In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month, we are featuring a remarkable mom of four teenage daughters. Gayle embodies this quote as she shares her story on Beyond the Waiting Room of being blessed twice with daughters with Down syndrome.
Gayle and her husband, Skip, followed a defined path where they completed undergraduate and graduate school, later married and built their first home. They were fully committed members of a great church and had their first daughter, Stephanie. Life was just ideal!
Two years later, Gayle gave birth to their second daughter, Jessica. They found out in the delivery room that Jessica was born with Down syndrome. Gayle felt that her world stopped, and it was difficult to manage the intense emotions that she was experiencing. Trying to take it all in, having just given birth to new life and the immense joy that typically accompanies that moment, to intense emotions of grief. She could only surmise “this path is not for me… someone unplug me and get me out of this room.” She also had to manage the expectations of others as they told her “I cannot think of a better couple to have this child.” This did not settle well as she uttered to herself, “well, I can!” The hospital room, filled with flowers and sympathy cards from well-intentioned friends, was a point of frustration for her as she processed the birth of her girl with the extra chromosome.
A few months later, Gayle experienced an “AHA!’ moment. “I was chosen to raise and love this child. If I can’t love and embrace her fully for who she is, including the diagnosis, then who will? This child has her own God-given purpose in this world, and I was entrusted to raise her. This baby is not about me and my place in life. I was chosen to care for her, love her and raise her so she can live out HER purpose.” After coming to this realization, the extra chromosome became a gift to behold.
Gayle and Skip’s family continued to grow when fifteen months later they were blessed with another girl, Allison. This presented a unique gift for Jessica, as the two developed in parallel, and became great playmates.
Three girls within three years and life was good. Because of the deep love the couple had for the extra chromosome, they considered adopting another baby with Down syndrome. Around the same time, Gayle found out prenatally that she was having a second baby with an extra chromosome and she now felt “doubly chosen, as if hitting the lottery twice! But this time the birth was going to be celebrated!”
Gayle knew she was not alone with her feelings after the birth of Jessica. She planned, with her OBGYN, to invite friends, four moms of children with Down syndrome, into the delivery room. Therefore, the birth of her fourth girl, Cassidy, served as a replacement for these four moms as it was a do-over celebration of the extra chromosome. Gayle’s goal was to replace their tough memories with a festive birth! “All babies deserve a celebration when they enter the world, because every life has a purpose for their existence.”
Her family is enriched with Jessica and Cassidy. There are unique dynamics for her two neurotypical daughters, Stephanie and Allison. The beauty of who they are is closely linked to having two sisters with Down syndrome. Their responsiveness and care for their sisters is undeniable. They developed a remarkable ability to quickly assess character based on the reaction of others to their sisters. They insist on being an integral part of the long-term care for Jessica and Cassidy. “Our neurotypical siblings are the best teachers. All the girls have mutually benefitted from being sisters and they genuinely love each other and are good friends.”
“There are a percentage of babies born with Down syndrome and, yes, God chose us to care for them. As a family, we are so beyond elated for having an extra chromosome in our lives. If God were to call me on the phone and say he made an error and wanted to delete the extra chromosome from their DNA, I would tell God, ‘no thank you! We love them just as they are!!”