Born without arms, mother of 2 overcomes obstacles

Presented by: TOMAH, Wis. (WMTV) -- Laurel Burns has had a life filled with challenges. The Wisconsin woman learned early on to rely on her own determination and ingenuity to live in an able-bodied world when she was born with no arms.

"I don’t want to have to depend on other people," Burns said. "I’ve never been one to say, 'Hey, can you help me out over here?' I usually do that as a last resort."

At the age of eight, she was put into foster care, and a year or so later, she moved again to live with her father and stepmother.

"That was a very sensitive time and it was a big deal to take on a child, and they had their own. She was only three. It was really a blessing," Burns said.

It became home. The place she found strength and support .

"I was different than a lot of people. I didn’t fit in," she said. "But I did always happen to have friends."

That core group of family and friends encouraged and believed in Burns, maybe more than she really believed in herself.

"I have never imagined what it would be like to move away from home and be independent, and that would be scary," she said.

But she faced that fear and became a foreign exchange student in Brazil.

"I remember sitting on the airplane, leaving Madison, thinking, 'Do I really want to do this right now? What am I getting myself into?'" she explained. "And I was kind of freaking out, but oh my gosh, it was the opportunity of a lifetime."

She came home a confident young woman. And she would need it, because just a few years later, she was about to become a single mom.

"My parents supported whatever decision I made," she said. "They were pretty excited about it."

And so Burns moved back home to have the baby, and once again face her own fear and other people's skepticism.

"A lot of people asked, 'How are you gonna do this? What are you going do if this happens? How are you gonna do that?' And honestly, I didn’t have any of the answers," Burns said.

And little Noah thrived. Burns gained confidence as a mom and welcomed a second son, Isaiah.

"It’s beautiful to watch them grow and do all these new things," she said.

When boys were two and four, Laurel was ready to set out on her own, taking on single motherhood in spite of the odds stacked against her. She’s enrolled in college, saving where she can and dreaming of one day owning her own home, with accessible appliances and conveniences for herself, and a play set for the boys.

"It’s hard. It’s really, really penny pinching," she said.

But there is a recurring theme to Burns' life:

"Difficult does not mean impossible by any means," she said.

That goes for raising her boys wherever they live

"You want them to turn out good. You want them to turn out independent, and my kids do a lot of things independently," Burns said.

Burns moved to Tomah, Wisconsin so the boys could be closer to their father and his family. Her friends have created a fund to help her raise money for her first real home.

About the Author...
Pam Tauscher
Pam works as Executive Producer and Panel Moderator for the MomsEveryday Show, as well as serving as MomsEveryday host in her local market in Madison, WI.
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