I’ve always had a never give up attitude. Being the mother of two boys, catapulted me into the caregiver role, but little did I know that my caregiving status was about to go from normal to superhuman overnight and my never give up attitude was about to be tested to the limit.
Caregiving isn’t just about taking care of elderly or disabled family members, it is also about taking care of children with chronic illnesses and diseases that require 24 hour care, medication every 4 – 6 hours, frequent hospitalizations and advocating for someone who can’t speak for themselves.
My First Experience with Caregiving
It was March, 2007. I had two gorgeous boys. One was on the verge of turning 7 years old and the other one had just celebrated his 18 month milestone. He had always been such a good baby. He was angelic, he never cried and always slept through the night.
The night of March 3rd was different. My youngest son woke up several times that night coughing and crying. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I tried to get him to drink some water. I held him in my arms until he fell back to sleep. I rocked him. Nothing seemed to work. I thought he was crying because he was so tired and the coughing was a mystery.
We both fell asleep right before sunrise. I had slept in his room to be near him in case he needed me and the light of the rising sun woke me up. I immediately went to check on him in his crib. Initially, I was so relieved to see him resting peacefully, but as my eyes began to focus on his beautiful face, I saw something that I will never forget.
His lips were blue. The blueness extended outward from his lips to around his mouth. His little finger nails were blue. I tried to wake him up. He opened his eyes, but he was extremely lehargic and unable to stand up. I picked him up immediately and held him close to me while I called his pediatrician.
The drive to the doctor’s office seemed to take forever. Los Angeles traffic was unforgiving as usual, but the worst part was watching my baby lose consciousness in his carseat. I knew that we couldn’t let him “fall asleep”, so I told his older brother who was in the backseat with him to keep him awake. “Do anything to keep him awake!”
We finally made it to the doctor’s office and she got us right in. She took his vital signs and told us to immediately take him to the emergency room at UCLA Santa Monica. He was admitted to the hospital that morning and was hospitalized for 3 days. This happened again in May of 2007. He was hospitalized for 5 days that time and nearly airlifted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
This would happen several times again. His diagnosis was always the same: double pneumonia and severe reactive airway disease (he was eventually diagnosed with severe asthma). I had also been very sick with a sinus infection that would not respond to antibiotics and hives all over my body. The whole family was sick. What was going on?
We found out that we had been renting a home that had toxic mold. It was making us all sick, but it was literally killing my baby. We moved out immediately. We camped outside in a tent until we could find another place to rent. In June of 2007, we were able to rent a condo on the beach temporarily until we found a more permanent residence.
In July of 2007, I graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Education with a specialization in curriculum and instruction. I had started my masters degree when my baby was 6 months old and had enrolled in an accelerated online program. I was working on my master’s thesis during most of 2007. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, never missed a class discussion, all of my assignments, projects, essays and papers were turned in on time and I received an A+ on my master’s thesis.
The hospital didn’t have internet, but I did not let this derail my educational goals. People ask me “How did you do all this? How were you able to take on the emotional, psychological and physical stress of having your baby almost die numerous times, being sick yourself, moving out of a toxic house and into a new one and going to grad school at the same time?”
I would always say, “You do what you gotta do”, but that is an oversimplification of what really goes into caregiving during difficult times. Upon deeper reflection, I’ve identified the four main superpowers that are essential for superhuman caregiving. I was able to weave these four superpowers together to become superhuman in any situation, any crisis, any time.
The 4 Superpowers Needed to Develop Superhuman Strength for Caregiving During Difficult Times
I am a naturally resilient person. I learned at a very young age how to keep going in the face of adversity. I believe I learned it from my mother who was a single mom, raising two children by herself. This superpower goes hand in hand with my never give up attitude that I mentioned before.
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences
American Psychological Association
This trait does not come naturally to everyone, so caregiving during difficult times can be more challenging for some. The good news is that resilience is a learned behavior. To learn how to become more resilient, read “10 Ways to Build Resilience” by the American Psychological Association.
In May of 2007, I attended an intensive weekend session to become certified to teach children’s yoga, mediation and mindfulness with Shakta Kaur Khalsa through her Radiant Child Yoga certification program. I had signed up and paid for this months before my youngest son became so ill.
Mindfulness is being aware of what it going on in and around you in the present moment. It is about bringing your thoughts back to the present and giving yourself enough time to respond to sitations instead of react to situations. Furthermore, mindfulness and meditation were the basis of my master’s thesis.
It was because of mindfulness that I did not break down into a crying mess. I stayed in the present moment. I responded to each situation that presented itself to me in a calm manner. Many times, I didn’t feel calm on the inside. I was scared, but how could I take care of my child and communicate with medical staff if I couldn’t keep myself together?
In 2007, there weren’t many resources dedicated to mindfulness, especially for children. That’s why I went to grad school to get a Master of Arts degree in Education and a certification in children’s meditation and yoga. In 2008, I began teaching children the skills of mindfulness and meditation and now offer an online class to children and their parents so that families can learn these valuable skills together in the comfort of their own home.
This term is quite trendy these days, but self care has always been an essential part of caregiving.
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.
By Raphailia Michael, MA on PsychCentral.com
Since becoming a Reiki Master in 2004, I was able to incorporate Reiki into my self care routine when faced with difficult times during caregiving. Reiki is an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety and to promote deep relaxation. As a Reiki Therapist in Los Angeles, I am a caregiver to caregivers who seek stress reduction and relaxation as an essential aspect of their self care regimen.
Self care comes in many different forms. Anything that you deliberately set out to do to relieve stress and anxiety and to instill happiness is self care. Some of my personal favorite self care practices are: mindfulness, meditation, Reiki, going to the beach, going to concerts (yep! that counts as self care – music makes me happy), getting dressed up and going out (instant mood changer), taking naps (dreaming can be very theraputic), new adventures (routines feel restrictive). daily exercise and having a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Self care should be personal and unique to each individual. It should be flexible and ever evolving as each moment of every day has it’s own energetic signature. Life is always changing and challenging us to grow and become better versions of ourselves. Our self care practices often reflect who we are on the inside and what we need to heal our ourselves from the inside out.
I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my best friend, soul mate, husband. He was going through all of this with me. We’ve had some difficult experiences with caregiving. He helped me turn in all those assignments in on time when I was in grad school and the hospital didn’t have internet. I typed them up and emailed them to him from my baby’s hospital bed and then he submitted them using our home internet connection. You have to ask for help when you need help.
When my son threw up all over his favorite blankie in the hospital, my husband came and got the blanket, took it home, washed and dried it and brought it back the same night. He knew how much his blankie meant to him and he really needed it to comfort him while his was in the hospital. He is my rock. Find your rock.
Seek support. If you don’t have someone close to you for support, look for support groups or call support help lines at the Caregiver Alliance Network.
Now that you know and understand the superpowers of caregiving, it’s time to exercise these muscles to develop superhuman strength during difficult times. Buld your reslilience. Learn mindfulness. Practice self care. Seek Support. Become an Earth Angel.