The biggest honor of all…

It’s hard to come up with the words to describe this past week. Nothing I can write could explain what has been going on in my mind, heart and soul. It’s been hard. A hard you can’t describe. It’s tough to even write about because I can’t seem to get my feelings down on paper. I write, I erase. I write, I erase.

For a long time, I played over in my head how I would hand her off for surgery. How would I let her go…knowing what she was about to encounter? How would I have no control of my baby girl for a full 5 plus hours? The weeks building up to her surgery, this is what kept me up at night. The handoff.

The night before her surgery, I went to our church and poured my heart out because I didn’t know what else to do.  As I was leaving, I went to go see Mary because she was who I prayed to since she knew firsthand the struggles of motherhood.  What caught my eye was a little white heart on her pinky.  I immediately felt an inner peace because one of Gabriella’s unique traits is that her pinky doesn’t close all the way and there sat a beautiful heart.  Throughout the last few months, hearts have been appearing whenever I needed them most, so this was comforting.  IMG_5284

When the day finally arrived, the drive to the hospital was incredibly difficult. My stomach was in knots and Steve and I were just silent. As we made our way up to the 3rd floor to “check in”, my panic hit a whole new level. The moment was here and all I wanted to do was freeze time as if I was watching a movie. She held onto me so tightly and I know deep down, she knew something was up.

My entire family was waiting for us in the waiting room and even our priest from Providence, Fr. Nowel who married us and baptized all our girls was there too. He came in the room to give her special blessing just minutes before her surgery.  Handing her off to my husband to take her back to the OR made me fall to my knees.

My body went boneless.

Nothing can prepare you for this moment. Especially a surgery so invasive to your sweet little girl’s precious and adorable head.

The only way I can explain the feeling is that moment you lose sight of your child in the grocery store. That pit that overtakes your emotions until you find them in aisle 7 looking at the bright colored cereal boxes. That is what I felt when she entered those double doors. I felt that for 5 straight hours. 18,000 long seconds.

My husband was my superhero that day. I wanted to take her into the OR myself, but I was afraid I’d faint and also that she would feel how fast my heart was beating. The umbilical cord is never really cut, so what I feel, she feels. When he came back through those doors with red, watery eyes, he held me tighter than he’s ever held me. It was the ultimate display of faith. Faith in the anesthesiologist. Faith in the neurosurgeon. Faith in the plastic surgeon. Faith in the nurse watching her vital signs. Faith in the nurse handing the right tools to the doctor. Faith in each and ever person on Gabriella’s team that day. And faith in God. I had to trust that everything was going to be fine. I held tight to the words I read right from the bible, the morning of her surgery. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6. On the drive in, I kept saying, “Fear not, for I am with you” and I held onto each and every word.


My family that day was my life savior. They told stories, we prayed, we read and at times we were just silent. They were there and it was a much-needed distraction. My sister had an envelope of incredible letters that people wrote to wish Gabriella the best and provide comfort for Steve and I. I am grateful for all of those notes and will save them for her to read one day to see how many people were praying for her during surgery.

To be honest, a lot of the day was a blur and I think I went numb. Each second felt eternal. The final seconds when the doctor came around the corner and said they were DONE was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced.


Over 100 stitches later, a blood transfusion and newly shaped skull, we were able to see our baby girl in ICU. It was hard to recognize her due to the swelling, but when she woke up, she yelled Mommy and I could finally breathe again. It was my first time in ICU and boy is it a busy place. As I was looking at my little girl, I caught a glimpse of the drain in her head emptying blood and immediately felt light headed. I made eye contact with the nurse and said, I’m going down”. She grabbed Gabriella and I literally fell the chair seeing nothing but floating white spots. You couldn’t prepare me for this moment and my emotions overtook my body. After a few minutes and a ginger ale, I was able to snap out of it.


And from that moment, she didn’t leave anyones arms until we left the hospital 4 days later. Her Daddy, Pop Pop, Nonna, Auntie E, Uncle Chewy, Uncle Doug, Meme, Fr. Parrish, Amanda, Nicole and Emily all took turns holding her tight in their arms.

