Mom of 3 appreciates blessings following unique motherhood journey

May 11—NORTHUMBERLAND — A unique journey led to a Northumberland woman's mothership of three children, including one with special needs.

Kira Leitzel and her husband Ryan struggled to conceive for years. They went through infertility treatments for a long time before they finally got pregnant while on birth control years later. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, Leitzel said.

"He wanted to try again. I did not," she said. "I said 'let's do foster care, there are so many kids who need families.'"

The couple were licensed and two days later, an 8-month-old boy was welcomed into their home. The Letizels had Jayden for 10 months before they were given a set of three-month-old twins, Kevin and Neveah, as well.

The couple adopted the three children, but not all aspects of the experience were joyous, Leitzel said.

"It's a hard process when birth parents' rights are terminated," she said. "It's not really a victory for anybody."

With three children under three, as well as another boy they were fostering at the time, the Leitzel home was a busy place. "With three in diapers, it was hard for a while," Leitzel said.

Jayden, now age 11, was diagnosed with autism at two years old and is nonverbal, according to Leitzel.

"When he came to live with us, we knew he was failure to thrive and severely neglected. He was still in foster care when he was diagnosed with autism at two," Leitzel said. "It made us want him even more."

Jayden, Kevin and Neveah were all adopted on the same day.

"It gave them that togetherness even though they're not biological siblings," Leitzel said.

While communication about Jayden's past is difficult, the twins, age 9, know they are adopted.

"They don't really remember much and I don't think they fully understand yet, but when we get questions we answer honestly and age appropriately," Leitzel said.

Mother's Day brings about an array of emotions for Leitzel. She said, "I never expected Mother's Day to feel different than a mother who birthed their children, but it is. It's a strange relationship. I'm keenly aware of the years I longed to be a mother, but it's also like grieving what's gone for them while celebrating what they gained. It makes it hard because you know there's a birth mother they don't know."

Despite the conflicting emotions, Leitzel said she is endlessly grateful for her family.

"I know how blessed I am to be able to celebrate it and God brought me each one for a specific reason," she said.

Northumberland County Children and Youth Services Director Meghan Weaver said Leitzel's foster care journey was unique in that not all foster care placements lead to adoptions.

"A lot of families in that exploration phase are aware of need because of a specific child that they might coach in soccer or something, and while they maybe aren't a permanency resource for that child, it opens the doors for them to maybe match another child in the future," Weaver said.

The Leitzels were grateful for their foster care experiences, even if they wouldn't have ended in adoptions.

"It was much harder than we thought it would be, but it was worth it," Leitzel said. "Even if it wouldn't have ended in adoption, we would have kept fostering."

While both foster care and adoption can be difficult, Leitzel recommended it to other women who might be struggling to conceive.

"It's extremely hard, but it's harder being a child growing up without a family," she said. "It's uncomfortable, but worth it."

Foster care is a complex and challenging task that requires bravery, Weaver said.

"We're dealing with people's lives and a lot of trauma so when you're opening your heart up to that idea, you're also opening it up to a lot of potential heartache," she said. "It's being vulnerable and that is a brave act."

The director said taking a risk is sometimes worth it.

"Some beautiful things can come out of taking a great risk, but you also have to go into it with your eyes wide open," she said.