a family’s story of turning tragedy into triumph

The Family

From Tragedy to Triumph

By: Jodi

When I gave birth to my first child I was barely eighteen years old, single, and wondering how I was going to make it. Erika was a beautiful baby with a lot of energy from the start. She hardly napped, had trouble sleeping at night, and got sick constantly. I worried about her health often, and became exhausted after multiple trips to the emergency room for varied illnesses ranging from pneumonia to ruptured ear drums. When she began having seizures following her routine vaccinations, I knew something was seriously wrong. The medical community had few answers for me, so I was left to try and figure things out on my own.

Kevin and I were married when I was nineteen, and our second child Elijah Daniel arrived in late 1998. He had a rough start from the beginning , spending his first eight days in the neonatal intensive care unit because of complications due to aspiration pneumonia. He came home from the hospital with a systemic yeast infection, and quickly fell into a similar pattern of illness as his sister Erika had before him. We were frantic young parents of two very sick children, and our lives became encompassed with doctor visits and trips to the hospital. I became pregnant again when Elijah was only eight months old, and we still didn’t know what was wrong with our two little blessings, and why they were always getting sick.

When Nicolas James arrived in 2000, we were delighted to have another little boy to love. Elijah and Nicolas were babies together at just seventeen months apart, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong with how they were both developing. They didn’t speak or communicate in the typical ways, and in Elijah’s case he was very aggressive and hard to handle. He would spin around and bang his head onto the floor, and he was always falling down and hurting himself. Nicolas wouldn’t make eye contact, had feeding difficulties, and had intense tantrums whenever we took him anywhere. We weren’t sure what was going on, but we knew that our children were extremely difficult to handle compared to others their age.

As Erika grew older her behaviors also became more difficult, and she was eventually diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, allergies and a weakened immune system. Despite our difficulties, we were still trusting God to plan our family for us, and I became pregnant again when Nicolas was ten months old. Leah arrived in 2001, and suddenly we had four children ages five and under.

When Leah was still a baby, Elijah and Nicolas were both diagnosed with autism, delivering a shocking blow to our young and growing family. We wallowed in self-pity for a long time, wondering why this had happened to us. We cried, we prayed, and we tried everything under the sun to “fix” our children. Initially, we simply could not except that their disabilities were going to be for life. Unbelievably, we faced further problems when Leah too began to have some developmental delays. Although we were initially told that she too may have autism, it turned out that she did not. She WAS however, diagnosed with sensory integration disorder, delayed speech, and later on auditory processing disorder and dyslexia. Eventually, Nicolas received a co-occurring diagnosis of apraxia, and Elijah developed a mild case of Tourettes.

We went through a difficult time in our lives wondering what the Lord had in store for us. There was tension between us as we worked frantically to meet all of their needs. Frantic is the best word to describe those early days before we found our rhythm and comfort level dealing with special needs. We slept very little, didn’t venture out much because the children couldn’t handle the exposures, and had multiple therapy appointments every week. I think we truly astonished everyone when despite our challenges, we conceived Jacob in early 2004.

Jacob was born at home as his sister Leah had been almost three years earlier, and he instantly won our hearts as all new babies do. He was my constant companion as I ushered the other children back and forth to therapy appointments, and believe me there were a lot of them. Eventually, he too was diagnosed with autism in a now not so surprising turn of events. After years of research, we cleaned up our lives and began to detoxify the children aggressively. We also learned to use homeopathic medicine in lieu of vaccinations and other drugs, and we soon began visiting the doctors far less frequently.

We went on to have two more babies in 2006 and 2008, both girls whom we named Sarah and Trinity, and they are developing typically thus far. After years of dealing with so many challenges, it is refreshing to see the girls breezing through toddlerhood and meeting their developmental milestones. But that doesn’t mean that we love the others any less. Our attitudes toward disabilities have changed dramatically over the past thirteen years, and we have become virtual experts at dealing with behaviors and crises of all kinds. In the beginning it all seemed like a tragedy to us. We felt depressed and alone, and didn’t know how we were going to survive it for the long haul. As the years have gone by, we have come to see things very differently. Unfortunately, many well meaning friends and relatives haven’t shared our change of heart experience, and they are still uneasy with our decision to keep on having children.

The world often sees people with disabilities as “imperfect”, and wonders why we would risk having more children who may also have autism or other special needs.  In contrast, we see all of our children as beautiful and whole, and we believe that each of them possess exactly what they need in order to fulfill their God given purpose in life. Nicolas may never speak much here on earth, but that doesn’t mean that his life has any less value than yours or mine… and we sure are looking forward to our first conversation with him in heaven!

God has blessed us with the amazing job of raising eight wonderful children for Him here on earth, and we take the job of shepherding those tender young hearts very seriously. (Yes, I said eight…we will be welcoming a new baby boy in early October 2009.) While most people have to kiss their children goodbye and deal with the pain of “empty nest syndrome”, we look forward to a lifetime of holding them close should any of them still need to be cared for. We are not resentful of the extra work it entails, and we will always consider ourselves blessed to have been chosen to parent such unique and amazing children. In just thirteen short years, we have triumphed over what many would consider to be a tragedy. Our children are now healthy and happy, and we know that we are living our lives exactly as we were meant to be.

Please visit Jodi and Kevin’s website:  www.AutismHelp4U.com

Comments

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  1. wow, that’s a wonderfully crazy story.

  2. Thank you for taking the time out of what must be a horrendous schedule to tell your story! My life doesn’t begin to compare to yours, but in the family of God, it doesn’t have to. We can all be encouraged by each other’s stories, similar or not.

    That’s one thing I’m learning from a correspondence writing course I’m taking. Everyone has a story that can communicate encouragement to someone else, and as a 55-year-old disabled (spina bifida) woman who lives in a home for disabled adults, I am surrounded by people like that, people with fascinating stories of God’s miraculous intervention in their lives, etc.

    Anyway, thanks again for your story. I am praying for you :)

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