The stay at Boston Children’s was as good as a hospital stay can get. The doctors and nurses treated her like she was their own. It truly is a special place and I will forever be grateful for each and every one of them. Angels on earth.


We knew the 48 hours after surgery were going to be incredibly difficult as her swelling would get so bad that her eyes would shut. My husband, family members and I took turns holding her upright every second in the hospital to help the swelling. Between the hourly check ups, constant beeping noises, sharing a room with another baby and sleeping next to a 2 year old, you can imagine how exhausted we were (and still are!). She had 5 IVs in her body and a drain in her head so passing her off for bathroom breaks was about a 15-minute process and a lot of anxiety.


When her eyes finally opened on day 3, it was the biggest relief. Through the next few days, her eyes progressively opened more and swelling started to go down. We were able to leave a day early and going home and being with her sisters was definitely the best medicine for healing. It’s amazing to me that after ALL she went through, she left the hospital with no bandage and just Motrin. Kids are resilient and the true definition of a Badass. Capital B.

Steve and I walked out of that hospital on Saturday as different people than when we walked through 4 days earlier.


As time passes, her hair will grow and cover her scar, but beneath the hair, her warrior crown will always be there. It will always be a reminder that Gabriella is our little angel. I believe she was touched by God during that surgery and our prayers were answered. When I look at her scar, I immediately see a Rosary. It was the first thing I noticed. She is our fearless and brave girl who represents hope and resiliency. She also is the reason no one in the house can ever complain about a “boo-boo” anymore.


And now we heal. One day at a time. We pray that she grows into her skull the way she is supposed too or else she will need another surgery and I’m not sure I can handle that.

One day at a time.  One heart message at a time.

Some people may not believe in signs or even in God, but sweet Gabriella, I can promise you that I know for sure you have been touched by angels.  The last picture we took of you in your hospital bed was with Daddy as you were trying to eat and when I went back and looked at the photo, it was then that I knew how truly loved you are.

The help and support we have received has been above and beyond and I wish I could thank everyone personally. We are filled with gratitude like never before. Thank you to the doctors and nurses who literally saved her life. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for her. Thank you for the cards, the incredible gifts, the messages, the support…it’s been incredibly humbling.  Thank you to my incredible company who has been so supportive and given us an opportunity to be by her side this entire journey and beyond.  Thanks to my sister who has been my backbone.  We can’t thank our families enough for being there for us each step of the way.  Thank you to her superhero sisters, Austyn and Hadley who helped her bounce back quicker than anyone else could have.


But the biggest thank you of all goes to you Gabriella.

Gabriella, thank you for reminding us the power of faith, not just in the light, but in the darkness too.  And thank you for choosing us to be your parents.

It’s the biggest honor of all.






Author: gabriellascraniojourney

I am the lucky lady to have been blessed with 3 beautiful daughters, an unscripted life and one that took the road less traveled. This is her journey.

41 thoughts on “The biggest honor of all…”

  1. What a journey for all of you. You are a wonderful mom, a lesson in what is truly important. Here’s to Gabriella’s recovery and prayers to all of you. Thank you for sharing with us all. The rosary reference must have been so comforting. I love signs from above. All the best. Forever.


  2. Beautiful & heartwrenching. You are an amazing writer to capture the soul. Praying for your sweet daughter during this difficult time.


  3. Wow. Just wow. Your faith and positivity are just amazing! I too believe very strongly in signs and angels…..and that side by side pic of the rosary and her scar just I’ll continue to keep your family in my thoughts and prayers…hoping Gabriella’s recovery is smooth and quick!


  4. Sobbing. So glad your sweet girl is home where she can begin healing surrounded by all that love her. Thank you for sharing your raw, real journey with us. As a mother, I truly felt all your emotions as if she were my own. May God continue to bless you and your amazingly beautiful, strong family, Katie!


  5. So beautifully written Katie! Your words brought me to tears. Gabriella is such a courageous little girl, but Know that you are a warrior of a mom too. The hearts blew me away, what an amazing sign of love from God ❤ Wishing you and your family an amazing 2018.


  6. Absolute tears. Motherhood, love, faith defined within these words. Praying for your family Katie. You have such a gift with words- thank you for sharing your heart and Gabriella’s journey with the rest of us. Xoxo.


