Jessica Egan watched on as her colleagues shared their pregnancy news. Six, one after the other; three sets of twins between them. Yet when it came time for the corporate relations executive to share her own, she hesitated.
After difficulties conceiving and a failed round of IVF, the Utah woman and her husband had been thrilled to learn they were pregnant. But at 11 weeks blood test revealed that the little girl growing inside her was positive for Tristomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome, a genetic condition caused by the production of an additional chromosome in a person’s cells.
“In that moment I felt extreme devastation,” Jessica told Mamamia.
“All I could think when I received the diagnosis was that my baby wouldn’t be as accepted and celebrated as everyone else’s had been. From three sets of twins to Down syndrome?… I spent the next three days at home in tears, afraid to tell anyone the news.”
But over the following weeks and months, something changed. Jessica and her husband reached out to our local Down syndrome foundation and started educating themselves about the diagnosis – one that roughly every 700-900 babies born worldwide receive each year. As Down Syndrome Australia notes, locally the number is closer to one in 1,100 babies, the majority of which go on “to lead quite ordinary lives in the community”.
“We began to realise that Down syndrome was nothing to fear,” Jessica said, “and when our baby [Gwendolyn] was born we were overwhelmed with love for her.”
Jessica has managed to pass on that lesson to thousands of people via social media. In a now viral post shared to Facebook to mark Gwendolyn turning two months old, the new mother wrote a gorgeous ‘review’ of being a parent to a child with Down syndrome.
“When I placed my order I said, ‘Regular amount of chromosomes, please!’ That’s what everyone else got and what I wanted, too. They called me shortly after my order was in production and said ‘Great news, we went ahead and upgraded you to extra chromosomes for free! You’ll receive the extra chromosomes with your completed order in nine months.’
What?! I was mad! All the other orders I had seen displayed via perfect Instagram posts did NOT have extra chromosomes. Well I decided that receiving my order with extra chromosomes was better than not receiving an order at all, so I settled in to wait for this surprise upgrade to arrive. I have now had my order for two months and am writing this review to let others know the upgrade to extra chromosomes is amazing!! If offered, definitely take it! I posted some photos below of the finished product and you can see the extra chromosome is so worth it – it is extra cute, extra special, and extra-ordinary! So much extra joy. Would purchase again for sure.”
Jessica said the post was just meant for her friends and family, but something about it resonated. It’s earned more than 330,000 reactions, more than 28,000 comments, many praising her for her honesty and openness.
“The feedback has been so full of positivity, love, and acceptance that it is overwhelming. I have heard from multiple people who also recently have had a baby with Down Syndrome but are still coming to terms with it and have been in a very dark place. Hearing that my post touched them so completely and helped heal them is humbling, and truly something I will honour for the rest of my life,” she said.
“I hope people find comfort from my post, but I also hope that people who have no experience with Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities will have their minds and hearts opened. To realise that it’s okay for people to be different, and that it’s okay to cherish life even if it doesn’t fit in the typical boxes we have created – that’s all I could ever ask for.”
Jessica hopes that this acceptance of Gwendolyn, the love that is being shown to her now, is something she’ll have throughout her life.
“I had a dream when I was pregnant that our little girl was grown up and she was working in a trendy decor store and was also a talented chef,” she said. “My hope is that there will be no limit to what she can become.”