Writer / Rebecca Wood
Meet Deidra Smith, Deb Weidner, and Chris Nebesio. These women are tireless in their dedication and appreciation of their unique motherhood roles. And, they are passionate about inspiring others in their own journeys. Here are their stories.
Deidra Smith: A big family with a big heart
Deidra Smith runs her household with military precision. Phone alarm reminders, meal planning, and list-making keep her days running smoothly. The laundry is tackled every evening. For some, this level of organization and management may seem extreme. But for a family as large as the Smiths, a well- run ship requires an efficient captain and a compliant crew.
Smith’s “crew” consists of seven children and an eighth child to arrive this summer. The children range in age from 22 to two years old. Oldest son Anthony is a Marine stationed in North Carolina.
“We always knew we loved and wanted a big family,” says Smith. “I don’t think either of us envisioned eight plus kids, but we couldn’t be more thrilled. We think all children are gifts from God and welcome His blessings.”
Smith’s days are jam-packed and busy. She awakes at 5:30 a.m. to sneak in a workout. By 8 a.m., Smith heads to work as a second-grade teacher at Stonegate Elementary School. By 4 p.m., Smith and the children have arrived home from school. Homework, sports practices, Bible studies, and dinner quickly fill the evening hours.
Husband Tony, a lieutenant with the Brownsburg Fire Territory, prioritizes time with his children when he is not working shifts at the firehouse. The key to managing a big family is teamwork and ownership by each child on his or her part in the process, Smith believes.
The family welcomes other children into their home as part of the Safe Families program. Safe Families places children who are in distressed homes with host families who are happy to open their hearts and house to children in need. “I believe every child deserves to have a family whose heart breaks for them and cries when they leave,” Smith says.
Five Safe Families children have lived with the Smiths from a few days to a few months. Smith appreciates the opportunity to welcome them into their home and teach her children the value of hospitality and sharing.
“As a teacher and firefighter, we won’t be leaving our children with big bank accounts. But, we can leave them each other, love, experiences together, and a passion for being advocates for others,” Smith states. “We hope to pass on our passion for vulnerable children on to them and their children.”
For more information on Safe Families go to safe-families.org
Deb Weidner: Mother to a gift
A few weeks ago, cheers erupted in the Weidner home. Eleven- year-old Shea Weidner walked over to the pantry and opened a graham cracker box. Shea’s two brothers, Von (age 12) and Cruz (age 9), were elated. This seemingly ordinary task brought joy to the entire house. What was being witnessed was a miracle. As a baby, Shea was never predicted to walk.
Deb and Marcus Weidner adopted Shea at birth. They named their healthy baby girl Shea, because it meant “gift” in Hebrew. Within weeks of birth, Shea was struggling to breath and drink from a bottle. After numerous hospital visits, Shea was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, failure to thrive, a seizure disorder, and Cerebral Palsy.
“Marcus and I truly believe that God gives you the child you were meant to have whether it is biological or adopted,” Weidner says. “We have placed our trust in this: we were given Shea for a reason.”
Weidner says caring for Shea requires an hour-by-hour and day-by-day mentality. Shea is chronically ill, and the slightest illness can lead to a hospital stay. Her feeding is mostly conducted through a G-tube. Every two hours, Shea requires nourishment and medication. Sleeping can be difficult for Shea and her parents.
To face the everyday challenges, Weidner’s mantra is “Embrace what has been given to you.” Weidner uses humor when she’d rather cry. She credits those within the Zionsville community, especially her sisters, friends, neighbors, and St. Alphonsus Church, for supporting her family and never making her feel the depth of loneliness that plagues many caregivers.
“Many times, people place groceries on our porch, send a note, drop a meal, or offer to spend time with our boys when Shea is in a stage of illness,” Weidner recounts. “This is what life is all about, helping others get through the day.”
Weidner hopes that Shea has an impact on the community. She wants others to experience the joys of being with a special needs child. But, she also aspires to make others aware of the challenges faced by special needs families. “I hope Shea reminds others to show empathy,” urges Weidner. “It is a life that I would not have imagined, but I know that we have always been given what we need, just when we need it.”
To support special needs families in Zionsville go to www.thehawkfoundation.org
Chris Nebesio: A deep appreciation of motherhood
In April 2012, the Nebesio family returned from spring break. Six-year-old Carter Nebesio was fighting a virus coupled with other alarming symptoms. Chris and Todd Nebesio, both physicians, rushed their daughter to the hospital.
After a battery of tests, Carter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). Subsequently, she underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments to fight the disease. Thanks to her aggressive treatments, Carter was in clinical remission by the end of the year. The Nebesios assumed their daughter’s intense journey was over.
Nebesio describes what happened next as “every parent’s and patient’s worst nightmare.” In June 2013, a routine checkup reviled that the invasive cancer had returned. After three months of intense chemotherapy, Carter’s body had enough; she passed away after a 17-month battle with cancer. “How can any parent conceive of living after the death of a child?” Nebesio asked.
She says her son Will gave her the strength to keep going. Ten days after Carter’s passing, the family celebrated Will’s tenth birthday. “As much as the mom in me wanted to wallow in grief and cry all day, I knew I had another child that needed me,” Nebesio asserts. “It was okay for him to see me sad, and goodness knows he did. But I also had to keep his needs close to my heart. He was sad. He was missing his sister and best friend. But he had to see that he, and we, could survive it all.”
From Carter’s passing, Nebesio established a deep appreciation for motherhood and a desire to expand their family. The Nebesios knew they wanted to experience the joy of watching and raising more little people in their lives. Within the next few years, Jack (age 2) and Nora (age 1) joined the family.
“They are our bright spots in the midst of grief. They have brought laughter and life to our family,” Nebesio states. The Nebesios have honored Carter’s legacy by giving back. The family started a fund with Riley Children’s Hospital. Friends and family have donated $115,000 for the Carter Strong Fund, which supports the Child Life and social work at Riley Children’s Hospital. The Nebesios continue fundraising efforts for charities that benefit children with cancer: Make-A-Wish, Give Kids the World, and Tatum’s Bags of Fun.
Nebesio wants others to remember Carter’s amazing spirit, strength, and bravery. “She was six when she was diagnosed with cancer, but she never let her diagnosis define her,” Nebesio says. “She was strong and brave. She swallowed more pills, sustained more needle pokes, and overcame more pain than any child should endure. She still managed to laugh, smile, and love through it all.”
Donations can be made in Carter’s name at the Riley Children’s Foundation, designate for the Carter Strong Fund.