  7. you are so strong my friend! I am in awe of your bravery and all that you have endured. When I read this blog the emotion was so real as if I was right there with you! I thought of you all day! I am so glad you are in the healing phases and loved seeing all the incredible signs from above! Cheers to a healthy 2018! Love you!


  8. Wow, Katie. Wow. I pray that your little girl gets stronger and healthier every single day. I pray that this journey further helps you and everyone around you to take nothing for granted and live in the moment, cherishing them all. I am so glad your little Gabriella is ok 🙂


  9. What an amazing message you have shared with all of us Katie. The raw truth behind your journey with Gabriella and the emotions and belief that came along are so evident. In life we are often handed things that are beyond our control and you as a family have shown a strength that we often cannot appreciate we have, simply breathtaking! Thank you for opening your heart and mind to all of us. I will continue to pray and keep you all in my thoughts!


  10. What an amazing story of God’s never failing love and acts of wonder. I have watched this past year how He has healed my sister from what was originally a bleak diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer (she is now in remission). I have been following you with RF and following your blog. I have felt especially close to you as we are expecting our first baby. I often pray to Mother Mary and find such comfort in those prayers. My husband and I have been praying for precious Gabriella and we will continue to send her and your sweet family prayers of comfort, love, and healing. God Bless y’all!


  11. Wow. How truely inspirational. My thoughts and heart outing with love go out to your sweet girl, and to you and your beautiful family xox

    To a speedy recovery!!!


  12. I cried the whole way thru this beautiful writing of your journey. You are someone who inspires me so much, you have so much strength. Your little girl Gabriella is most certainly loved, incredibly strong and blessed. Prayers for all of you.


  13. You and all of your family are true warriors. The signs of faith you saw are incredible and gave me chills and tears as I continued to read. May the love you have as a mother and in your faith continue to give you strength and may Gabriella’s recovery be speedy and easy and as we can tell truly full of love. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.


  14. Just reading this left me with tears in my eyes, my heart thumping and my stomach in knots. Bless you all and may Gabriella heal and become an even stronger warrior. Love to you all.


  15. What an incredible journey. It is said that God never gives you more than you can handle. It seems so easy to ask why me , but I feel your words have answered that question : Gabby is very special, your enduring faith, your strong and supportive family, the wonderful doctors and nurses… I truly believe that our many loved ones in heaven were with her throughout the entire process . May God continue to bless you all. Gabby surely is a little hero with a fantastic family


  16. The good Lord is watching over your little warrior, Katie. He’s got her! And He’s showing you that your faith is enough through the very clear signs He’s leaving behind. God bless you all. I will keep saying Hail Mary’s for you.


  17. Oh Katie, my eyes are filled with tears of joy! Again, I cannot even imagine what this is like as a mother – but your blog gives us a sneak peak. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! And What a HUGE legacy you, your husband, your family and specially little Gabriella is leaving to help others! OK, that just gives me chills! God truly has a special plan for this baby girl! Much love and continued Prayers!


  18. God Bless you all! I can’t even imagine, you all are so strong and brave! Thankful for answered prayers! 😇 still praying for fast healing mercy and peace. 🙏🏻


  19. Absolutely in tears reading this! You are a warrior mom…a Badass Warrior Mom!!!!! Praying for all of you, especially that sweet little peanut, Gabriella!


  20. God is our healer and comforter. He is a aGod of miracles. Your journey is a testimony of your faith and His faithfulness.


  21. I am beyond moved by your story. I too was in your shoes handing my baby off to a neurosurgeon but it is faith beyond measure that gets is through. May God continue to bless you on this journey.


  22. I stumbled upon this blog post through Facebook but I almost felt led to it. My younger brother also had this same birth defect. He was 6 months old when he had his cranio surgery. He is now 29, in the Air Force, and a husband and a father. While his scar remains and his head is not shaped perfectly, he is perfect. My parents never let the birth defect hinder him from doing anything other children did. You are a strong woman just as my mother is. I pray that your daughter has a peaceful recovery!


