Young fresh-faced me left my Postgraduate course in teaching ready to conquer the world. I had now got to grips with the millions of acronyms that the teaching profession uses and I actually quite liked them. I was going to change things for the disadvantaged children of the world. 

Four years later I walked away, defeated, deflated and pregnant. Teaching was not what I thought it was going to be but this break to have our baby was probably the break I needed to re evaluate and re-think this plan to save the children of Plymouth.

Baby first, then worry about the rest. However, my body it seems had another plan. At 32 weeks pregnant I developed preeclampsia. At 33 weeks things took a turn for the worse and after much deliberation by the doctors, my eldest son, Samuel was born, not breathing, not moving with Apgar scores that would feature heavily in many discussions over the next few weeks. Incredibly he only spent four weeks in hospital. He went from strength to strength and no one could quite believe it.

Having faced losing this little wonder we were overjoyed to bring him home. He did not, however, develop 'normally'. He hit very few milestones. I avoided mother and baby groups, whilst other children his age were reaching for toys, he would sleep like a newborn, crane his head backward. I hated the conversations about what the other babies were doing, because he wasn't. We were eventually referred to a specialist health visitor who couldn't diagnose him, but strongly recommended we look up Cerebral Palsy. We did, he fitted. We felt OK with this. He was alive, he was growing, and we could see him changing, we felt we would be OK.

So we did what any rational parents would do, we had another baby.

Samuel’s official diagnosis came when I was 30 weeks pregnant with Beth. I cried. I felt overwhelmed. More acronyms e.g. P.V.L - a longwinded way of describing a type of brain damage, and we had another baby coming!

Well we did it; Beth's birth was perfect. She came at 35 weeks but flourished. She brought us so much joy.

Samuel brought us joy in what we achieved with him, working with physiotherapists and OT’s (acronym!) health visitors, portage workers and so on. The list felt endless but we did as we were requested to do and it was ok. Hard, confusing and always feeling like what we were doing was wrong, but ok. I remember getting Samuel’s first chair; we left it in the car for about a week. It was heavy, it was ugly and it represented all we hated. It was different. It felt wrong. We got our first wheelchair, it was big, it was ugly and he struggled to move himself, freedom at a price. It sucked. But we kept going and kept positive because we needed to for him and for her. 

We were doing ok. We needed to move. A tall town house did not work with an ever growing child who may never walk. We found a bungalow. Fought for the grant we so desperately needed. We did it, got it all in place and prepared to start a fresh in a place where Samuel would find life so much easier and certain pressures would be off.

We moved in amidst the builder’s mess and began to settle. We had been in nine weeks. It was a Thursday so I went to hydrotherapy with Samuel and Beth stayed with my mum, this was the routine. I was avoiding going back as the builder was putting the new front door in and the mess would be waiting. So I stayed at mum’s for a while after hydro.

My mum and I walked into the kitchen to make a coffee. She got some chocolate out for my two and my nephew, who was also with us. She turned around and Beth fell to the floor. She wouldn't get up. My Mum picked her up. Her arm flopped to one side, her face had fallen and her speech was slurred. She was spaced out and totally floppy. I called an ambulance shaking as I described what was happening before me. Within minutes the ambulance arrived as they did she regained consciousness and screamed like never before.

They advised, even though she was now with it, we should go to hospital. From this admission, she then spent two weeks in hospital. She continued to fit and they were struggling to get it under control. Finally she was put on epilepsy medication and sent home, with reviews with the consultant every week.

She was never the same again. She had tests, so many tests, and three months after that event we discovered that Beth was the 1 in 100,000 child who has a childhood stroke. You know, like the ones only old people have. The most likely reason being chicken pox, but they couldn't confirm this. She too, now had a significant area of brain damage... BOOM. 

I can only describe the next year of our lives as a blur. Appointments, more physio, more doctors, the realisation I could not return to any form of work. But then came a letter, which I think broke us. At the top of any NHS letter about a meeting it says problems. Beth's said 'Stroke, left ischemic. Cerebral Palsy, Right Hemiplegic'. Both my children, both my children now have the same condition from two totally unrelated situations. 

So for us it was the second year after my daughter’s stroke that was the hardest. We had taken all that this journey had to throw at us, and more. We had tried to be positive. We had worked hard at what the professionals had asked of us yet we were still facing a world of unknowns. A world where they simply did not understand Beth, because children don't have strokes. A world which is not designed for wheelchair users. A world where people stare. A world where you feel you have absolutely no control at all, we did not choose our car, it was what Motability felt most appropriate (and they were right). Our bungalow was all we could find that was suitable, we loved it but it chose us. We felt lost, alone, unsure what to do, where to get help for us, or even if we deserved help.

This may sound crazy but I have spoken to so many parents who feel the same. That other families are far more deserving or there are others out there worse off than us. This took me time to come to terms with, I was going to be the one who was going to give the help but I now needed the help. But there was something healing and freeing in accepting that help. Realising that I am not alone. There is support out there for a reason. 

However, through all my tears (and believe me I have cried), anger and frustrations we have never wondered 'what if'. 'What if' is not helpful to us. Today, we are six and a half years on from Beth’s stroke. I have three incredible children (yes three, I am that crazy). Sam is 10, he uses a power wheelchair, he cannot write but he is the top of a mainstream class, using technology to record. He is sensitive, kind, loving and one day he will change the perceptions of the world, because sometimes when he opens his mouth to speak, something I was told he may never do, he says the most incredible things.

Beth does not use her right hand these days. She has problems with her memory and learning is tricky for her. She gets a lot of pain on the right side of her body and she has increasing problems with her right foot. She also occasionally fits. However they are so occasional now that she no longer needs medication. She is artistic, caring, and very social and one day will show the world what a fighter she is.

Time heals, changes your perception of what happened, and softens the anger in your heart, if you allow it to, enough for us to have another child! He is now a happy healthy almost three year old.

If I'm honest, I don't think that the majority of the world understands us as a family. In a lot of ways I still feel very alone. But I have also met and made lifelong friends with other mums of children with additional needs and disabilities. I would not have known them without my children. I am not alone. I walk this path with my husband and we do differ in how we see things. But that's ok. This path is still tough, it still has fights, difficulties, and I do still cry. But I wouldn't change my children.

Take away the Cerebral Palsy? It would be like taking away an element of them.

Maria is a new Family Fund Blogger. She lives with her husband and three children, Sam 10, Beth 9 and Ollie 3, in Plymouth. She is a full time mum/carer.