Suitcase is unpacked , kids are loved on, house is back organized, and laundry is caught up. These are the typical things us women focus on after a long getaway to the beach with our best girlfriends. A few weeks have passed as I sit on the couch looking at the pictures from the trip, only to reflect on what amazing friends I have. However, this trip made me realize how one friend is simply extraordinary. Her name is, Brittany Caskey, and I have had the pleasure of developing a long-lasting friendship with her for the past few years. She is just one of those people you meet and you definitely know they will be in your life forever, because you wouldn’t want it any other way. And I am about to tell you why!
Our second annual girls trip to Rosemary Beach was full of laughter, day drinking, bike riding (some of us better than others…there might have been a bike wreck or two), shopping, eating, and of course lots of conversations. We started a tradition last year on girls trip that by far is the highlight of the trip, and this year was no exception. We exchange gifts! We bring 5 gifts that are the same to give to all of the girls on the trip. The gifts tend to reflect some of our favorite things (this got tricky the first year when one of the girls brought wine as her gift and it caused the suitcase to be overweight, so this year she opted for a silicone wine glass for her gift to give…perfect)! This year one gift stood out among the rest, because of its meaning and the reason we were there. Our friend, Brittany, gave each of us a gold necklace with a symbol of a DOVE on it. As we all unwrapped the gift she mentioned that the symbol of the Dove stands for motherhood, strength, and freedom.
Each girl without hesitation put the necklace on as we all said, it’s perfect Britt! For me, this necklace wasn’t a reflection of me as a mother, but what Brittany has exemplified as a mother. When I look at the necklace I am reminded and inspired that Brittany (like my own mother) exemplifies selfless love, courage, resiliency, and strength! WHY? Why, do I look at Brittany different than the other “mom” friends? Why does Brittany remind me of my own mother? Keep reading….I am about to tell you.
Brittany was blessed 10 years ago with a little boy named Hudson. I reached out to Brittany to ask her to tell me the story of Hudson (what she wrote was perfect and I included it in this blog for the readers to also be inspired by her and Hudson). Hudson was born with special health needs. Parenting a child in general has its challenges and roller coaster rides, but I know all too well how the challenges become magnified when parenting a child with special needs.
I’m excited to share with you the story of Hudson, but also to highlight my amazing friend Brittany. Behind every child with special needs, is a strong woman who is raising that child and has the weight of the world on them. (Disclaimer: Yes there are strong fathers too, but remember this is my reflection blog of Girls’ Trip, so it’s all about the mothers)
Raising Hudson: Brittany’s Story
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that we were expecting and enjoyed an enjoyable pregnancy up until the day that Hudson was delivered. During a routine pre-natal check-up, we were informed that Hudson was not quite as big as one would expect at 30.5 weeks gestation. Without much concern, we were sent to the maternal fetal medicine for extensive tests, which later confirmed that Hudson was indeed suffering from the effects of undiagnosed preeclampsia. Within a short 24 hours, we quickly realized that the delivery of our son was imminent.
On August 25, 2009 at 1:15 PM, Hudson Bennett Caskey was brought into this world weighing 2 lb. 8 oz. and was 14 inches in length. Although he was almost 31 weeks gestation, he was the size of a 27 – 28 week baby. After 3 volatile weeks in the NICU, we were transferred to a children’s hospital specializing in airway research where it was discovered that Hudson needed a tracheotomy due to sublgottic stenosis, narrowing of the airway. We were released after 9 weeks in the NICU on Hudson’s due date, October 28, 2009.
His airway was reconstructed in March 2011 using his own harvested rib cartilage in hopes of removing the tracheotomy. We repeated this surgery in 2013 and 2015 with no success. We have ventured into exploratory procedures and are often testing a variety of unprecedented procedures in an effort to remove the trache. Hudson has been under anesthesia over 100 times for surgeries, procedures and scope and his resiliency continues to amaze us all. Unfortunately, we really are no closer to having the tracheostomy removed than we were 10 years ago.
For the first 4 years of his life, we had nursing care 16 hours a day, 5 days a week. Nurses cared for Hudson so we could work during the day and at night so we could rest. The weekends we played doctor and nurse, rising every 3 hours for feedings and trache suctioning as needed. The most challenging times were battling illness throughout the cold and flu season where we’d find ourselves up all night, all weekend to care for Hudson.
Hudson celebrated his 10th birthday on August 25 and we couldn’t be more proud of the little gentleman that he has become. He loves golf and coin collecting, most recently attended the World’s Fair of Money where he purchased several rare coins. He is an excellent student, reader and historian.
For two working parents, our life is busy but Hudson is always at the center. We find our new normal everyday as we balance life, work and caring for a special needs child. We have to ensure that he makes it to school with his suction and emergency bag, we often check-in with his nurse to ensure he’s getting the care he needs, and nightly routines includes careful bathing, medications, neb treatments and wearing a pulse oximeter during sleep to track his heart rate and oxygen saturation. Otherwise, we let him live his life like everyone else and encourage that he live it to the fullest.
Brittany’s story is most likely like many other mothers out there raising a child with special needs, but her story has become special to me because she is a friend. Her story is special to me, because it inspires me to be a better mother. Her story is special to me because I get to see her strength overshadow her fears. Her story is special to me because she is a strong ass woman who has never used excuses to get through.
So let’s circle back to the girls trip……
As all 6 of us girls sat on that couch laughing, drinking, and enjoying the escape from reality, I couldn’t help but be inspired and also sad. Sad, because I know there are so many moms who will never experience the moments we experienced on our annual girls trip. We always say our Girls’ Trip is “cheaper than therapy”! So true! We all exchanged stories of our children and the hopes and dreams we have for them. In these conversations as we try to predict the future of our children, many times Brittany’s answer was simple, but yet so powerful. She just wanted Hudson to be happy! She shared with us Hudson’s desires to be in love and get married, and I could hear in her voice how she was hopeful that his dreams would come true. However, she always came back to her dream for him is happiness!
As mothers I think we all want our children to be happy, but we also have this “painted” image in our head of what their happiness will look like, because it is our dreams for them. I have heard my mom say too many times for my brother (who has cognitive and physical disabilities) I just want Nick to be happy.
This mom’s Trip allowed me to reflect on all mothers raising children with special needs, and become inspired. The painted image in my head that I had of my children’s future: who they will marry, what profession they will have, where they will live, and where they will travel too has now become blurred and replaced. I just want them to be happy!
Many mothers fear the future for their children for many reasons, but for a mother raising a child with a disability their fear of the future and uncertainties rattles them to the core everyday. It’s fears that no one would ever understand (unless you are that mother raising a child with special needs, then you know the exact fears I’m speaking of).
Even though I know fear of Hudson’s future resides in Brittany, one thing I know is certain; she will do everything in her power to never let it show, take one day at a time, fill others with hope and love, and pray for nothing but happiness and health for her child. She is a mother that inspires me not only from what she does for Hudson, but more from what she isn’t saying that I know she carries. Girls’ Trip changed my dreams for both of my children: true happiness and nothing more! The Dove necklace will remind me of this.