The story of my family starts with kids, specifically KWSN’s. I worked with kids and adults with special needs all through college in therapeutic recreation and became a special education teacher for low incidence populations (kids with functional mental and/or multiple disabilities.) During my first year teaching, I married my high school sweetheart and got ready to watch all of our dreams come true, especially having children of our own. Except they didn’t. We didn’t get pregnant without years of trying and the assistance of fertility medication. When we did get pregnant, I miscarried. That was the hardest thing I ever lived through and I got down on my knees, again, and promised God that if He would just allow me to carry one child, I would never turn any child He sent me away. He listened.
Skip a few years into the future when my own beautiful, perfect Laura-Elizabeth was four, my husband, Brandon, and I became foster parents. Since I had always worked with KWSNs, it only seemed natural that exceptional kids were the ones with whom we would work. Over the next four years, we were blessed to love some children a little while until they found their forever homes and we found three who, despite having varying kinds of special needs, are beautiful, perfect and perfectly ours as well.
Conner and Mylie are full biological siblings. They both have prenatal drug and alcohol exposure which has caused brain damage in both of them. In Mylie, that brain damage causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which for her includes seizures, major sensory integration dysfunction, tremors, poor balance, cognitive delay, language delay, chewing and swallowing concerns, ADHD, low muscle tone and overall developmental delay. Conner is also diagnosed with FASD but for him it manifests in minor motor planning delays, some reduced strength, serious ADHD and impulse control issues and serious sleep disturbance. Other than the attention concerns, he has overcome speech and motor delays and is learning like a pro at school. Unfortunately for Conner, his abuse history (he’s the only one of our three adopted children that didn’t come straight to us from the hospital) also left him with a host of anxiety and behavioral concerns which we battle daily with love and frustration.
When we got ready to adopt Conner and Mylie, I went back to school for the third time and became a developmental interventionist to work with families with KWSNs ages birth to three. It allowed me to do what I love most, support KWSNs and their families, with a more flexible schedule than a classroom. Little did I know that only a few months after starting that wonderful job, we’d be approached about another little man. This little guy was a premie, had a g-tube and food absorption issues and a sweet little body twisted by a musculoskeletal condition called arthrogryposis. Our little Isaac was so sick and required so many appointments for surgeries and casting to address his joint concerns that it was costing us money for me to work, so I am now a stay at home mom.
So, it was a crooked path that brought our family together. We are an eclectic blend of biological relations and true ties that bind, of mixed abilities and races, of unconventional and traditional, of bits and pieces that make the collective US. We take each day as it comes with successes and learning opportunities (because isn’t that what failures always are) and we are finding our way together. All of these things make us US, a family brought together by circumstance and “modified by love.”