When Kecia Cox gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome, her world was turned upside down. But Kecia learned to love not just this child but also another with the condition whom she later adopted. And there was yet another twist to come. You see, the Utah native then found out that she was to be a mom again – this time, to twins.
Most mothers-to-be may worry whether their children will be born healthy. And although scans can give reassurances that everything is alright, waiting to find out for sure if all is well with the little life inside you can be a very stressful experience. For some moms, then, they can only finally relax when they hold their babies in their arms and see that all is okay.
However, according to the website Parents.com, any kind of birth defect is rare, since they occur in just 4 percent of babies. And even if a scan does pick up something, often further tests and examinations find that the complication isn’t serious. On the other hand, though, both a woman’s family history and age may up the risk of birth defects in their child.
The babies of older mothers are more likely to be affected by Down syndrome and other genetic conditions, for example. The optimum age to have a child is between 20 and 35, according to a 2009 statement by the British Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RGOC). Women older than this may have a higher chance of encountering extra complications that can make pregnancies high-risk ones, the RGOC has warned.
Indeed, a woman in her 20s has only a tiny chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome. It’s below 0.1 percent, in fact, but this possibility increases significantly as a woman ages. Data from the National Down Syndrome Society indicates that upon reaching 40, this risk rises to 1 percent; by the age of 49, meanwhile, the odds are as high as one in ten.
And Down syndrome doesn’t usually run in families, instead occurring randomly at conception. Those children and adults affected have an extra chromosome 21 – either in part or in whole. And as Kecia and her husband Kris Cox, from Murray, Utah, were already parents to two healthy girls, the idea of them having a special-needs baby may originally have been far from their minds.
However, it remains unclear why particular babies develop Down syndrome, according to Parents.com. As a result, it’s hard to know why certain women may be affected. And as Kecia was only 27 when she became pregnant with her third child, the chances of the baby having the condition would have been very small.
What’s more, Kecia later said on the website Love What Matters that the only hint that her child Bree had any health complications came when the baby wasn’t handed over for cuddles following the delivery. “When my third daughter, Bree, was born via C-section, I only got to see her cute round face briefly before they whisked her away,” she explained.
And the world seemingly stood still for Kecia after the Down syndrome diagnosis was delivered. Following the pain of labor, this wasn’t what she’d been expecting. Looking back, Kecia has referred to this moment as “that blizzardy winter day when Bree was born, and our world as we knew it came crashing down.”
Medical complications also meant that Kecia wasn’t able to be with Bree on the first day of her new baby’s life, which the mom found deeply distressing. Eventually, though, she was able to bond with her newborn in a beautiful way and also to open her heart to another little girl with Down syndrome. Bree’s birth marked the start, then, of a new path of love and acceptance.
In fact, Kecia quickly bonded with tiny Bree after the baby had clasped her hand, with the mom soon becoming aware that the child was in fact a gift. “I knew from the very beginning that Bree was going to change my life,” Kecia explained on Love What Matters. “Those almond-shaped eyes and that tiny little nose were like gateways to heaven.”
And when Kecia fell for her new daughter, it sparked a fresh beginning for the family as a whole. Kecia’s impulse to protect and love a vulnerable child would resurface a few years later, too, when she saw an image of another little girl with Downs who was all alone in the world…
However, a few things were to happen to the family before Kecia first encountered this little girl. For instance, a couple of years after Bree’s birth, the family decided to try for baby number four. But Kecia was to discover what many women have found: unfortunately, quite a lot of things can go wrong when you try for a baby, and even if you become pregnant you may not stay pregnant.
You see, although Kecia conceived again, holding onto a baby proved to be a problem. First of all, she had an ectopic pregnancy. This involves a fertilized egg growing outside its proper place in the womb – such as in a fallopian tube. In this instance, the pregnancy has to be terminated, since the growing fetus cannot be moved to the womb.
And while Kecia did conceive another baby after her tragic loss, this further pregnancy ended in a miscarriage after 16 weeks. Miscarriages are relatively commonplace before the 12-week milestone is reached. Beyond that point, as in Kecia’s case, they are called late miscarriages and are uncommon.
Understandably, Kecia suffered a great deal when having to deal with her unsuccessful pregnancies. “I was heartbroken and felt very lost and alone,” she admitted on Love What Matters. Even so, the mom felt a “desperate” need to become pregnant again.
Then, when Kecia saw a picture of a little girl who’d been left abandoned in an orphanage because she had Down syndrome, she felt compelled to reach out to her. She also compared her daughter Bree’s life to the one this girl would face. And despite the two children being just a month apart in age, their circumstances were very different: this little girl seemingly had no-one to love her or guide her in life, for example.
Kecia had come across the four-year-old’s photo early in 2011 on a site called Reece’s Rainbow. The organization arranges adoptions for overseas children in orphanages. And all this girl apparently had to call her own was just a name: Kareen.
Despite not knowing much about Kareen, though, Kecia had felt a connection with her at first sight. “I just looked into her eyes. And her eyes were lost, and I just knew we were supposed to go get her,” the mom told the Deseret News in May 2012. However, Kecia and her husband then attempted to dissuade themselves from adopting Kareen. They already had a child with Downs, after all, and so thought that adding Kareen to their clan may mean taking on too much.
Kecia found that she simply wasn’t able to get Kareen out of her mind, however. Furthermore, she felt sure that her and Kris’ first-hand experience of a child with Downs meant that they could provide a loving home where the four-year-old could be happy. In the end, then, the family prayed for guidance on the matter, with Kris later telling the Deseret News that he believes the decision to adopt Kareen came to them like a “revelation.”
There were still a few hurdles to overcome, though: lots of red tape to get through as well as fees to be paid. To help themselves meet the costs, then, the family began running little stalls selling lemonade. And they also received donations from family and friends towards this very special mission to rescue the little girl from a grim fate.
