What is more irresistible than a newborn baby who looks so cuddly and adorable with an innocent smile? It is no wonder that first-time parents Jessica and Joshua Egan, from Salt Lake City, Utah, were utterly besotted the moment their baby girl, Gwendolyn, arrived into this world. But the Egans’ parenthood journey wasn’t easy from the start.
After a fairytale wedding in a castle in 2017, the couple sought fertility treatment in hope of starting a family soon. Needless to say, they were overjoyed when Jessica was pregnant after two rounds of IVF.
However, their happiness bubble burst when Jessica underwent a prenatal test on her 11th week of pregnancy. Gwendolyn was tested 97 percent positive for Down syndrome, a genetic disorder where an individual has an extra copy of chromosome 21 instead of two.
“My husband and I never once considered that the test could show anything out of the ordinary,” Jessica, who works as an account manager, told The Epoch Times in an email interview. They had taken the test to know the gender earlier.
It was devastating, and Jessica then spent the next three days crying at home. With six of her co-workers pregnant, some carrying twins, Jessica wondered how others would react to her news.
It didn’t help that while coming to terms with the news, the couple were given pamphlets with options to give up their baby for adoption, terminate the pregnancy, or to keep their child—they were also asked many times to provide a “final answer on termination.”
According to recent studies, it is estimated that 67 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in the United States.
“There was no encouraging dialogue about the beauty of having a child with a genetic variation, or about the gift of giving a child up for adoption,” Jessica said, though admitting that Joshua remembered the situation differently.
As they researched the disorder, they were shocked to learn that people with Down syndrome can attend college and also live independently. They eventually decided to keep Gwendolyn after they met a child with Down syndrome through the local Down syndrome foundation.
Raising a special-needs child means parents might have to worry about issues such as bullying and discrimination. But for Jessica, she feels confident that Gwendolyn will do well in life especially knowing that nowadays some normal kids could also be bullied.
Jessica shared that she and her husband have now come to terms with what is in store for Gwendolyn’s future—she might not attend college or get married—but regardless of the outcome, they are perfectly fine with it.
“Many people never marry, and never have kids of their own so Gwendolyn will certainly not be alone if that is how her life plays out,” the 39-year-old reasoned, adding that there are also kids who did not have a college education.
Four months have passed since Gwendolyn was born, and Jessica couldn’t be more pleased that her baby girl is “hitting all her milestones at the same time as other babies.”
Realizing that it wasn’t scary to raise a special-needs child, the couple now hopes their experience could help other couples in a similar situation, and also “change the dialogue surrounding a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and other chromosomal variations.”
“As a society we must challenge ourselves to celebrate the variety in life by reframing the way we perceive people with disabilities,” Jessica explained.
They understand, however, that some will still choose to abort a baby who has a chromosomal disorder, but Jessica emphasized that this does not mean a perfectly born child would then be able to escape from other issues like illnesses, bullying, etc.
“A child with an extra chromosome can and will bring more joy and love to your family than you could ever imagine,” she said. She added that having baby Gwendolyn had changed hers and Joshua’s outlook on life—she is no longer “close-minded” when it comes to being inclusive of the special-needs community.
With so much love from Jessica and Joshua, we are sure Gwendolyn will grow up into a special little girl who brings joy to all those around her.
Read Jessica’s candid “review” of how she felt upon learning that she was pregnant with Gwendolyn here: Fearful First-Time Mom Posts Viral ‘Review’ of Gorgeous Daughter with Down Syndrome