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How My Little Girl Tries to Cure Mama's Migraine

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My daughter tucks me in at night. She brings me a cold washcloth when the migraine fever attacks the temples; gently rinses the blue cloth with cool water, squeezes the excess into the sink, allowing the fever-reducer to flow through her fingers: milk dripping from the cow’s udder. She adds a squirt of hand soap. Now the cloth smells of peaches and cream mixed with peppermint. She thinks this will help numb the hot poker “because peppermint cleans stuff up, mama.”

I let her continue her ritual: rinse, soak, squeeze, slather, rinse. She brings the steamed cloth to my pillow, pats my head and says, “Mama, here. You feel better.” She places the cloth over my eyes and forehead, adjusting the corners, folding the stray strings under the edges and gently climbs to the crook behind my knees. She shoos the cat away, settles in with her book and “reads” as I squint and squirm. The pain has traveled and now sounds are excruciating. I am desperate to escape the knife jabbing my right ear.

The hum of the air conditioner unit is a hoard of wasps mating with the queen. She exists for one reason — to create more wasps. I wonder if drones ever want more than the ability to impregnate the queen? Do you think they secretly wish to work outside the home as the females do, or is that just worker bees? Thoughts for another day as I hear the dishwasher kick on, a train horn belts out and the cell phone buzzes to life in my pocket.

Breathe. In. Out.

Try yoga breathing: in through your nose, two-three-four, out through your mouth, two-three-four.

Try Lamaze breathing: hee hee hoooooo, hee hee hoooooo.

Try not breathing…

Do chimpanzees get headaches and migraines? Do they understand the difference between pain types, or is all unfamiliar touch considered painful? We are cousins with similar brain chemistry, so it would seem logical that chimps, apes and orangutans would also experience the auras, the clouded vision, the perpetual pounding in the center of your head, unreachable, like a cat, and just far enough away that you cannot quite offer love. My finger is inches from the pain when the kid in 204 starts tuning his cello as a truck bounces down the road, tools crashing and tires squealing.

The TV remote slams to the ground as my daughter shrinks to the corner of the sofa. We have danced this tango before. “So sorry, baby, mommy’s head hurts so much.”

She wriggles out of the safe zone, finds the edge of the afghan, lays her hand on my forehead, kisses my cheek and says, “It’s OK, mama. I got this.”

My eyes fill with a cool regret and warm heart. “No, baby, I shouldn’t have yelled.”

She toddles to the TV, pushes the red power button and returns to the sofa. She sings her favorite lullaby quietly into the air and I close my eyes, just for the moment.

Photo credit: Liderina/Getty Images

Originally published: June 18, 2019
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