There’s no mountain that can’t be climbed
When primary school teacher and mum of three Michelle Hourigan summited Mount Kosciuszko in February with her husband and three children, she recalled how achieving this feat as a family was never a given.
Far from it.
In fact, it’s been a big climb, right from the moment when, at just a few days old, Michelle’s third - and youngest - child Kristy suffered a stroke. At about 10 days old, they were told Kristy had hemiplegic cerebral palsy. The news made her redouble her efforts to ensure each family member could make the most of every opportunity.
“Sitting there in the hospital with baby Kristy was one of those eye-opening motherhood moments, “ Michelle says. “With Kristy’s entire right-hand side affected, we were told she would most likely never walk and be in a wheelchair.”
“Seeing your child being put on life support, and being told she may never walk was the most gut-wrenching and emotional time I have ever experienced as a mother. I learnt very quickly about the importance and strength of family and friends and the power of being positive,” she says. “Having a child with special needs has most definitely challenged me as a mum. It has opened up a world of finding creative and practical ways to overcome challenges and realising that she is not disabled but ‘differently abled.’”
“(The experience) has made each member of our family a better person – definitely more adaptable, as we fully understand each other's challenges.”
“You don’t say things like that to a mum – that your child isn’t going to walk,” muses Michelle, as her daughter Kristy who lives by the motto: “I can do what you can do, I just do it differently”.
Nurturing passions and aspirations
Supporting, encouraging and nurturing the very different aspirations, talents and passions of her children is one of Michelle’s highest priorities. So too is encouraging her children to step out of their comfort zones.
In February, the Hourigan's participated in the Krazy Kosci Klimb, an opportunity for people with varying degrees of cerebral palsy, assisted by their support teams, to reach the top of Australia. Over 33,000 steps and six hours they made it back to base camp, raising $23,000 for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
“Completing the climb as a family was a huge achievement for us. We did it as a team, and most importantly we did it as a family.”
"Being a mum is all about seeing the bigger picture, and keeping it real," she says. "My son Matt juggles Architecture at uni and a passion for musical theatre. He has the lead role in a musical and he's living that passion. Bailee is studying Business and Law. She is also a talented athlete and plays a number of representative sports. Kristy plays netball and has competed in para-sports. She walks. She runs. She goes to a mainstream school. Last year she stepped right out of her comfort zone to deliver a speech to over five hundred people at the Grace Gala Ball."
Michelle supports her children to be what they want to be – and makes sure they can always take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
This year on Mother’s Day, Michelle is looking forward to reflecting on what she as a mum and they as a family have achieved together.
“Motherhood is an overwhelming explosion of joy, hopes, dreams and unconditional love. It’s by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. To hear my children call me ‘Mum’ anytime, anywhere – even at 3am – is greater than anything.”
About: 'Those who mum' series
Meet 40 women across Australia, from as far as Cairns in North Queensland to Baldivis in Western Australia, as part of a 40-part editorial and portrait series that celebrates the faces of women and mums from across Australia.