On Being a 'Wonder Mommy' While Fighting Chronic Illness
Motherhood is a blessing, it is full of excitement and jubilation, but motherhood is also full of challenges and trials. I am a mother of three beautiful children. I am also a mother who happened to struggle with chronic illnesses. Being a mother is tough, period. Being a mother while battling a chronic disease presents different challenges, at least it does for me.
I’ve always suffered from headaches, even when I was a child. Headaches were no stranger to me, although I never understood why I would sometimes faint when I got them; later on in life, I found out I had migraines. I knew everyone had had a headache at one point in their life, but I never heard of a migraine before until I became an adult, and even then, I thought migraine was just a worse kind of headache; was I wrong!
My headaches subsided for years. When I delivered my second child, it seemed to have come back more often. Hormones! I blamed it all on hormones then. For the most part, I was able to handle it pretty well. My third child came, and the headaches came back more frequent; other odd symptoms accompanied it. My face would tingle, my left eye would get smaller, and parts of my body would feel numb. I would feel nauseated, and lights and sounds started to bother me. I would nap when my little ones napped, hoping it would go away, and it did, but a couple of days after, a massive headache would come. I had to learn how to cope with this condition. It was pretty challenging to do daily activities with my three children, especially when required to be out in the sun, going to the movies, or anywhere where my senses could be heightened.
One day, while walking into a grocery store, my left leg gave out. My left calf spasmed, and it became hard as a rock, I almost fell to the ground. It wasn’t painful, but it was uncomfortable enough to hinder me from walking. I ignored the scene until it started happening frequently. I saw several doctors and had all the tests we could think of, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, although they found out I had a complicated migraine called, hemiplegic migraine where it mimics stroke symptoms. On top of the typical aura migraines brought me, my left body would get heavy, my left eye would shut, I had difficulty speaking, and at times, I would live in a brain fog for days; Voila, Migraines! However, I still didn’t know what was causing the other symptoms.
The spasms came more frequently and lasted longer. Eventually, it started affecting other parts of my body, including my vocal cords, making it tough to speak; it felt as though it involved my chest, too, but it turned out my diaphragm was spasming, causing me to catch my breath at times. During a severe attack, my ankles would twist in, making me scream in excruciating pain and leave me unable to walk. Finally, after seeing more specialists, I was diagnosed with a condition I have never heard of before called dystonia. Dystonia is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle contractions and other debilitating symptoms. On top of the other symptoms I was getting from migraine, I had to watch out for dystonia symptoms as well, which I later discovered would overlap each other, at least for me. When a severe migraine hits, dystonia would surely follow.
My days became unpredictable, not knowing whether I would wake up having a good day or having one of those days where I can’t do much. Living with a chronic illness is no easy task; the days can be frustrating. Some fall into depression, especially when they do not have a support system as I do. I thank God for blessing me with a husband who understands and is willing to face the challenges with me, especially when it came to my responsibilities as a mother.
I felt guilty for not being enough. There were days when I felt robbed of opportunities to be the best mother to my children. Sometimes I felt my children’s disappointment when I could not do the fun things they would want to do at a particular moment, or so I thought, insecurities played with my mind. Many times I felt defeated until I realized that my children were capable of empathy. When times are tough, I would explain how I felt to my children, and I was greeted by surprise at how understanding they were. They taught me how to be creative in my parenting style. I remember one day, one of my daughters would ask me, “Mommy, are you feeling OK? I can be your doctor.” We would play doctor and patient, and I would get my rest while they “treat” me. There were many other ways my little children showed their understanding and compassion. I want to think that my situation taught them how to be as such.
Mothers with a chronic disease fight a powerful enemy; we do not only fight the illness, but we also face insecurities. We require a different type of strength each day, knowing when to rest, when to ask for help, and knowing that people love us despite our limitations. Mothers need the power to realize that we are doing the best we could despite our circumstances and the force to see that regardless of the challenges we face every day in raising children, we are wonder mommies in our children’s eyes.
To all the “wonder mommies” out there, with chronic illness or not, be present for your little ones. The only way to do that is to take care of yourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually. Realize that there is no perfection in motherhood; instead, realize that you are the perfect mother to your children. Be patient with yourselves; know that you deserve to relax and take a break; after all, warriors need their rest to win a battle.
Stay strong and see the WONDER MOMMY in you!
A version of this story originally appeared on jennifersenne.com.
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