Sometimes you just cant win. The odds are too high, the time is not right or it is just not meant to be.Thats what they told me when I got pregnant in 1991. Having miscarried just two years before with our first child, I knew the signs. This time my doctor ordered me to rest and not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Good luck with that! The year before -- despite complications -- I had delivered a healthy 9-pound baby boy who started walking, talking and running early.Even if I went on full bed rest, there was little hope that I would carry the baby to term, the doctor said.Dont tell anyone youre pregnant was his advice.He ordered weekly ultrasounds, just to see if the baby was still alive. And every Friday, I would hold my breath and watch the monitor, praying to see a heartbeat. And every week, despite all odds, there it was.In September 1991, I delivered our son, Alex, who came out screaming and didnt stop. The doctors at first diagnosed colic, but soon gave up as the crying jags stretched into his second year.Despite being upset for most of his babyhood, Alex was so beautiful that he was often mistaken for a girl. (Somewhere hes cringing reading this.) And when he wasnt crying, he was a sweet and funny baby. We all adored him.When he didnt walk, talk or read as early as his big brother, I wasnt concerned. In fact, I was determined not to compare my children so I figured that Alex would get around to all his milestones eventually. And he did -- but a lot later than his brother, a lot later than most kids.When he started preschool, his teacher told us something wasnt right. Alex seemed overwhelmed in class and often shut down, just staring at the ceiling. She advised us to have him tested by the school districts diagnosticians.When the test results came back, Alex didnt have one learning disability, he had a laundry list: small and large motor skill problems, speech delay and something they couldnt diagnose. They told us to take him out of preschool, put him in special education and have him tested again when he was older. They didnt know what his future held, or how much or even if he would be able to learn.Family members asked us if he was retarded, a phrase I have grown to dislike as much as any racial, religious or ethnic slur.No, hes not, we told everyone. Privately, I was overwhelmed. Parents of special-needs children had to have the patience of saints, and I knew I was no saint. I had prayed that I would never have a child with challenges because I knew that I was the one who would come up lacking, not the child.But Alex was already here, and we loved him with all our hearts, so we enrolled him in the districts special-needs preschool program. However, we refused to take him out of his regular preschool. Whether it was being perverse or our own form of mainstreaming, we didnt want Alex to think he had failed. Although the class was loud -- and stressful -- he had friends there and would have wondered why he had to leave.In the first grade, he was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder and ADHD, which meant that he did not comprehend things well with verbal instructions and that it was difficult for him to pay attention. He was never a hyperactive boy, but he did have problems with concentration.A month after Alex was diagnosed, I saw an ad in the local paper for therapeutic horseback riding. Neither my Detroit-raised husband, Bob, nor I were horse people, but Alex was obsessed with them. We often said that horse was his third word after mama and daddy.Because of Alexs disability he qualified to ride with the equine therapy group, taking weekly horseback riding lessons, a luxury that we could not have afforded.While horses are amazing for people with physical disabilities, helping them exercise muscles that they could not use because of limitations, some people may wonder what good a horse could do for a child with learning disabilities. Horses taught my son to read. Instructors mounted large letters on the side of the arena and asked him to steer his horse to different letters. When he said he didnt know his letters, they told him he better figure it out because the horse was waiting on him. And he did learn, through trial and error.Alex grew into an amazing horseman, competing and earning buckles and ribbons at the Chisholm Challenge rodeo at the Fort Worth Stock Show. One of his proudest moments was receiving a buckle for all-around cowboy from longtime Stock Show president Bob Watt.When he got older and wanted to volunteer at his equine therapy center, the instructors didnt know what to do. No rider had ever volunteered. Alex was the first. Later, he applied for a job and became the first rider to be promoted to employee.A community of teachers, counselors, Scout and religious leaders, along with friends and family, surrounded Alex and helped him to learn and deal with his challenges.When he decided to work on his Eagle Scout project, I asked his Scout leader why he wasnt working on the program for boys with learning or physical disabilities. Plainly put, he said, they had never considered Alex to have limitations and they werent planning to start. He earned his Eagle Scout award soon afterward.After graduating on time from Mansfield High School, Alex struggled again. Even though he received college scholarships, concentrating and finding his way around a college campus overwhelmed him and he dropped out during his first semester. He put together a patchwork of part-time jobs to support himself, but soon realized that he wanted something more. He wanted a career and a life. He wanted to see the world.On Jan. 25, Seaman Alex Kowalski graduated from basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Command as part of a Hall of Fame division. After completing his advance training, he will serve on a ship in the South Pacific.The baby who wasnt supposed to be born, the child who they didnt know if he would be able to learn is now a part of the greatest Navy in the history of the world.Sometimes, you do win.