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Marietta Police Officer Gwen Lewis is looking forward to Mother’s Day this year, feeling blessed with her children Julia, 9, Anna, 13, and Matthew, 5. Lewis and her husband care for their oldest daughter, who has mitochondrial disease, and adopted Matthew and Anna from China. 

Today, we celebrate our mothers through the eyes of Gwen Lewis, who shared her story of motherhood. This Mother’s Day, we honor all of the women who have shaped our lives.

Gwen and Jason Lewis have one natural child, Anna, age 13, and two adopted children Julia, age 9, and Matthew, age 5.

“The best part of being a mother is making the kids happy and seeing them progress and develop their gifts at their own pace,” said Lewis who is employed as a police officer with the city of Marietta. Jason is also a police officer, employed by the city of Dunwoody.

With motherhood come blessings and challenges. Anna is a special needs child who has Mitochondrial Disease. Lewis said Mitochondrial Disease is a genetic illness that occurs when the body does not produce enough energy to be able to do what it needs to do.

“It’s is different for every person. That’s what it makes it difficult to treat. Anna’s considered medically fragile,” Lewis said.

Although Anna is non-verbal and her other symptoms include muscle weakness, developmental delays, seizures and gastrointestinal problems, Lewis said, “She is very happy. She’s one of the happiest little girls you’ll ever meet. She’s very much a blessing to us.”

Wanting to expand the family, the couple was aware of a 20 percent chance of having another child with the disease. “Instead of risking having another child with Mitochondrial Disease, we decided we wanted to adopt,” Lewis said.

The couple adopted their two other children from China: Julia in 2009 when she was one year old, and Matthew in 2013 when he was one. Although China considers Julia and Matthew special needs because they have Cleft Lip and Clef Palate, the condition was easily treated in the US.

“A lot of people, because (Julia and Matthew) are adopted from China say, ‘the kids are so lucky.’ I think it’s the opposite. We’re the lucky ones. I want people to look at them as a natural extension of our family,” Lewis said.

The most important thing Lewis hopes her children learn from her is empathy.

“When my younger two see us work with Anna, and they see how much we love each other, and (Anna) is who she is, the disability doesn’t define who she is. It doesn’t define who we are as a family. We should always care for other people because we don’t know what challenges they may be facing that we don’t know about. It’s important to try to understand other people have problems of their own,” Lewis said.

Being a good influence on children is an important part of parenting. “We help develop who our children will be as adults. To me, it’s one of the most important jobs you can have, to influence another person’s life like that. I don’t know that there’s anything more important than that,” Lewis said.

“Anna faces challenges every day, but she’s an amazing little girl and she never stops trying. Julia and Matthew are wonderful. Just like any other family, they bring an enormous amount of gratitude in our lives,” Lewis said.

“(Jason’s) a blessing too because I wouldn’t be able to do it without him,” Lewis said.

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