How I Balance My 2 Children's Different Needs

When our daughter was born with cystic fibrosis, we knew that our older son's brotherly duties would be more complex than we had originally anticipated. But, as our family has grown, I have complete faith that while their needs may be different, the love we give these two amazing children will always be the same.

Feb. 21, 2018 | 4 min read
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Kate Johnson
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In my heart, I knew Coggin would be an amazing brother. I believed it deeply and contemplated it for years. And then last year, when we found out his sister had cystic fibrosis, I held strong to that belief, as we began learning how to balance two children with similar yet very different needs.

Kaehler was born in December 2016, and from the moment I met her, I knew she was meant for us. At that time, Coggin was 7 and immediately took to big brother responsibilities -- helping with bottles, playing “gofer” for diapering supplies, and snuggling near her any chance he could get.

When we found out a few weeks later that Kaehler was born with cystic fibrosis, our brains were suddenly consumed with the many responsibilities that came with her newly recognized needs.

It wouldn't take long to realize, though, that my husband and I wouldn't be managing them alone. Coggin's hands and heart would be a huge part of our new routine.

While it's certainly not his regular responsibility, Coggin knows how to give Kaehler her enzymes before meals and thinks it's fantastic that we always have applesauce on hand. He is unfazed by my collection of baby spoons, remembers which medicines she gets at which times, and knows exactly where the extra stash of enzymes is in the bottom of the diaper bag (and cupboard and various other places).

We began integrating Coggin into treatments early and, initially, for his benefit. We let him put medicines into the nebulizer cup or hold the neb gently to Kaehler's face. Then, as she grew older and treatment time became more difficult for her to sit through, it became clear that Coggin was pivotal to our success. After all, what little sister can resist the entertainment of her 8-year-old brother for 30 minutes?

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Kaehler recently started vest therapy, and Coggin was the first to offer to help. The hoses connect to her vest in the same way hoses connect to equipment on our farm, which of course means he's a pro. He has been to clinic with us and met our dynamic CF care team.

But, cystic fibrosis isn't the only thing on our daily schedules. Like any hard-working 30-somethings with two kids, we do our best to make one-on-one time and have play time as much as possible.

To this point, we have been fortunate enough to feel confident taking Kaehler along to do all of the usual things we used to do with Coggin as a family of three. We still go on vacations, enjoy visiting new places, and make an annual trip to watch the rodeo. We just happen to take extra precaution -- and plan a little more thoroughly -- these days. We also make sure each child gets one-on-one time. Whether it's time with dad on the farm or a Starbucks date with mom, we balance our boy and girl the way I assume any family might.

That's not to say we haven't had our share of flailing and failing since cystic fibrosis entered our lives 12 months ago. It has, after all, been the most challenging 12 months of my life.

And yet, I still have that same deep belief Coggin was born to be a big brother. I still have that same deep belief Kaehler was meant for us. And, I have complete faith that while their needs may be different, the love we give these two amazing children will always be the same.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Kate is a small-town writer, farmer's wife, and mother of two. Her daughter, Kaehler, was born with cystic fibrosis. Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois and a Master of Fine Arts in fashion journalism from Academy of Art University. In addition to writing, Kate works full time at a local financial institution managing correspondent operations. In her spare time, she enjoys running, yoga, fashion, and spending time on the farm. Follow her story at dirt+heels.com and on social media at @thisiskatej.

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