CORSICANA, TX — Parenthood creates joys, challenges and changes in a couple’s life, but for some parents the joys, challenges and changes are played out in multiples of two. Jeremy and Belinda Tipton, graduates in the class of 1993 from Corsicana High School, had planned to fulfill Belinda’s lifelong dream of having a large family. Their prayers, hopes and wishes were fulfilled when their first set of twins, Mason and Steely arrived. But wait, there’s a twist. As the late Paul Harvey, famous radio broadcaster, would say, “Now for the rest of the story!” When these darling blessings were only 6 months old, Belinda, thinking she had the flu, paid a visit to her doctor.
It wasn’t the flu. She was pregnant with a second set of twins. “Shocked, to say the least, was how I felt!” Belinda remembered. Belinda, an only child, loved kids. She had worked as an instructional aide/ art teacher at Sam Houston and Fannin elementary schools in Corsicana ISD, and she and Jeremy had been foster parents. When Mother Nature didn’t bless them with children, Jeremy and Belinda sought help through fertility treatments.
Since twins “run” in both their families, when Jeremy and Belinda found out that they were expecting twins in their first pregnancy, they were not surprised, only overjoyed. But the challenges arrived when Belinda went into labor early — at just 30 weeks — and Mason and Steely had to be delivered through an emergency C-section at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. As patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Two sets of twins — Gracie and Emma and Steely and Mason — have filled Jeremy and Belinda Tipton’s home with joy. Belinda remembered, “We couldn’t even hold the babies for the first two weeks.”
While still working in Corsicana, Jeremy and Belinda made the trip to Dallas every day to be with the babies during their over two month stay in NICU. “It was pretty scary and tiring,” Jeremy said. Finally, the twins came home with monitors, accompanied by parental anxieties. Fortunately, Belinda’s second pregnancy went well, and Gracie and Emma entered into the family. The challenges of having four babies — one boy and three girls — so close in age, were great. “Going from no kids to four kids in two years was a real financial challenge,” Jeremy said. “I bought diapers by the case — two cases per week in each of the two sizes. With growing and active kids, the couple had to start saving for the day when their ‘starter home’ was not going to be big enough for the family. Jeremy worked three jobs, besides switching his full-time job to Nelson Propane. “My employer has been great. They understand about doctor appointments. I also take on mowing, roofing and house painting jobs,” he said. Belinda is a full-time mother, master planner and organizer. “I don’t know how she does it,” Jeremy said.
Fortunately, grandparents help. Belinda’s mother, Thelma Neal, and her grandparents, Raymond and Dealy Barber, as well as Jeremy’s parents, David and Paulette Tipton, and Jennie Richardson live in the area. “There is no way to prepare to be parents. You just do it. I’m pretty proud of my parents. They were great role models,” Jeremy said. “My mom has been my life support to our beautiful equation,” Belinda added. “The kids love their Gammy.” When Gracie and Emma were about 18 months old, just as a schedule and routine were being established, Belinda became aware that Gracie was not responding to sounds anymore. Tests confirmed that Gracie was autistic and Emma was “in the spectrum.” “Gracie didn’t want to be touched, and she eventually quit talking,” Belinda said. “At first, we knew nothing about autism, but we have learned and become Gracie’s advocates.”
Help and knowledge came in the form of other parents of autistic children in teachers and medical professionals is paying off. Jeremy and Belinda moved to a larger home about a year ago. “We are trying to paint and fix up the house ourselves,” Jeremy said. Gracie is speaking in whole sentences and making eye and physical contact again. “Her first words, again, were, ‘Hi, Daddy,’” Jeremy shared.
The family is busy creating normalcy for them. “When I had four children in a stroller, people thought I was running a day care,” Belinda remembered. Belinda’s “plan” helps the family get four kids ready for school every morning; keeps the schedule of activities, doctor and therapy appointments; remodels their home; and helps four children with different homework assignments. “Belinda even gives them extra homework to do,” Jeremy said. Each child has developed his or her own personality and role within the family. Mason, the only boy, wants to be first on everything, but twin, Steely, is highly competitive. “She is very competitive in reading and is a second momma,” Belinda said. Gracie is very creative with a big imagination, while Emma is a very sweet young lady. “I’m proud of them,” Jeremy said. “Gracie surprises everyone daily.
Just when someone thinks Gracie can’t do something, she proves that person wrong,” Belinda said. “If you don’t have a child with a disability, you just don’t really know what it is like living it daily.” Every new challenge is met with baby steps, persistence and hard work. “You have to be the parent that steps up and does whatever possible so your children can succeed,” Jeremy said. “There’s hope out there. Educate yourself, and seek early intervention. Be there for teacher conferences, and don’t expect someone else to do your job as a parent. Seek out support groups.” “God chose us as these children’s parents, because we don’t give up. We worked hard to have a family, and now we work hard as parents,” Belinda said. “Our joys are immense, and there is never a dull moment!”
Written by Virginia Riddle.