In the Ukrainian orphanage where Kareen lived, children with Down syndrome outgrow the infant section when they reach five years of age. They’re then moved to adult establishments. And as Kareen was just a few months from turning five, the Coxes feared that she faced a very bleak future, as such patients are then “warehoused” – often spending their time just lying around in their quarters.
Then, almost half a year after having made their decision to rescue Kareen, the Coxes ventured to the orphanage. Their worries weren’t over yet, though. After all, the couple knew very little about the child who they hoped would ultimately join their family. What if she just didn’t like them? But upon meeting the little girl, Kecia and Kris’ fears melted away, and they knew that things were going to be okay. Kareen proved to be just the daughter they’d dreamed of.
“[Kareen] was exactly who we thought she’d be and who we hoped to meet,” Kecia told the Deseret News. The couple also decided to give the young girl a new name that they felt was more fitting: Mia, which translates as “my.” This was a way of giving Mia a fresh start and letting her know that she was part of a new family, Kecia explained.
And in a video she uploaded to YouTube in December 2017, Kecia recalled the day she fetched Mia. “One of the hardest things we did was walking out of the orphanage and knowing that there were rooms full of children who, when we walked in, would say ‘momma’ and ‘papa,’ and they weren’t able to come home with us,” she explains.
During the clip, her husband Kris reiterates how hard it was to leave the other children behind, saying, “Just thinking back to those kids. We could bring 20 of them back and give them a better life than they have… I’ve seen the saying online, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready to be the parent of an adopted child.’ But then I quickly realized, ‘What child is ready to be an orphan?’”
The experience at the orphanage left an indelible mark, in fact, and the Coxes would think about those little faces many times again in the future. However, Kecia was forced to focus her mind on something else when she got back from the Ukraine. Yes, she realized the nausea that she was experiencing meant she had become pregnant again.
And Kecia was amazed to find that she was having not one baby but two. She later recalled her shock in the Love What Matters article. “I mean, here I was with basically twin girls with Down syndrome – one of whom had only been home a month and still couldn’t speak English and was trying to navigate what having a family meant. And now I was having twins!” the mom explained.
However, once again pregnancy was to prove problematic for Kecia. While still coming to terms with the news, she had to consider that these babies also may not make it. The fetuses had a condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which means that one was getting more nutrients than the other.
By the 20-week scan, the situation had escalated, and both babies needed surgical intervention to survive. And as a consequence, Kecia had to go to California to undergo a potentially dangerous operation that would hopefully solve the problem. “I have never felt so scared and alone as I did laying on that operating table in a strange hospital in another state,” she recalled in her Love What Matters article.
Kecia’s ordeal was made worse by the fact that Kris wasn’t allowed to accompany her during the surgery. She was conscious throughout the operation, too, and so spent her time worrying about the outcome. Then, when it was all over, the surgeon told her, “Congratulations, you are now cured of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome… Now, we wait and see if the babies survived.”
After that, there followed a daunting 24-hour period in which it would be determined whether the babies had pulled through. Fortunately, Kecia’s husband was now by her side as they waited for a scan to reveal if all was okay. And in a moment she would later dub a “miracle,” Kecia would eventually receive the proof she needed. There were two heartbeats on the screen, meaning the procedure had saved her babies’ lives.
Kecia then had to be consigned to her bed for five months as the pregnancy was still deemed high risk. Everything went well, though, and her new baby daughters Claire and Livvy arrived safely at 37 weeks. So, now the couple had six girls – but their story had yet another chapter left to go…
In her YouTube video, titled “A Family for Christmas,” Kecia explains that she hadn’t planned on adopting again after having brought Mia home. However, she then laid eyes on a picture of a baby boy who’d been abandoned because he had Down syndrome. And, once again, the child stirred up something inside her that she couldn’t ignore. “He looks like he could be mine,” she says in the clip.
Fighting back tears, Kecia adds that baby Noah seemed to fit in with her family, since he looked like her daughters had done as babies. The Coxes decided, then, that he was going to be their only son – with six big sisters. “We have a home, we have a family, and this little boy doesn’t. Regardless of how hard [adoption] is and what it might change about our family, he needs it,” Kecia states in the video.
On her blog, Kecia also wrote in 2017, “I have had so many emotions… but the greatest is gratitude. Gratitude that [Noah’s] birth mother chose to give him life, that she chose to carry him and bring him into this world. Gratitude that I was somehow blessed to be the mother that would find him and give him a family, because every step of this little boy’s life has changed mine.”
The Coxes are now a family of seven, and their story appears to have made a lasting impression on some. For example, Lesley Dooley commented on the YouTube video, “Oh my God, I’m sobbing here watching this. It’s just incredible what you guys have done. I think my heart is going to burst… every child deserves to be part of a family and to be safe and loved.”
Meanwhile, while writing to the family’s Instagram account, lovemakesmiracles, Kecia has explained how Christmas leaves her feeling emotional. In November 2018 she said, “For some reason, this time of year always makes my heart ache for the children left behind. The emotions and feelings of the orphanage always come flooding back in full force around the holidays. And I wish I could scoop [the children] all up like I did Noah.”
On Instagram, Kecia also expressed her sadness that there are so many people who need help all over the world – a problem that is of course too big for her to solve on her own. However, looking at what she’s been able to do has given her happiness. “I’m beyond humbled I could make a difference for this one [Noah]. And the way that tiny hand is clutching tight to my finger the first day we met him,” she added.
Then Kecia concluded that the gift of love is all that kids need. “All I really want for Christmas is a family. All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in,” she wrote, putting herself in an orphaned child’s shoes. “A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win. There’s so much I could ask for, but there’s just one thing I need. All I really want for Christmas is a family.”