

Job: Administration Engineer

Hobby: Surfing, Sailing, Listening to music, Web surfing, Kitesurfing, Geocaching, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Rubie Ullrich, I am a enthusiastic, perfect, tender, vivacious, talented, famous, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.