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We Are a Special Needs, Military and Foster Family, but We Are Not Saints

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We had just gotten used to this whole active duty military life that involves Daddy’s frequent absences. We were adjusting to the idea of our third bundle of joy joining us. Then our lives were stopped in their tracks. Our oldest went from being pretty “typical” to losing the ability to hear, walk, talk, eat and in general move. It didn’t touch him cognitively. He was admitted; they couldn’t find an answer. We were sent home with our children and told we would watch our son continue to deteriorate and eventually die.

However, his doctors never gave up. We got the phone call October 30, 2014. “He has a mitochondrial disease. There is no cure.”

There was a long grieving process. Grieving the life we thought our child would have. Grieving how this would have an impact on us, our other children and our day-to-day lives. We were sad, angry, confused. 

It was rough for a while. We took it out on each other. We spent too much money trying to compensate. We struggled with adjusting to all the machines that now kept our son alive. We struggled with decisions about his end-of-life care. We thought our entire lives would be consumed with his care. We lost a lot of “friends” because of the way our lifestyle was forced to change. It brought us closer to some family members while distancing us from others. There were long discussions about if the military still had a place in our lives. In the end, it was decided that in spite of the absences, this was by far the best way to provide for our family.

Once we learned to acclimate ourselves to this world we realized we do not have to be devastated by this on a daily basis. We do not have to be martyrs to this disease. We knew it was unrealistic for me to work outside of the home, and that was OK. Before we were married, before mitochondrial disease, we had discussed eventually being foster parents. But would they want us with all of our medical drama and the military lifestyle?

In the summer of 2015 our son moved from hospice to palliative care. We were able to build a handicapped accessible house and moved in shortly after. Then we realized that now is the time to take care of these children who so need a loving, stable home. Now is the time to show our own children that regardless of all of these obstacles we have faced as a family, we can still serve others. There was no waiting for our lives to be “perfect.”

They don’t need perfect; they need love. And they need it now.

We were licensed as foster parents shortly after our move. We have welcomed a number of children from different circumstances through our doors. We want to show them, just like our biological children, that they have the ability to work through and overcome whatever is thrown at them. And what better way to show them how to overcome than to be a living example of that.

So often when people learn our story they say things like, “Wow, you guys are saints!” “I don’t know how you handle all of that!” Why on earth would you take on foster care with everything else in your lives?” 

“Aren’t your plates a little full?” 

And to all of them I say, nothing about the journey has been easy. But we don’t want easy. We want what is right. We know this is something we are called to do. As I am canceling the babysitter because we cannot afford a date night this month, as I am cleaning up my no longer immaculate house, wiping vomit off the walls at 2 am, picking lice off of another head or working with the schools on a child’s educational needs, I just remind myself how we would all want someone to love us enough to care for us if our parents were not able to. The moment they step through our door, no matter how they came to us, they are ours. And we will make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure their wellbeing and safety of all of our children.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe your experience of not quite fitting under one specific diagnosis or a label your community identifies with. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 26, 2016
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