Susan Rodriquez remembers the day her doctor told her that she was pregnant—not with one baby, not with two babies, but with triplets! It was news highly welcomed after five years of trying for a baby with no success. The doctor followed up this revelation with, as he called it, “news I’m not sure how you will take.” Based on the heart condition spotted in the early ultrasound, it looked like one of the babies most certainly had Down syndrome.
“You can abort that one and still have the other two,” he told her. As Susan puts it, “I was only shocked by what he was recommending I do, not by the Down syndrome. We had tried so hard to get pregnant, and now God had blessed me with three babies. There was nothing on earth they could do to change our mind. I wanted her. And on December 26, 1998, I gave birth to three beautiful baby girls.”
Those girls are Amanda, Sabrina, and Jenna Rodriquez. As triplets, they share an incredible bond. We are so grateful that Amanda and Sabrina took time to share their thoughts and perspective on what it has been like not only to be a triplet but also to have a sister, Jenna, with Down syndrome. The girls are 19 years old.
Q: What’s it like being a triplet?
Amanda: Since I have no other siblings other than my two sisters, it has felt no different being a triplet. At birth, we were premature, as most multiples are. We were so tiny that we could fit in the palms of your hands perfectly. Up until we were about 10 years old, we shared a room, and it was completely our choice. We’ve always been so close as siblings. We have many similar interests, but we are all so different. I definitely believe that our bond as triplets is something very special, but I don’t think it’s that different from regular siblings.
Sabrina: Being a triplet feels just as normal as any other siblings out there. You fight, you make up, and you love each other no matter what. We share almost all of our belongings with each other (that’s also how most of our fights start!). But our bond is really strong, and we always have a good time when we’re together.
Q: What is it like having a sister with Down Syndrome?
Amanda: Having a sister with Down Syndrome can get tough sometimes, but I wouldn’t change her for the world. Jenna is the bubbliest person you will ever meet. She never fails to surprise you. Jenna does have a speech impediment that causes her to not clearly express what she wants to say. It gets a little difficult to communicate with her. Sometimes, she will get very embarrassed because no matter how many times she tries to get something across, the person will still not understand her. Growing up together, we have developed a way of understanding her. She may say some words that might make no sense to you, but for us it is very easy to pick up. It gets difficult, but it has gotten easier over the years.
Sabrina: Having a sister with Down Syndrome can be challenging, but in a good way. I have learned to be more patient because it does take Jenna longer to do things. It takes her some time going up the stairs because of her hip surgery. Her speech impediment gets in the way and sometimes it is hard to understand her. She will repeat what she is saying a few times and I would have to keep saying “what?” and guess a million things to figure out what she is saying. Soon she will get frustrated and tell me, “Never mind!” As her sister, I feel really bad because I am not able to communicate with her and understand what she is saying. But overall, she is the most lovable person in the world. She never fails to make you smile when you’re having the worst day ever.
Q: When did you first realize that your sister was different than you?
Amanda: I personally believe that there is nothing different about Jenna. I’ve seen her as Jenna; I don’t define her as her disability. Jenna goes through a few more obstacles than us, but overall she is no different. We push Jenna to do better and, to do so, we try to treat her as equally as possible. We give her the sense of independence so that she is confident in who she is.
Sabrina: Growing up, I never saw Jenna as being different; I saw her for who she is. My friends were very accepting of her, which I appreciated. Personally, the only thing I saw different about her were her scars from her open-heart surgery. I remember asking my mom “Why does Jenna have two belly buttons?”
Q: What do you love most about Jenna?
Amanda: She is hilarious and extremely bubbly. She never fails to make you laugh. Although, with certain things she has the mindset of a little kid. She is also very much like us. She enjoys getting her nails done and going shopping. She loves her phone and iPad, just like the average teenager. When we were in high school, she was our number-one supporter in color guard, and you could hear her from a mile away! She is an overall incredible person, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
Sabrina: Jenna truly has the biggest heart. I can truly say that she was my number one fan in everything I have done in high school. I was in choir, and she loved watching me sing on stage. I used to practice my songs at home, and she would always sing along with me. Sometimes I would catch her looking up those songs on her iPad and singing along. When I was in color guard in high school, she would try and do our routines. She is a very fast learner when it comes to dancing, and she would love it when I used to teach her different color guard moves.
Q: How has GiGi’s impacted your family? Your sister? What programs does she enjoy?
Amanda: GiGi’s has been an incredible milestone for us. It has allowed Jenna to be able to go out and do things with people just like her. And not only her, but our family meeting other families that have gone or going through the same obstacles and achievements we have. Jenna enjoys GiGi’s, she feels comfortable there, and she has learned many new things from the tutoring sessions along with the fun activities on the weekends.
Sabrina: GiGi’s makes our family feel very welcome and special. They have many activities that allows Jenna to be exposed to new things. Jenna loves GiGi’s and looks forwards to going each week. The tutoring sessions have really helped her, and she really likes it a lot. Jenna gets very excited to see all the staff members and her friends each time she goes to GiGi’s.