Our family story includes in vitro fertilization (IVF), international adoption, domestic adoption, birth, death, and even a donor. On our journey we experienced joy, heartache, excitement and anticipation and we wouldn’t trade a minute of it, because those experiences made us who we are today and created one beautiful family, albeit, we’re a little bit biased.
Amy and Chris Skaggs met in the summer of 2001 and were married July 23, 2005. All we ever wanted to do was have a family. Unfortunately, our dream was not easily achieved. However, after many tests, fertility treatments, prayers, and even a failed domestic and stalled international adoption, we were blessed to finally be pregnant - and with twins! We knew with Amy's small size, that she would probably spend some time on hospital bedrest and once the twins were born we would probably end up in the NICU.
Up to about the 20th week of the pregnancy, it was pretty much text book. At that time, Amy was told that she needed to start taking it easy, and then on the 22nd week, she needed to start at-home bedrest. On April 22, 2011, the day we reached viability, or 24 weeks gestation, Amy let me know we needed to head to the hospital. After five full weeks on complete hospital bed rest, and a few false alarms, the twins decided they had enough and were ready to come into this world. Leighton Sophie Taylor and Jaxon Cohen were born on May 26, 2011. At only 28 weeks and six days gestation (just over 11 weeks early), both babies were just over two pounds. Jaxon weighed in at 2 pounds and 6 ounces and Leighton 2 pounds and 8 ounces; however, they were tiny little fighters who amazed us and the hospital staff, on so many levels. After one week they were both off of CPap, and after two weeks they were doing well enough to no longer need additional oxygen as well. We just knew we were on our way to taking home our healthy miracles!
Our world was rocked at 12:30am on June 16, 2011 with a phone call. Leighton had an unusually high fever for a preemie and it was quickly diagnosed as Late Onset Group B Strep (GBS). The infection took over her little body and she was in the arms of Jesus within 48 hours. Even though we lost Leighton, Jaxon was still in the NICU and we had to be strong for him and get him home. After Leighton’s passing, the doctors and nurses were watching Jaxon around the clock and had started broad-range antibiotics on him as a precaution. Throughout the next several weeks, he had some ups and down, but ultimately after a long 74 days in the NICU, we finally brought Jaxon home on August 8, 2011. We finally had our family; one baby on earth and one in heaven.
We knew we wanted Leighton to have a lasting legacy and for her life to have a purpose - after all, she was here, she was a person. Leighton's Gift started unofficially when we requested donations in lieu of flowers for the memorial service. At that time, we were unsure what kind of foundation we were going to set up, or what our project would be but we knew we wanted to help families that found themselves in the NICU.
Our “ah-ha” moment came one night when we had Jaxon home from the NICU. Amy had an uneasy feeling and needed to see Jaxon. She rolled over to her nightstand, and turned on the monitor to see Jaxon sleeping peacefully in his bassinet.
That was it – we questioned why we didn’t have this type of technology available to us while admitted to the NICU. It’s physically impossible to be at the NICU 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a parent. However, what if families had a way to “connect” to their child even when they physically couldn’t be present? Especially when you consider that companies use webcam technology daily to connect people and close deals.
The first project began in 2013 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, the only home Leighton ever knew. Leighton’s Gift set out to raise funds to install a NICU webcam at every bedside in the 45 bed NICU at Texas Health Plano. In January 2017 we successfully completed our initial project. Even though our first goal has been reached, we continue to raise funds to purchase web cameras for NICU beds at various hospitals enabling parents contact with their baby at any time.
It is our sincere hope and prayer that “Leighton’s Gift” helps families who are faced with the difficult situation of a child admitted to the NICU feel more connected and comfortable when they are not able to be there in person.
With the twins, we thought our family was complete, but with the loss of Leighton, we felt strongly that we wanted Jaxon to grow up with a sibling. Our "rainbow baby," Olivia Sophie, entered the world on November 25, 2013 and our lives have never been the same proving after storm there is a rainbow.
Throughout our story to build our family, we learned tremendous lessons in patience, humility, unconditional love, persistence, determination, advocacy, understanding and strength. Was our path to build our family conventional or easy?…not by any stretch of the imagination. Do we look at life a little bit different?…without a doubt. Are we a stronger family and couple because of everything we went through?…absolutely!