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A Tale of Two Babies

By Kelly Hafer

By Kelly Hafer

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

Our baby girl, Gracie, is 8 months old today. She is the embodiment of perfection, Grace personified.

Our youngest son, AJ, came into our lives at 7 months, 3 weeks. He stole our heart from the very moment we held him. Our love for him was instant.

And that’s where the similarities between our youngest two children end.

Grace was born in a home that celebrated her conception from the moment we knew she existed. After our oldest turned 10, we decided to really try to have another child. After a fruitless year of fertility treatment, I threw in the towel. The emotional toll was too high, and I was unwilling to go further. My hopes for conceiving another child were dead.

After another year, we began the adoption process.

AJ was born in less than idea circumstances. He came into this world with meth addiction wracking his tiny body. Eleven days in NICU, detoxing from the chemicals that invaded his every cell. His birth mother never held him before he was remanded into foster care.

Grace was driven home to find three siblings anxiously awaiting her arrival. They had spent the past 9 months planning, learning and talking about what having a new baby would mean for our household. She had a mother and a father, and a visiting grandmother weeping with joy over her very presence. She had been prayed for, and, I truly believe she is my miracle.

AJ moved into a dirty, chaotic, drug-filled foster home. He was not viewed upon as anything other than a combined burden and state check.

Grace was breastfed for the first four months.

AJ, during our transition phase with the foster family, frequently came to us with spoilt, curdled formula or milk in his bottle.

Grace is sitting by herself, crawling, and investigating her world with frightening skill and determination.

AJ was placed in a swing. And left there. For 8 months. When he came to us, he was unable to hold his head up. He had never had anything other than formula, and, consequently, suffered from unimaginable constipation. It took us months to get him to hold his head up. And years to get him caught up physically – we still have a bit to go developmentally.

The differences between our two babies crushes my soul. What my son lived through, how he languished, and how hard he has had to work to overcome the strikes against him breaks my heart.


But the incredible love that this child is capable of – blows my mind. Every day – every single day – when he greets his oldest sister, he tells her that he loves her. His concern about her college schedule, her whereabouts, and what her plans are today would be laughable, except he’s totally serious. He wants to know about her. He can’t get close enough to her; practically sits on top of her when they’re together on the couch (and often does).

If that weren’t incredible enough, he holds Gracie, this new baby, this potential interloper and usurper of his cuteness crown, in such reverence. He is in awe of her, providing constant commentary, “Mommy, Gracie crawled again!” And, “Mommy, Gracie smiled at me.” “Mommy, Gracie tried to eat my face!”

The tenderness he shows when he ever-so-gently wipes her away her drool is made even more special by the fact that AJ hates being dirty, and the thought of getting someone else’s body fluids on his hands is enough to send him into an anxiety attack.

Gracie’s life has been comparatively easy. She’s had everything she’s supposed to have. She’s beautiful, and perfect, and an angel.

My son has had a difficult life. He has had to fight and claw for every scrap of progress he’s made. He’s strong, loving, and I am so, so proud to call him mine.

Read more blogs by Kelly

Kelly Hafer

Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to four children: a 17-year-old neurotypical (if you can say that about a teenager!) daughter, 6- and 5-year-old boys on the spectrum; and, since life was getting a touch boring, another beautiful baby girl. Kelly is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Military Special Needs Network. MSNN is a peer-to-peer support organization founded to respond to the needs of all branches of the military and of our Exceptional Family Members. We strive to provide family and emotional support and lasting friendships – See more at:, or Kelly has been featured in a collection of essays entitled, “Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Children.” She manages the official blog of Military Special Needs Network,, and can be found as a guest blogger throughout the blog-iverse. You can contact her via email at

About Tidewater Parent Staff

One of our staff who provides news and information for families in Hampton Roads.

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