Para Parents: Brenna Huckaby

Paralympic champion accepts herself for her daughter 29 Mar 2019
By Ryan Wilson | For the IPC

“I hope being surrounded by people who are different will show her that different is OK and different is good. Just like me, you never know what could happen to yourself.”

For the USA’s Paralympic snowboard champion Brenna Huckaby, openness is a contagious source of strength.

She is not afraid to tell you the best and worst moments of her life: whether that is the joy of winning two gold medals at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games or the feelings of self-doubts about her body and amputation. It does not take long to gather the energy and liveliness from this 23-year-old snowboarding mum.

In the final part of our Para Parents series, Brenna explains her hopes that her own openness and frankness about her life will help her daughter Lilah grow up with and around happiness and positivity.

“You can’t go out and show people who you are if you don’t love yourself,” Brenna said. “I just want her to know at a young age that she’s awesome, she’s beautiful, she’s amazing, she’s capable, she’s brave, she’s courageous, she’s smart.”

A new challenge

Huckaby had Lilah about 3 years ago after learning, through multiple fertility tests, she was already five months pregnant. It was unexpected, to say the least, and she went from being in the best shape of her life to the worst. She also missed a full season of snowboarding.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I thought my life was over,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I believed my dreams would never be achieved.”

This challenged Brenna in new ways, and it made her reflect on how she coped with the loss of her right leg in 2014 due to bone cancer. The cancer dashed her then-dreams of one day becoming a professional gymnast.

With the pregnancy, she had to ask herself: “How do I refocus my energy into being successful and not letting this stop me?”

She kept a consistent training schedule in hopes that this turn of events would not affect her status in the following year’s World Championships.

Love yourself

And when Lilah was born, Brenna’s focus did change: She began to accept the self-doubts she had felt about her weight, face, body and amputation.

“All of these things (negative feelings) are ridiculous,” Brenna said. “The feelings are real, but there’s no reason you should [feel that way]. So why would you want your daughter to feel that way? I’m like, ‘I don’t. I want her to love herself and to know herself.’”

Brenna did not want Lilah hearing her mother talking negatively about herself, nor did she want Lilah to have similar feelings of self-doubt about her own body before entering “the world where she might question it.”

So the new mum decided to think in that more positive way to embrace what she previously doubted. In 2018, she won two gold medals in PyeongChang in front of Lilah and her fiancé Tristan.

Brenna hopes her lessons have will prove beneficial for Lilah, and she hopes the youngster has learnt empathy from being around in the Paralympic Movement.

“I hope being surrounded by people who are different will show her that different is OK and different is good. Just like me, you never know what could happen to yourself.”