On May 12, 2013, Asher arrived abruptly at 27 weeks, weighing just two pounds. Because the initial picture was bleak, Asher was sent immediately to the NICU. His APGAR score was only 1, and he required extensive medical attention.
During his extended stay in the NICU – sixty-three days to be exact – Asher was in isolation. The limited contact he received came from the hospital staff. During this period, Asher didn’t receive any newborn bonding. He didn’t experience the repeated touching, cuddling, talking, or singing essential to an infant’s mental and physical well-being.
On day sixty-three – Asher was ready to be discharged. That’s the day we received a call from Bethany Christian Services. What a significant day!
On day sixty-three – We drove to the hospital to welcome Asher into our home.
On day sixty-three – Asher received his first skin-to-skin bonding.
On day sixty-three – We fell instantly in love.
We were excited to bring Asher home, but we felt unprepared. With a premature birth and an extended stay in isolation, there were many “unknowns.” We had to adapt quickly to a new lifestyle. There was a big learning curve, and appointments defined our days. Early On was a weekly fixture in our home – there was speech, physical therapy, and an educational advocate. With Asher’s fragile health, there were also weekly trips to the doctor. It was a lot to juggle.
Love pushed us forward.
Early On urged us to pursue private therapy. We found the right fit at the Center for Childhood Development, where Asher started occupational and speech therapy. From day one, his therapists invested in the success of our entire family – in fact, they felt like “family.” Therapy focused on what Asher COULD do, playing into his strengths – because we quickly discovered that’s where the magic happened. His therapist identified him as a visual learner, and they equipped us with tools to apply this learning style at home.
We were constantly finding new ways to empower Asher, and it was exciting to see him succeed. But as Asher grew older, he began struggling with his emotional health. He wasn’t able to process or verbalize his feelings. With little sense of cause and effect, we were concerned about Asher’s safety. We were constantly on high alert. Trying to parent through this was HARD.
With the encouragement of Asher’s therapist, he had a psychiatric evaluation. Asher’s challenges likely began in utero and were consistent with ARND (Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder). Our support “family” grew to include Anchored Family, where Asher began counseling. His therapists are guiding our family through a challenging time and they have given us the support we so badly needed to cope.
Mental health challenges are tough, and Asher’s struggles were draining to our entire family. As Asher’s needs escalated, I resigned from teaching. It wasn’t just the best thing for Asher; it was the best thing for our family. While covering the cost of Asher’s therapies hadn’t been easy, we had always been able to give him the support he needed. But how would we manage without my income? My husband and I are both teachers and eliminating one salary was a huge financial hit.
One of life’s blessings has been connecting with the right people when we need them the most. Family Hope Foundation stepped in during this challenging season, giving us the financial support to keep Asher’s therapy going.
His scholarship meant everything!
It’s pretty amazing to have an organization and community that wants to invest in your family and celebrate your wins. Family Hope Foundation believes in Asher and our family – boy, did we need that! We’ve got an entire community rooting for our family. They understand how our whole family feels the impact when Asher struggles. When he shows growth, they know it’s a win. And we celebrate!
Asher entered our family on day sixty-three, and I can’t believe how fast the past nine years have gone. We are thankful for the people and organizations that have become an extension of our “family.” We don’t know what lies ahead, but we know our family will never face it alone.
That’s a good feeling!