My story starts as a very unlikely love story. Most love stories are about boy meets girl. This was more late teenager meets older man really. Much older man. 19 years older actually. 

People doubted it would last. People doubted everything about us really. In fact doubt has been a huge player in the last 20 years of my life. 

We got married. People doubted that would last too. People doubted my husband would even be able to say ‘I do’ because he had such a massive and disabling speech impediment. Like so much of the story of our lives he went on to prove the doubters wrong. 

Our love story became a struggle though when we started trying for children. People said we shouldn’t for so many reasons. They doubted we would manage. They doubted we would be able to afford it. They doubted it would be right. For a long time I thought they must have been right as years passed and nothing happened. It took seven years before I was willing to swallow my pride and see a doctor. 

Even the medical people doubted we would ever have children. In fact they doubted so much they gave us less than 1% chance even with IVF. We proved them wrong again when the first round of IVF worked against all odds. Then the specialists doubted I would be able to carry a child to full term. I carried not only one but two babies. That showed them! 

We continued to make a good team against all odds. I breastfed, the children were growing and although we had our struggles we were progressing. 

Then the children didn’t reach milestones. They were not sitting when they should, not talking, not interacting. I started doubting myself. What was I doing wrong? At just 22 months old, neither one was walking, one not even pulling herself to stand, and neither talking we had our first pediatrician visit. Autism was mentioned. I doubted either of them had that. 

It turned out they did. One was diagnosed formally at three, the other a week before her fifth birthday. Six months after his autism diagnosis, both my son and my husband were diagnosed as having the genetic condition NF1. I had doubts as to whether I could face another day. I did. 

The children started school. One went to a specialty school for children with complex needs. He was still in nappies and still not speaking. I doubted if he ever would manage either skill. He’s almost ten now and sometimes I still have the same doubts. 

My daughter started mainstream. I doubted if that was right. She has proved everyone wrong and is thriving there and even has friends. I doubted the school could support her. They proved me wrong too and going above and beyond for her daily. I don’t doubt her or her school anymore. 

My husband has depression. People doubt whether he will be able to look after his children. He proves them wrong every single day. 

Our love story still goes on. This year we will be married for 20 years. The children will be 10 two months later. Isaac has very complex needs. He has a brain tumour (an optic glioma), still has no speech, is globally delayed, has severe learning difficulties and epilepsy. On the other hand he has an amazing ability to communicate via Google Street Maps and has started to learn how to overwrite the letter ‘a’. He proves his doubters wrong daily by learning at his own pace and bringing so much joy. He understands much more than anyone ever predicted. 

Naomi is academically able, funny, loving and the most incredible sister ever. People doubted she would ever have empathy but she is in fact empathy personified. She loves with everything she has and cares deeply. 

I don’t know the future. No one does. My children both have significant struggles and so does my husband. But our story is a story of love, determination, courage and perseverance. 

People can doubt all they like. You don’t need to even answer them. Just do what you do and prove them wrong. 

I have stopped doubting now. Severe autism, NF1, depression, mental health struggles, anxiety, epilepsy, and global delay don’t define anyone. 

My life has no room for doubt these days. And those that do doubt my family just keep being proven wrong. 

There is a lesson here for everyone and it’s simply this: keep believing. Always. 

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