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The Realities of Parenting With Chronic Pain

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It isn’t something I write about often, my pain. Mostly because I don’t want to make my blog about my parenting journey into an eternal journal of whinging, but also in a slight denial aspect that if I don’t say it exists then it might go away any day now. That’s not been a successful venture yet, so I’m led to wonder what can be the harm of being honest. For the past three years, I have been parenting with chronic pain.

When I was pregnant, I obtained a lower back injury which pretty much ended my time in work until after maternity leave. It isn’t to be recommended – not only are you gaining weight like it’s going out of style (at least I was), but you’re also not able to get anything stronger than paracetamol for fear of it crossing the placenta.

So, what is parenting with chronic pain?

It’s having your toddler beg you to pick them up constantly, as toddlers do, knowing he doesn’t understand that you can’t but knowing if you do, you will definitely pay for it later. It’s listening to him saying he doesn’t love Mama because she won’t pick him up, that we’re not friends anymore. Or, on the days where he does say “Mama can’t lift me, her back isn’t well,” your heart breaking because it’s not something you want him to have to have on his mind. Mama is meant to be a superhero, invincible, not this woman who can’t lift her own son.

It’s having to make sure there is a backup person available on days where the medication side effects are too much – days where you can barely stay awake, or where it isn’t working at all so you can barely move or walk. As this is unpredictable, it makes it rather difficult when there aren’t many family members to rely on in the area.

It’s putting your toddler to bed and praying he doesn’t kick you in the back or climb up on your back as he lies next to you, and trying to hold in the swearing and the tears when he does.

It’s dreading solo playground visits because you don’t trust that if your child decides to throw himself head first off the slide (it has happened) that you can lift him down to safety without your back seizing up.

It’s having to wait until dada is home for bath time because bending over the bath is hard, and you don’t trust that if the toddler slips you’ll be able to get up from your kneeling position to catch him properly.

It’s feeling guilty at creche drop-off on the days you aren’t in work but need that time during the day for things like physical therapy, doctors appointments, everything other type of possible remedy available, or to have a few hours without lifting and hauling a tiny toddler. And that’s on the days when he runs in, happy to go in, not looking back. The days where he’s crying and begging mammy to stay? Those are the days my heart breaks when I know I have to choose self-care to be able to care for him later.

It’s the guilt at feeling resentful of the tornado that is your toddler, who has absolutely wrecked the living room (again) just after you’ve cleaned it, because you know that the tidy up job includes bending and picking things up, and sweeping – things that others don’t think about but can really take it out of you on pain days. It isn’t as easy as getting the other half to do it; because then it’s the guilt of not doing your bit around the house.

It’s feeling resentful of other mothers who are able to carry children on their shoulders or in slings when you’re left hauling a buggy around with a kid who doesn’t want to be in there – the being up in your arms simply isn’t an option. I am so jealous of sling mamas – the early days with my tiny lightweight baby were incredible but it simply wasn’t sustainable.

It’s wanting to do normal play things that other parents do but that you have to think twice about and then reconsider – things that include a lot of getting down on the ground, of jumping and rolling around, of carrying, of tackling. I have to be cautious. I hate it.

It’s realizing most people don’t get it – it’s an invisible illness without a really relatable scale – like mental illness, it’s not as if there is a physical marker like a cast or a crutch to show “she’s suffering.” There is also the feeling that you need to put on a brave face – which is there a lot of the time just to get through the day. These things mixed mean that some can presume that it really isn’t a big issue and therefore don’t understand why you aren’t doing these normal things with and for your children.

It is waking up every morning and hoping that today is different, today is better, and one day you’ll be the kind of parent you want to be.

I don’t mean to whinge. That wasn’t the purpose of this post. It was more to hopefully reach out to others who may be in the same situation and make them realize it isn’t just them. Meeting Andrea Hayes, a writer who tells her story of living with chronic pain, at her book signing a few months ago was definitely helpful for me – proof that it wasn’t just me, that there are many more of us struggling with a smile plastered on for appearances sake. Hopefully some morning I’m going to wake up and feel “normal” – until then, I’ll stick that smile on and grit my teeth and try everything I can to do everything I need to do. That’s all I can do.

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Thinkstock photo by Shinyfamily

Originally published: February 21, 2017
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