Benjamin Essex. Photo courtesy of Parker Portraits.
Benjamin Essex. Photo courtesy of Parker Portraits.

As the Essex siblings, Thomas, Tammy and Benjamin, prepare to embark on the freshman year of their collegiate journeys, the 2021 Hauser High School graduates say there is one word that describes their feelings about their time growing up in Hope, and that is grateful.

When Teresa and Doug Essex first got married, the couple didn’t think they would have any issues having the large family they’d always wanted.

However, life had other plans.

“When we first found out we were having infertility problems, we weren’t even trying to get pregnant,” Teresa says. “But it is a horrible thing when you get the news, and we didn’t know where to go from there.”

Fortunately, the couple had options.

Due to the complicated nature of their situation, Teresa underwent zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) to get pregnant with their daughter, Rachel.

The procedure is conducted similarly to that of in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer, Teresa says. The main difference being that the fertilized egg is placed in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus, which is known as tubal embryo transfer or TET.

“We tried twice, but the second time didn’t take,” Teresa says. “It was a costly process that also costs you emotionally and physically.”

Later, in 1988, the couple decided they would adopt a girl from China. However, again, life happened, and that arrangement never came to fruition.

Fast forward to the early 2000s. The couple decided they weren’t getting any younger, and if they were going to try again to adopt it was now or never.

“It was a long process,” Teresa recalls. “You have to get your dossier together, and then it has to go to the Chinese consulate in Chicago. Then it goes to China.”

The couple adopted Thomas in June 2004, Tammy in March 2006, and Benjamin in November 2008.

Since the couple was familiar with the adoption process from their previous try in the late 1980s and the fact that all three of the children they were adopting were considered to have special circumstances, due to the two boys having cleft palates, the adoption process overall didn’t take long to complete.

“Both Ben and Thomas have had extensive surgeries since they’ve been here,” Teresa says. “Thomas also has a syndrome that is connected to that.

Tammy just had a minor issue and hasn’t had any real problems since she’s been here.”

Looking back, Teresa admits both she and Doug had reservations about adopting from China and raising the children in such a small community as Hope. But despite the worry, all three adjusted and have done very well, she says.

“I don’t really remember much from China,” 19-year-old Thomas says. “All I remember is running away, but they found me, obviously. It was strange though [growing up in Hope]; it was a new perspective because not everyone looks the same as you.”

When she looks back on her childhood, Tammy considers herself very blessed.

“I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in a small town,” 18-year-old Tammy says. “I really value my relationships with the people in my school and community. I don’t think I would have gotten that if I lived in a bigger city or town.”

When asked about what his thoughts are about growing up in a rather rural area, Benjamin says one of the things that make Hope great is the people and community.

Tammy says the fact that she was able to attend the same school and classes as her brothers was a comfort growing up as they always supported one another.

“I kind of got to experience some of my school years being by myself and a majority with my brothers,” Tammy says. “I really cannot ask for it to be any different though actually because it was really nice. I think it brought us closer.”

As the trio finish packing to leave this month for their respective universities, they say it is going to definitely be an adjustment as this will be the first time in their lives they will be separated.

Thomas will be studying computer engineering at Valparaiso University.

“I like to work on things,” he says. “Like if something is broken, I want to find out why and try to fix it. That is why I enjoy engineering.”

Of like mind, Benjamin is attending Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute to study mechanical engineering.

Since he anticipates an intense and heavy workload, Benjamin says he doesn’t foresee much time for socializing in his future and, consequently, that likely includes little time to spend with his siblings.

“I am going to be studying a lot at school,” he says. “So I’m afraid I won’t be able to talk to them as much as I am right now.”

Tammy anticipates a period of withdrawal following her own departure to the University of Indianapolis where she is majoring in public health with a concentration in pre-physical therapy.

When it came to deciding on a major and career path, a broken foot and subsequent chat with a neighbor, who works as a physical therapist, spawned Tammy’s desire to walk a similar path.

“I think it is a really cool field, and there’s a lot of flexibility and opportunities it can provide,” she says.

But the road to college graduation will initially seem a lonesome one as she adapts to being on her own.

“I don’t really know what to expect because Thomas is going to be so far away, and Ben’s breaks are not anywhere close to mine. So I don’t expect to see them a whole lot,” she says. “I’ve always spent my life with at least one of my brothers with me, so there will be withdrawal. There will be a lot of calls and texts to check in and see what they’re doing.”

Reflecting on their time at Hauser since graduation has given the siblings an opportunity to look at their high school careers via a rearview perspective.

And as they realize how quickly time seems to pass, they say students starting their final high school years should take advantage and relish the days.

“Make as many friends as you can,” Thomas says. “Work hard, study and make sure you enjoy the little things in life because it goes by fast as you can tell.”

Tammy says she is certainly grateful for her involvement in a variety of activities and clubs, such as student council and cross country, and she encourages other students to do the same.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” she says. “Get involved in things because once you graduate you will look back and be thankful you did. I am very thankful for all the clubs, sports and community activities I participated in because, had I not done those things, I would have regretted it.”