My husband was hopped up on morphine awaiting emergency gall bladder surgery when I asked the ER nurse what I thought was a fairly basic question.
“How long does recovery take?”
The male nurse stopped typing on the stand up computer and turned around and looked at my husband, the patient. His answer surprised me.
“He’s a man so… like a week or two?”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “What if he was a woman? How long would recovery be then?”
He ticked the numbers in his head. “A few days.”
“Wha… Are you serious?” I asked.
“Yep. Seen in a million times. Women have people counting on them, so they bounce back quicker.”
I was surprised, but then I wasn’t surprised.
How many times had I been sick, but couldn’t “be” sick because I was a mom? My husband works really really hard, but he gets paid sick days, and I keep the kids away while he recovers.
Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get sick days. When a cold, flu, and body aches hit, nothing much changes except I let my kids watch more Netflix so I can lay down.
But let’s up the stakes a bit.
Now I want you to times your sick day by 365 days. What if you were sick or in pain every single day? Yep, it’s a thing. I’m talking chronic pain, folks.
What if you were sick or had pain EVERY SINGLE DAY?
Chronic pain can be caused by many things: diseases, disorders, arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve damage, migraines, autoimmune disorders, back problems, past injuries, etc. Sometimes chronic pain has an official diagnosis and an obvious name and people understand what that means, but other times chronic pain is mysterious and you never know what the root cause is and so then people are like, WHAT is going on with you again?
The thing about chronic pain is, it’s not JUST pain. It causes lots of other issues. You’re feeling crappy, so you just can’t sleep. So then you feel exhausted all day. Which means you can’t do much all day. Your body just isn’t working. You worry constantly. Any amount of stress makes it worse.
Chronic pain is the pits on its own. Then add kids to the mix.
I grew up a farm girl, always healthy and active. I played tennis. I ran. This was true up until I started having babies. Then my body slowly gave out.
After I had my third child, I was diagnosed with a post-partum thyroid condition, which caused me to feel sick probably 20 days out of the month. Most people hadn’t heard of that condition (neither had I) and so I was learning as I went. Me and my non-working brain. Mostly I slept a lot and didn’t leave the house much. I had to sit on a stool while cooking dinner, I was so tired. I had my thyroid checked every six weeks, and the numbers were improving, so the doctor didn’t give me any meds.
Eventually I did get better, once I realized that due to this thyroid issue, I had become sensitive to many different foods and eliminated them from my diet. Still, it was a 2+ year process of feeling sick most of the time with three kids 6 and under. There is still a lot I don’t remember from those years.
I was so grateful to mostly move past that constant sick and exhausted feeling. I was never quite my old self, but I didn’t have to take several naps to get through the day. Victory!
Then about two years ago, I started having chronic hip pain. I had an x-ray and one doctor said I had arthritis, but two other doctors said I did not. The real culprit ended up being the muscle (IT band), so a combination of chiropractic adjustments, lots of stretching, regular massages, lots of swimming, and changing how I do daily freelance work helped to relieve the pain. It was about an 18-month process of many days feeling moderate to strong pain.
I started to wonder if God was trying to tell me something. Like, “Wait, this is just preparation for more.”
Also, I should mention that my active four kids are no shrinking violets. They are full of baloney. They are all very outgoing and forceful. A few of them would be living out in the wild if we didn’t lock the doors at night.
So then, out of nowhere, in April this year I started getting migraines. I’m talking several knock-me-down migraines every single week! This has lasted for several months. I finally went to a doctor who gave me a strong prescription, and that does help somewhat. When they come on, I have to really address them right away or they’ll go crazy. Just this week, I woke up with a killer one, I took a pill, and felt so sick. But the kids still needed their lunches and to get to the bus stop. I powered through and somehow didn’t fall over.
Most recently, I just feel sick a lot. Extremely tired. Hard to get out of bed. I have to run to the bathroom a lot. I’m puffy. I feel nauseated. I had my thyroid checked (again), but the numbers are “normal.” So now I’m looking again at other possible foods that might be bothering me. A special blood test that will hopefully give me the magic answer to all that I desire– to simply feel normal most of the time.
