Editor’s note: This is the first part of a portrait series highlighting ordinary families in the community. To recommend a family to be highlighted for this project, please email justin@thesheridanpress.com.

SHERIDAN — Earlier this year, Sheridan Press photographer Justin Sheely started a project to highlight families in Sheridan County. He asked local families several questions: How has having children for the first time changed their lives? What are the challenges they face? What advice would they offer to new parents or those about to have their worlds changed forever?

Every aspect of life changes

Desi Powell was living like any other invincible twenty-something student: working jobs, drinking with friends, earning a college degree online and dreaming about the future.

Then, she found out she was pregnant.

Powell’s nightlife switched from drinking all night with friends to holding her baby all night when he refused to sleep.

“I had a lot of dreams, but when you have a baby, your dreams become different,” Powell said. “Your dreams are more focused on their dreams.”

Having a baby also changed Powell’s perspective on her own childhood. She did not realize how much her parents loved her until she became a parent herself. All of the times they would get on her — Powell used to think they were holding her back.

“I now know that they were looking out for my best interest,” she said.

Having a child did not stop Powell from finishing school. She earned her bachelor’s degree online through Grantham University while juggling two jobs and raising a baby.

Powell currently works full time as an insurance agent in Sheridan.

Daily challenges 

Raising a 5-year-old boy is not easy for Powell, the sole provider for her “little guy,” as Powell affectionately calls him.

Leric was born with a Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes an abnormal amount of mucus to collect in his lungs. If not treated on a daily basis, Leric will not be able to breathe. The disease also affects the functionality of his pancreas — limiting the amount of nutrients his body can absorb from food.

Medications and nebulizer treatments are a daily ritual at Powell’s home. Leric is strapped into a vibrating vest to knock loose and allow him to cough up the mucus from his lungs each day. The youngster is also connected to a feeding tube throughout the night to get supplemental calories to help him gain weight.

Powell said she often feels she doesn’t have enough time for Leric in her day between administering treatments, seeing to his medical needs, cooking and working a full-time job.

“There is always that fear inside me: Did I do enough for him? Did I miss something? If he gets sick, is it my fault?” Powell wondered aloud.

“It’s a little scary,” she added.

On top of health and medical needs, Powell’s little guy is a typical 5-year-old boy, full of seemingly unbridled energy and swinging attitudes. Powell admitted she has moments when she feels like breaking down and hiding from it all.

“This is the most stressful job, yet it’s the most rewarding,” she said of parenting.

At the end of the day, though, Leric looks and acts like any other spirited young boy. All of the treatments and medicines are routine for him and Powell said he will even initiate treatments and ask her if she is ready to help him.

“He is quite resilient,” Powell remarked.

Powell’s advice

“If you are worried about being a good parent, you already are one,” Powell said about the advice she would offer new parents.

Powell also encouraged young parents to enjoy the little things.

There are plenty of moments when her little guy is needy, clinging to her at the most inconvenient times, like when she has to get errands done or pay bills.

“Those things can wait, but babies grow up,” she said.

“The past five years feel like it was only one. If I could go back in time and relive some of those moments so I could just slow down — I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Powell added.