The Founder: Andrea Faris Roberts
A Mother's Rest is a new outreach created by the same servant's heart who brought you the Reece's Rainbow Down Syndrome Adoption Grant Foundation. My name is Andrea Faris Roberts. I am the bio mom of two very handsome, compassionate, smart, active sons. Reece is 19 now and has Down syndrome, ADHD, & SPD. Owen (L) is 17.
A Mother's Rest is designed to be a quiet, peaceful sanctuary of fellowship for myself and others who really understand the fatigues that can come with special needs parenting. My focus is on restoration of self and spirit, of heart and health.
The Next Chapter
Reece was my first-born child. I did not know he had Down syndrome until after he was born. I was 29 years old. No in-utero markers, no family history of congenital conditions on either side. Like many first-time parents, I had a vision for my life, and his. I was a busy, successful corporate sales & marketing professional. Reece was going to have to fit into that life.
Twelve hours after Reece was born, a neonatologist came in to announce that she believed Reece had Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. To make a long story short, I've been sobbing with a broken heart for the last 19 years. I really can't explain why it has been so hard on me emotionally. In the hospital, I sobbed "I don't want to be a flag waver!!" I imagine God's "SMH"...He's had to drag me kicking and screaming ever since.
Nothing fires a mom up more than having to justify the very existence of her child...daily. You know what I mean! Our kids need moms who are not afraid, not intimidated, to take on a very broken system. Our kids need super heroes! But the truth is....we're NOT superheroes. We ARE afraid, we ARE intimidated, we ARE grieved, exhausted, and depleted from it. We shouldn't have to be! And it's only EACH OTHER who can truly lift us up and carry us through every worthwhile moment. In my advocacy for Reece, I was horrified to learn that in the US, we have a 90% abortion rate of children w/ Down syndrome. Overseas, these children are abandoned at birth in orphanages and sent to adult mental institutions at the age of 4. NOT OK. Here, pregnant moms with prenatal diagnoses are flippantly encouraged to "make an appointment". Abroad, they are convinced of a curse, and their governments provide little to no resources for them. NOT OK. These are both unacceptable, state-sponsored, eugenicist views of the value of MY CHILD'S PURPOSE AND LIFE. NOT OK.
I created Reece's Rainbow as an advocacy and grant foundation to be a loud, public voice for disabled orphans. I am a firm believer in the power of grassroots, private-sector, community-based service to address niche needs. I used my sales & marketing expertise, and my passion for Reece, to build what has grown into a true force for life in the disability community. I'm not extraordinary. God gave me the skills I needed, and then burdened my heart for the disabled with the birth of Reece. It's not rocket science, and I'm not a hero. I don't view myself that way, and it makes me uncomfortable when others give me praise about it. I just stepped up to fill a need.
Since 2006, Reece's Rainbow has pulled more than 2000+ disabled orphans out of horrific living conditions into forever families who love them. We've been featured in People Magazine three times, and a recipient of the Congressional Angel in Adoption Award. We are a catalyst for social change, both here and overseas. We've changed the landscape of international adoptions. RR is a Gold Level Non-Profit with Guide Star, & has disbursed more than $13 million in adoption grant funding. I've built an amazing team of staff, volunteers, advocates and donors who serve these children. And I LOVE being "Auntie" to so many beautiful faces! It's really quite surreal to meet them in person :) People ask me all the time, "Andrea, could you possibly have imagined RR would grow to serve so many?" Well, yes, actually, that was the PLAN :)
After 10 years now, I'm in a different place in my own life. I've spent the last ten years waist-deep in seeking willing, adoptive families for children who are not only born with disabilities, but endure such tragic abuse and neglect. These families step up to take on the HARDEST part...the life-long commitment to giving these children the life they *deserve*. Not only were those children born with differences, they are shattered emotionally and physically from abandonment, abuse, neglect and loss. But what is missing is adequate in-person support for families of children with special needs....adoptive and biological. I am feeling more and more compelled to follow a path of respite and fellowship for the *families*. There is an entire cycle of support needed, from pregnancy throughout parenthood. I believe that when moms are well cared for, they are better able to serve their children. That means proactively loving the mother during her pregnancy....proactively serving her emotional and care needs throughout life, so she can best care for the child. Many supports are in place to serve the needs of the children (for obvious reasons). There needs to be an honest conversation throughout the disabled community about BALANCE. We must take care of the emotional, mental and physical health of these families too! Parents are the greatest resource we have. We must invest in THEIR care as much as we do the children.
The true respite & fellowship *I* need as a parent of a child with special needs is what I want to share with other parents, bio and adoptive. I'm pouring from an empty cup, like most of you. After 15 years with Reece, I am still seeking balance. I still find little safe space for special needs families to be able to say, without repercussion, "this is really hard!" I'm uncertain for his future. Especially for adoptive families...if I hear "you chose this" one more time.....GRRRR. Nowhere is it ok to admit we're weary without a judgment from the court of public opinion. Somehow, we are not supposed to say "my child is the light of my life, but I'm tired too". We struggle in silence and isolation sometimes. There is simply not enough acknowledgement of how taxing the *parenting part* can really be. There is no sanctuary to grieve, to be sad, disappointed, frustrated, frazzled, weary, worried, anxious, fearful, TIRED. We're forced by society (and somewhat from within our own community) to wear this hat of celebratory advocacy 24/7.
So with my heart of service, but in dire need of respite and fellowship myself, I'm called to A Mother's Rest. In five short years, we have built a national network of bed and breakfast inns to host our families at locations across the country. We have purchased and opened TWO year-round respite inns of our own, located in Maryland and North Georgia. We have hosted (466) retreats to date, and more than (4000) weary parents & caregivers. BUT I NEED YOUR HELP TO CONTINUE THIS. My vision can only go as far as YOU take it. We are all committed to being the best moms and advocates we can be for our children. But we can't pour from an empty cup. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF TOO. Love yourself enough to take a few days away from the chaos of regular life to sleep and spend quiet time with other parents like you. A Mother's Rest is designed to be a safe space for you....for US. It is a place to rest, to breathe, to re-center yourself. It's a place you can talk freely with other moms about the realities of daily life with a disabled child. Here you have permission to be HUMAN, to feel loss, frustration, even resentment. It's a place to wallow for a while, then pull up your bootstraps. Let it out and shake it off. It's taken me 14 years to finally figure out that it's OK to be tired. Let go of whatever guilt you're carrying and give yourself the opportunity to rest too.