While I was pregnant with William, Bear and I decided to move. After losing our daughter we both felt suffocated living in Victoria. We were both born and raised there, had an amazing friend group, most of our family was around and our careers were well established there. Although we are forever grateful to our community for supporting us through very hard times, we couldn’t shake the feeling of being “the people who lost their baby.” Everyone knew and everyone cared but we needed to just be Keely and Bear.

Pregnant with William, we set out to find our dream life. Bear had always wanted a farm and I had always wanted horses. We knew it would be hard to leave our life in Victoria behind but we also knew that we had to start living outside the shadows of infant loss. Finding our little slice of heaven was no easy task but after viewing about 30 properties, we settled on a place about an hour out of Victoria.
With our budget, we had to make sacrifices so we picked a property that required a ton of landscaping and property work but had our dream house on it. It was basically a gravel patch with a house, which makes me giggle now because I think it’s been way more work to get the land how we want it. There have been countless outdoor projects, countless changes to those projects and we will likely be working on it for the rest of our lives.

While preparing our farm for horses, William was born.

In the blink of an eye we were thrust into a journey of raising a child with Cerebral Palsy while trying to keep our dreams alive. Looking back, I guess the challenge was accepted. Everything was put on hold while we tried to find our footing in a parallel universe.

For five years, Bear and I would handle the daily whirlwind and then quietly connect over house plans, farm plans, life plans, goals, dreams and priorities in the evening. Daily priorities shifted all the time but the big priorities stayed the same.

We wanted to stay on our farm and we wanted William to live with us for his whole life and have full access throughout our home. This made an accessible house a necessity so we made it our priority. 

With William’s diagnosis, we knew very early on that our home wouldn’t accommodate William long term. Our home had all the entertaining and living space on the main floor and all the bedrooms upstairs. A home that considered William’s needs, needed any space for him to be on the main floor. It needed to have space for him to be in equipment. It needed lifts, wider door frames, even-transitions to outside and adaptability over time so that he could live in our home forever. I vividly remember drawing and re-drawing hundreds of layouts and ideas. As the days passed, our home became progressively less of a dream home and more of a daily hurdle. Finally, we settled on exactly what would work with every, single, little thing considered. William was 6 years old when we renovated our home into our new, William-friendly, dream home. We lived in the house while it was under construction to save costs. We used our garage as a kitchen, crammed the sleeping arrangements together and washed dishes and all of William’s paraphernalia in the bathroom sink for a whole year.

Just after William’s 8th birthday, we moved in.

We didn’t have furniture to fill the spaces, we didn’t have pictures hung on the walls, it was almost Christmas and not a decoration in sight, but our girls were blasting music, happy dancing and whirling William around in his wheelchair in a space that accommodated us all being together. Having room in the kitchen for William to join the girls for breakfast in his wheelchair while I make school lunches are the little moments that confirm it was worth keeping the dreams alive.  

~ Keely

Keely is an author and advocate for children living with disabilities. She lives on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, with her husband, her son William who has cerebral palsy, her two daughters and several four-legged friends.