Celebrating A Year of Friendship

Born on the Same Day, at the same hospital, Luke and Jace, celebrate their 1st Birthdays!
It was a year ago yesterday that both Luke and Jace entered this world, but neither knew of the other until social media brought their families together. Read how these two boys (and their moms) have grown into lifelong friends in the past year and the way one family is thanking GiGi’s Playhouse for its role in their development. Plus, the search for the third child was born on the same day at the same hospital.

Imagine being in labor for the better part of a day but being in total denial since the due date for your baby is still three weeks away. “I didn’t want to believe it,” says Margo, but with the persuasion of family members, she went to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. 15 minutes later, and without an epidural, Luke was born… along with another surprise. “I didn’t know ahead of time that he had Down syndrome.” Her doctor was even shocked and went back to look at the ultrasound, but still did not see any indicators.

Shortly after entering the world, Luke was taken to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Margo admits it was easier for her to come to terms with the diagnosis than for her husband. With an inclination to plan, her husband ordered what seemed like every book from Amazon about Down syndrome and read through them during the two, long weeks Luke was in the hospital.

Little did Luke’s family, or the hospital staff, know, another family would go through a very similar experience just two hours later in the very same building. Enter Jace.

Jace and Mom

“Just having a fourth child was a surprise enough,” says Jace’s mom, Jennifer. After a blood test, Jennifer’s doctor told her there was a chance the child would have Down syndrome. In some ways, Jennifer was prepared for Jace to have Down syndrome, but that didn’t take away from the roller coaster of emotions that many parents experience.

“There was definitely a period of grieving the child you think you’re going to have,” says Jennifer, “But we have such great support, there are a few friends we have who have kids with Down syndrome, and knowing them, we were like why are we freaking out, this isn’t that bad.”

Luke and David

Due to HIPAA restrictions and Luke being moved to the NICU, the moms didn’t know of one another while at the hospital. They connected for the first time in a GiGi’s Facebook group for moms who have a child with Down syndrome.

First into the group was Margo. A nurse told her there were two other babies out there with the same special birthday as Luke’s. Margo diligently checked the social media group to see if any new moms had joined. Her persistence paid off because, eventually, Jennifer posted about her son Jace, born on the same day, at the same hospital, also diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Jace & Luke

At just a few months old, Luke and Jace met in person for the first time. Shortly after that, Margo and Jennifer, with kids in tow, stepped into GiGi’s Playhouse for a Language, Music, N’ Our Peeps (LMNOP) class. Margo admits she was wrong in thinking there wouldn’t be a program for Luke to participate in at such a young age. Fast forward in time and the moms and their sons are regulars at LMNOP in Hoffman Estates.

Not only do the 56 Playhouses across the country offer free programs, but the Playhouses also provide a space for parents and caregivers to gather with one another.  “You have a community then, you don’t feel alone in it,” says Margo.

That feeling is reciprocated by Jennifer. “Margo is my check person for all things Down syndrome. She’ll say, ‘Did you know at six weeks we’re supposed to check for this?”
So, while the boys grow and become more aware of the world around them, their moms continue to grow together as parents, navigating caring for a child with Down syndrome.

“I just wanted to bawl my eyes out because there is nothing else like this,” says Jennifer, “If anybody is having a bad day, they need to come to GiGi’s and be surrounded by love.”

The love for the two boys is shared by the Hoffman Estates Playhouse staff. They held a special Birthday celebration this week during Tuesday’s session, complete with singing Happy Birthday and treats for the Playhouse.

Margo, Luke and Julie

Neither family will miss the opportunity to celebrate this monumental milestone at home. Luke’s family hosted a party for him last weekend with 100 family members and friends. In recognition of the programs and all that GiGi’s has to offer, Margo set up a way for family and friends to donate to GiGi’s Playhouse in lieu of gifts. “He’s my third kid, we don’t need a hundred toys. So, we made it more of a fundraiser-type birthday party.”

And Jace, the stylish little guy that he is, is giving out mismatched socks to family and friends to help raise awareness of Down syndrome. In case you didn’t know, chromosomes under a microscope look like socks, and people with Down syndrome have an extra “sock”… if you do laundry you know that often means mismatched pairs.

Over the last year, Margo and Jennifer have been checking their Facebook group and asking around to see if they can find the third baby who was born that day. If you know someone with a baby with Down syndrome who turned 1-year-old on September 28th, please send us your information at info@gigisplayhouse.org.

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