Taylor Dunnavant, of Saint Clair, Missouri, says she could sense something was different about her latest pregnancy. The 25-year-old mom lost weight and even ran into some brief complications, but she says nothing could have prepared her for the moment she met her new daughter Noralynn on March 5.
“Her hair, her skin, everything was white. I had no idea she was going to have albinism,” Dunnavant tells PEOPLE of the moment she first saw the baby. “It was a complete shock. They lifted her up and sat her on me and all I could do was say, ‘Oh! Everything on her is white!’ ”
Dunnavant and her husband Chris Barnwell worked to process the news that their new little girl has albinism, a congenital disorder in which there is little or no production of melanin. However, when they introduced their 5-year-old daughter, Brooklynn, to the infant just 15 minutes after the birth, the little girl had an adorable reaction.
“She said she looks like Elsa and a snow fairy!” Dunnavant recalls of Brooklynn, who referred to the beloved Frozen character and a winter-themed fairy in the Tinker Bell series. “She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, she’s a snow fairy and I started giggling. She said, ‘She’s related to Elsa!’ ”
Dunnavant, who first shared her story with Love What Matters, tells PEOPLE she had no knowledge of albinism before welcoming her daughter. So she and Barnwell took the baby to a specialist in the weeks after her birth, where they learned all about the condition and what they’d need to do to care for Noralynn.
She learned that children with albinism often have vision issues, noting that Noralynn would likely need glasses in the future. And she and Barnwell would have to take extra measures to protect the baby’s sensitive skin from the sun as people with albinism are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.
“I knew nothing about albinism two months ago—neither did her dad or my family. I wasn’t aware of how hurtful it is when people stare,” she says of Noralynn.
“Everything from grocery stores to doctor’s visits, I have to be prepared for people’s questions,” she says. As for Brooklynn, Dunnavant says she adores her baby sister.
“She wants to do everything with her. She can’t wait till she’s bigger to jump on the trampoline with her. She tells people, ‘My sister has white hair, but it’s okay! She’s different.’ She absolutely loves her sister.”