Finley and Frannie Phillips

Hello! We’re the Phillips Family! I’m Erin, wife to my husband Ryan, and mom to our three daughters, Sullivan “Sully” (8), Finley (3), and Frances “Frannie” (3), plus our pups Weller and Goose.

Our story began in 2009 when Ryan and I met at the Carolina Cup in college. Just nine months later we were engaged and then married in 2011. We first called Greenville home before moving to Richmond, VA in 2013, Washington DC in 2015, Charleston, SC in 2016, London, England in 2018, back to Charleston in 2019, and then finally settling here in Greenville in 2021. Phew!

In 2015, we had our daughter Sully in Richmond. We thought it would take some time to get pregnant since both sides of our family had fertility issues. In a blink though, I was pregnant, I didn’t even realize until nine weeks.

Many moves and job changes later and we were in London starting to question why our family wasn’t growing as quickly as it did when we had Sully. After hearing from many doctors that nothing was wrong, we were too young for something to be wrong, we saw a specialist.

That’s when we discovered I had secondary infertility. The specialist found my abdomen riddled with stage four endometriosis and on top of that an incredibly low follicle count. My chances of getting pregnant naturally were close to zero, it was unlikely any medications, procedures or an IUI would work. We could try IVF, but our chances were low.

As the doctor explained our options, my husband and I immediately turned to each other and said, “I think we’ll adopt”. Yes, we had talked about adoption before, but this news was unexpected and right there on the spot we were on the same page and our hearts were telling us to adopt. It’s what we refer to as a “God wink”.

Fast forward two years to 2020 and we were back in the States fully engrossed in the domestic adoption process. We unfortunately went through a horrible failed adoption and had no positive outlook on growing our family any time soon.

Out of the blue in August 2020 we got a call from our adoption agency asking if we would be open to twins. We were told they had just been born early at 32 weeks and their first mommy decided to go the route of adoption. They were completely healthy; despite how little they were and how early they were born.

We decided it didn’t hurt to be included in the stack of books the birth mother would look at to decide on the adoptive family. We were the third book in the stack. After the birth mother saw our book, she handed all the others back to her lawyer and said she didn’t need to see anymore, we were her family.

We drove to meet her, and it was beautiful and hard all at the same time. I loved her immediately. She’s still in our lives today.

Then we didn’t hear anything for weeks. We thought we had another failed adoption on our hands.

While on a date night, we got the call. On September 12, 2020, we brought home our two six-week-old baby girls. Finley McCarthy Phillips and Francis “Frannie” Joy Phillips.

Our prayers had been answered, times two! Sully would finally get to be the big sister she’s always dreamed of being (and goodness is she phenomenal at it!) and we would get to grow our family in a way even our wildest dreams couldn’t have conjured.

In January 2021 we moved to Greenville to be closer to family. As time moved on, our girls were not growing or developmentally progressing as they should be, even on a premature scale. That’s when we started PT, OT, Speech, Early Intervention, and seeing many, many specialists.

In November of 2021, Frannie was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Finley followed shortly after also with a CP diagnosis in 2022. One that most likely would have never been diagnosed had it not been for Frannie as the spectrum for CP is very wide ranging.

While we had a hunch Frannie could receive the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, what we felt when it happened wasn’t the feeling of “oh we saw that coming”. We felt grief. So many questions swirled through our heads. The life we imagined for our daughter, possibly both daughters, would be much different.

Cerebral Palsy is a motor disorder, meaning, in my very rough and layman’s definition, that the twins’ brain does not have the connections and makeup to tell their body how to move as swiftly or smoothly as your brain might move. That’s everything from moving her arms to moving her throat muscles to swallow.

We will never know what caused our girls to have CP. While Finley is walking and talking and to most everyone who looks at her seems to be a traditional (albeit tiny at only 25 pounds) three-year-old, we have no idea what Frannie’s future will look like mobility-wise, speech wise, really when it comes to anything.

But here is what I do know. Our Frannie girl is not Frannie without her mannerisms and easy smile, and belly laughs. She is perfect just the way she is.

I would like to say the grief doesn’t sneak back in, but it does every now and then. Overall, though, we have found community and realized what an amazing blessing it is that we’re in Greenville where everyone is so eager to connect and help. The Meyer’s Center for Special Children (where both girls attend school), organizations like KIND of the Upstate, the Ferlauto Center, and so many other people and resources are here to give our girls the very best care possible.

Liezl Els, wife to the famous golfer Ernie Els, and mother to a son with Autism said, “Your cause finds you.” If you would have asked me years ago, I may have nodded my head and said, “oh yes… secondary infertility, endometriosis, adoption, etc.” But I was wrong.

My cause is my girls. My cause is Cerebral Palsy. My cause is children with disabilities. My cause is long-term disability advocacy. My cause is sharing the beautiful and the hard and the joy and the pain of this world where your children struggle, but you also recognize your immense blessings. I’m so grateful for my husband who has been in lockstep for every up and down. I am so very grateful for all three of my girls. They show me in the little ways how wonderful life is and how blessed I am to be their mom.