Not just for me. For my kids. How am I supposed to be there for them when I am barely functioning?
If you have chronic pain, I feel for you. If you also have kids, I need to find you and give you a hug. Depending on your issue, this could be short term or long term. Maybe you don’t know, and that causes its own stress. Believe me, I am feeling it right there with you.
I don’t want to leave you without hope. I want to offer you some hope.
Even though living with chronic pain while trying to be a mom is HARD, it doesn’t mean your life is doom and gloom. It may surprise you to hear that I am very happy with my life. I am happy most all of the time. I certainly do have my moments where I get down in the dumps and I need to step away and stew for a bit. But all in all, despite many weird health issues, things are good.
I want to share with you hope that life CAN be amazing even if you’re in pain or are sick a lot of the time.
How to Be a Mom When You’re Living with Chronic Pain
- One Day At a TimeI’m convinced that this is what God is trying to teach me. I think. I used to depend on planning every little thing and then carrying those things out to the letter. All of that is gone. Sure, we plan the big stuff. But everything else, I live day to day. Ask yourself this every morning: WHAT REALLY MATTERS TODAY?
I have found that the only things that truly matter are the people we love (especially your spouse and kids), our basic necessities, and being happy. Everything else comes after that.
- Find the HumorI married a very funny man. He’s absolutely hilarious. Many times he’s made me laugh through pain. I remember when I was pregnant and having horrible back pain, I was laying on the ground and he started rubbing my back, which was nice. Then he started telling jokes in funny voices and do you know what? The pain went away.
Laughter really is the best medicine.
If you can laugh at yourself, or the messes your kids make, or the situations that happen in your life, you will be miles ahead. If you can find a way to laugh, you can get through anything.
- Gather a TeamWhen I was nearing the end of my post partum thyroid issue, I started having panic attacks. They seemed to come out of nowhere. On recommendation of my primary doctor, I went to see a therapist. I saw him a total of three times, and he helped me immensely. He helped me see that my “old self” was not who I was now, and that I needed to be ok with that. He also helped me see that even if I accomplished nothing in a day, I was still a valuable human worthy of love.
I’ve been to many doctors, naturopaths, etc., and all have helped me on my journey. If you have health issues, realize that YOU are the one who is in charge of your health. People will help you, but you need to gather them. Get your team together of people who support you and help you on your journey to living a good life and being there for your kids.
Also remember to add your spouse and kids to this team. Talk to them about what’s going on and enlist their help. In my house, my kids are instrumental in helping get things done. My boys cook quite a bit, and my kids all do chores to keep the house clean so I don’t have to do as much.
- Rest, Then Rest Some MoreI have aspirations in life, all of which require better health and more energy. Right now, I need to focus on resting. And that’s ok.
Do what you need to do, but be sure to rest. Ok? Then rest some more. I have learned that you can STILL BE A MOM even if you’re sitting on the couch feeling terrible. You can cuddle your kids, talk to your kids, and be there for them. It’s challenging, but it’s possible.
- Scale BackWhat can you handle? Be honest with yourself. Scale back so you can focus on the important stuff. Maybe enroll in less activities, or go less places, or just do stuff closer to home. Have more crockpot dinners, or have your spouse pick up a rotisserie chicken once a week. You have every right to do less. Whatever will help you feel just a little bit better so you can be the mom you need to be.
- Proactively Heal Your Body & SoulWhat makes you feel better? A hot bath, a nap, supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, massages, talking to a friend, listening to music (Believer by Imagine Dragons is actually based on his own chronic pain), reading a good book, going to therapy, taking your meds, watching a funny movie?
If you know it is healing, then do it. Even if you just want to stay in bed all day. Pick one thing and do it. It will help you feel better and more with it. As a result, you can put a smile on your face and be a positive force in your kids’ lives.