Today’s blog post is part of a monthly feature called Mommy of A Miracle written by our mommy and caregiver blogger Kristin Olliney, the mother of seven-year-old Isabella, who suffered brain damage from sudden acute encephalitis at just four-and-a-half. In today’s post, Kristin shares the how she handles the many emotions involved in being a caregiver and mother of a child with a brain injury. Read Isabella’s entire story on our website.
As a parent to a child with a brain injury, I have my moments on the emotional roller coaster from hell. That rush of many emotions all at once usually creeps up on me when I least expect. I am still working on allowing myself to have these moments. I am starting to realize that it doesn’t make me weak – instead, it makes me human.
A couple weeks ago when Isabella was at Aquatics “swimming” therapy, I noticed that the radio was on in the background. The song on the radio was Anna Nalick’s “Breathe,” which was Isabella’s favorite song before her Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). As I watched Isabella swimming and I listened to the song, the tears started rolling down my face. The flood of emotions overwhelmed me. In that moment I was sad, angry, worried, nervous, happy, proud, amazed and finally, overwhelmed with joy.
I have learned that it is OK to be sad and angry. Anger is a very foreign feeling for me and that emotion is usually coupled with sadness. The truth is that at times I am very angry and sad because Isabella was robbed of the life she should have had. As I listened to the song, I flashed back to the four-and-a-half year old little girl who would sing “Breathe” at the top of her lungs. Then, Isabella knew all the words and she didn’t have a care in the world. That happy-go-lucky little girl is forever gone. Isabella didn’t deserve this. I have never been one to dwell on the life that Isabella lost. However, I am learning that I am human and it’s OK to feel anger and sadness as long as it’s not what I focus on. I choose to focus on the life that Isabella has and I watch her in amazement at what she continues to overcome.
As the song continued, the emotions turned from sadness and anger to worried and nervous. On the outside, Isabella looks like every other seven-year-old little girl. I have witnessed firsthand how cruel the world can be to those who have invisible disabilities. I worry about Isabella’s future and wonder, will she be able to be the “pet doctor” she wants to be? Will Isabella be able to have her two sons and one daughter someday? Will she be happy? Will Isabella be a self-sufficient adult one day? I allow myself the moment because I think it is only natural to feel this way at times. I can’t predict the future and I am not sure I would want to. I have learned that the only thing that comes from worrying is that it ruins the moment. Worrying doesn’t change anything. All I can focus on is today. I know I am doing everything I can today to ensure that Isabella has the best future possible. I have to have faith that in the end it will all work out. After all, Isabella was saved for a reason.
As I am lost in the song and all the emotions that follow, I hear Isabella laughing in the pool. My emotions immediately turn to happy, proud and amazed. The song continues, I take a deep breath and the tears become filled with joy. Isabella yells “Look Mommy, I’m doing it all by myself” as she swims for the first time. I see confidence appear on her face, something that was taken two-and-a-half years ago. Isabella is amazing. She inspires me every day. I have never seen so much fight in anyone. I stood there watching her swim with a huge grin on my face (tears and all) because I am so very proud of her. I choose to focus on all that Isabella has overcome and the miracle that I have been blessed with.
As the song ends, the emotional roller coaster stops. I am still working on being OK with all of these emotions. I am choosing to live one day at a time and one moment at a time. I am learning that these emotions are part of the journey and help me move forward. At the end of the day, I am the luckiest Mommy. I got to leave the hospital with my baby two-and-a-half years ago when no one expected her to make it through the night. There are so many parents of children with a brain injury who don’t get that chance to take their baby home. I don’t take it for granted for a second that I did.