  23. Wow!! I just cried a super hard, ugly cry reading this!!! God Bless your little fierce warrior Gabriella!! You’re truly blessed and have such an amazing family and friends around you for support!!!
    May God continue sending blessings and health your way!!!


  24. I am in tears reading this, Katie. You are all so strong and brave. As a parent, I just can’t even imagine going through this. Even just reading the words my heart sank. I am so glad that gabby is home and on the mend. Get some rest, mama. You deserve it. Xoxo


  25. Katie, you described everything I was feeling leading up to and during my son’s open surgery at 5 months old. I agonized over the hand-off. I didn’t want to let go of him. And then every minute of surgery felt like an eternity. The heart on Gabriella’s forehead completely took my breath away. Prayers that she heals quickly and there is no need for a second surgery! Don’t forget to take care of yourself on this road to recovery, too. Without putting the oxygen mask on first, we’re of no help to those who need us. Thank you for sharing this.


  26. You continue to move me with your truth and how you share your life with us. Your brave mama heart inspires me and I read your words like I’m right there with you, catching my breath and feeling it all. Your family is blessed and you are each surrounded by light and love, Katie. Continued prayers each and every day and so much love to your warrior princess with her warrior crown! Big hugs, Katie. xo


  27. Katie you are one amazing woman! Such an inspiration to others. Not everyone could share Gabriella’s story with the public, but I feel certain you are helping lots of people who have a heavy heart dealing with difficult situations. You have been blessed with a wonderful husband and 3 beautiful children. I knew you and Steve would get thru this scary time, because you have such faith in God. Amazing how Gabby was released on the 4th day after such a big surgery. Proves the resiliency of children, who had so many prayers behind her. May she have a full recovery and may she never need another surgery again!

    Lots of love,
    Joanne and David


  28. Katie, this is such a beautiful story of Faith, Love and Hope! Gabrielle is such a beautiful little girl and warrior! I have no doubt Angels will continue to surround her with Gods perfect Love and protection! Thank you for sharing your story it reminds me to be grateful everyday! The Krauses will keep your beautiful family in our prayers🙏🏻


  29. Hello, My husband actually works with your sister in law, Glenna who showed him this story. I was truly touched by your bravery, vulnerability and grace. Your angel daughter is so lucky to have such a wonderfully strong and faithful mother. I also have a daughter who is similar to your daughters age but life has had many heart wrenching ups and downs. I am writing to you on the 7 year anniversary of when I donated my liver to my husband , Steve. Recovery as you can imagine was grueling but we have been blessed since with two beautiful children and a beautiful story that we will be proud to tell them one day. Those synchroncities or Godwinks have always been my saving grace and have pushed me to keep going and live in faith rather than fear. There is always a greater purpose and it sounds like your beautiful daughter has a very strong purpose in this lifetime. So much love and healing to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story♥️♥️♥️


  30. You both are Warriors!!! Blessed be your family sweet Katie. You are a true gift to us as your sweet Gabrielle is to you. Thank you for your bravery in sharing with us Gabrielle’s journey. Touching, heart wrenching, real! I love you girlfriend!


  31. So beautifully written Katie ❤️ what a testamony your whole family has of God’s goodness through this trial. I love the beautiful things he’s making out of something broken. When I think of your tiny girl the Spirit kindles the prayer of Hebrews 12:1-2 on my heart to pray over you and your baby girl. Sending hugs and love from Austin, Claire


  32. Katie, I follow you on RF and realized you haven’t been on the daily in a while so I pooped over to your page to see what “my girl” has been up to! I am crying my eyes out as I read this amazing blog. Your babies are SO lucky to have you as their Mama. I am going to be praying hard for you and I know first hand that miracles happen every day! I also blog ( to help others restore vitality in their lives after loss. My daughter Harper was born still at 39 weeks so I am ALL about prayers and spirituality. Your blog really resonated with me – thanks for sharing your journey. Sending you all my love!


  33. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My daughter, Elizabeth, is 2 years old and I am in tears .. first for your amazing testament of Faith and second because I see my daughter in those pictures of Gabriella. She is so beautiful, your family is beautiful, you are beautiful and your deep faith is beautiful to see. I will keep your family in our prayers.


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