All Are Welcome at GiGi’s Playhouse

Rachel Geer is a longtime Nugget supporter, mom of two, and founding member of GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh, our Cover Club Volume 7 partner. Her son, Kendall, has modeled for Nugget through the years and grown up with our team here in NC. We are honored to share their story here today with this guest blog, written by Rachel and shared with love by Team GG. Kendall sitting on a floating Peachtree Nugget with a cloud backgroundLife can change in the blink of an eye. A single moment in time can alter the entire future we have envisioned in our mind. For me, that moment occurred on December 9, 2014. A routine prenatal screening showed a 98% chance that my unborn child would have an extra copy of the 21st chromosome – he would be born with Down syndrome. That one appointment, that one sentence would change my entire existence and challenge everything I thought I knew about myself. I would have to sit in my fears and hesitation about the unknown. I would have to dig down deep and resurface with a resilience that I never knew existed within me. I would have to find my new community, gain support and learn to advocate.Kendall at Gigi's Playhouse Raleigh, grinning at cameraFortunately for me, that community support would be right at my fingertips. I found an organization with a network that spans the globe, and they were planning to bring a facility to my local area. I immersed myself in this organization and worked with a team of outstanding leaders to bring the organization to our community. GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh opened in June of 2016, one week after we celebrated my son's first birthday, and I haven’t looked back since. GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh delivers its mission by providing free educational, therapeutic-based and career development programs for individuals with Down syndrome and their families. GiGi’s provided my family with a place to feel welcomed by those who understand what it is like to raise a child with a life altering diagnosis, and the opportunity to meet families just like ours. Through purposeful programming, GiGi’s has also given my son the ability to gain confidence and improve skills in multiple areas of development – and helped me become the mom that I was meant to be.Kendall lounges on a Koala Nugget in a decorated, Montessori-inspired playroomI have often allowed myself to drift back in time to that hospital room on that rainy December day. I wish I could go back and wipe my tears, ease the fears and tell myself that everything would turn out just fine. And given the chance, I would share this letter to my former self:

Dear Rachel,

CONGRATULATIONS! You have been blessed to become the proud mother of a beautiful little boy with Down syndrome. He is going to look just like your first born and have the extraordinary personality of your husband. He will bring so much happiness to your life and make you smile more than you ever thought was possible.

I know you are scared. I know you are sad. I know you are angry. And, I know you are wondering, “Why me?” Rest assured that your feelings are valid. They are normal and they are expected. I’m not sure that you will ever have the answer to the “why me” question, but I can guarantee that you will soon be very thankful. You will experience many more days of “thank you for choosing me” instead.You will be forced to stretch and grow as a mother, a wife and a friend. Your relationships with your family and friends will become more authentic and have a deeper meaning. You will make more friends than you could even imagine. You will meet plenty of families just like yours and the support that you will feel from your relationships will empower you to be the best mom, wife and friend that you could be.

You will work hard to put together a team of providers, educators and therapists that truly love your son. You will learn to trust others and accept help to maintain your work-life balance, including your full-time job, your volunteer obligations, your family life and a social life. Your life will change but it will become what you make it and you are going to make it great.

Your husband will love this child with all his heart. You will melt into a pile of mush all over again when you see the way he looks at his new son. He will help you with diapers and feedings, just as he’s done before, and he will learn to be an advocate for your whole family.

Your first-born child will transform right before your eyes, as he learns what Down syndrome means, and he will start to become the person you’ve always hoped he would be: strong, sensitive and always willing to lend a hand. He will be protective of his little brother and proud of every milestone he achieves. He will teach his peers about being kind and respectful, no matter a person’s abilities. He will truly enjoy playing with his brother and lead him by example.

Yes, your life is about to be very different from the picture you painted in your head, however, you are going to learn how strong you really are. You are going to use your positivity and strength to help countless other new mothers get through their diagnosis. You will be a part of starting an amazing non-profit in your area, specifically for individuals with Down syndrome. You will speak to new parents contemplating termination to help them make informed decisions about their future. The impact your son will have on others will be profound.

Rachel, you and your child are going to change the world.

Although you are scared, angry and sad right now, these feelings will be short lived. You will get through this and you will soon find that you have been chosen to be a part of The Lucky Few. Trust me when I tell you, you are the fortunate one.

With never ending love and support,
RachelKendall lounges on his stomach on a Nugget, gazing off the camera with a slight grin on his face