Tessa was born on August 27, 2014. She was 5lbs 5oz; so perfect, so beautiful. Hours after birth, she started having difficulty keeping her oxygen and the medical staff at St. Johns Hospital in Jackson, Wyoming started taking pictures of her heart and kidneys- all major organs.
The doctors had noted a skin tag on her ear and an extra digit on her right hand and other internal abnormalities. They sent these scans to Primary's and evidence started stacking up that something more was happening with her; something genetic. Twenty-four hours after her birth, we were on a fixed-wing flight to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.
After 5 days of NICU living, something we were very familiar with (our first child was born at 29 weeks), we were told that Tessa had very strong indicators of having Trisomy 18. Blood tests confirmed those indicators. We were met with a bleak understanding of what this meant for our family and what this meant for our sweet daughter- knowing that 90% of children diagnosed with Trisomy 18 don't see their first birthday. After 2 weeks in the NICU, we were sent home on Hospice...preparing for the worst and hoping for the best- we learned to dance between bouts of grief and joy.
Since the day we left the hospital, we made a promise to God and to Tessa that we, as parents, would give her every opportunity to experience the joys of life and to touch as many lives as possible during her time here with us. She continues to be a light for the world and we even though she lives as an angel now, we will continue to offer as many opportunities as possible for others to experience quality of life in Tessa's honor (Tessa's Triumph Mobility Fund).
Despite the odds, Tessa blessed us with 3 1/2 years of joy and personal growth. Despite her 3 to 6 month life expectancy, Tessa lived life surrounded by angels who gave her their best every day. Tessa loved to read and participated in read-a-thons at the local library; she loved to swim and did so at the hot springs and local pools; she loved music of all kinds.
At home, she loved rockin’ in her chair and bouncing on the floor with her piano. She eventually learned to “pretend” she was tired around 8pm so she could get to her crib and bounce for hours before falling asleep after 10pm. She was usually the last one to fall asleep in the house!
We will never forget the way she smiled and was giddy when her brother would drop to the floor and play with her. She loved her dad as he was one of the few to roughhouse with her; whether he was hanging her upside down or rolling her across the floor…she was all smiles and giggles. He never treated her like a glass that could be broken.
Tessa loved when her mom would dance with her around the house. We were not just mother-daughter, we were best friends. We spent many hours together, whether it was in the car traveling to and from my work, at home cooking or tending the house, or at church in the nursery. Tessa enjoyed the presence of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends whether they were babysitting her or at parties and family gatherings.
Tessa was never left behind in the family shenanigans and experienced life to the fullest. She went everywhere with her family; rafting down the Hoback, swimming at Granite Hot Springs, family vacation to Minnesota, camping, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, Cutter races, spending time at Togwotee and cross country skiing.
We will never forget how Tessa’s smile persuaded the carnies at the Teton County Fair to let her ride the Ferris Wheel. They were instantly smitten and let us ride several times for only a couple of tickets. How she loved that ride!
Tessa cheered her family on; whether it was her brother bowling, wrestling, or mutton bustin’; her dad ropin at the rodeo; or her mom dragging her around to different events. Tessa had no fear and loved to be swung upside down by her ankles. She was relentless and a fighter and she proved these qualities by beating so many tough illnesses and never showing pain despite persistent ear infections.
Tessa was always drenched in the love of her family and those that took care of her during her time here, but it is pretty obvious that she impacted and blessed us far more than we could have ever blessed her. She lit up a room with her smile; her eyes so deep and always chasing angels. Tessa didn’t play by the rules and defied all the odds she was given. Her life was not defined by Trisomy 18, in fact Tessa showed us glory in the midst of brokenness. She was the key to opening the door where God could wrap our family in the cross. Through various trials and illnesses, good times, and other situations, she constantly displayed grace, God’s mercy, outlandish strength, enduring love and persistent faith. She never wavered and was faithful to the end.