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When I Realized All My Daughter's Homemade Cards Mentioned My Pain

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It was during one of those times that my then 5 year old gave me one of her many homemade cards that it hit me. Every single time I got a card from her, she mentioned my chronic pain.

“Happy Mother’s Day. I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

“I wanted to tell you I love you. I’m sorry you’re in pain.”

“I’m going to help you because I love you and you’re always in pain.”

Has this chronic pain, due to rheumatoid arthritis, really permeated all aspects of my life, that it became the ongoing theme for all of my daughter’s cards – regardless of the occasion? That was so hard to process. A wave of guilt and shame overcame me.

“This is how she’s going to remember me,” I thought as I sobbed, “As the mom who spent days and days in bed because of the pain?”

The sudden realization that mothering this child with a chronic illness had its own problems and challenges, was more debilitating than my never-ending disease induced fatigue. Not only am I afraid of a premature death if this disease attacks my organs before I find a medicine that works, but now even the time that I am “here” with her, is overcome with these bouts of pain that impact our quality of time together, and our ability to communicate and build a close relationship. After days and nights of crying and grieving, and re-reading her many cards, I decided to do something about it. I decided to write back.  And that’s how the idea of “With Love, Mom” was born.

I quickly bought a journal personalized with her name, a good set of pens, and began writing to her. About everything and anything. This is not our typical, “I love you so much,” mother-daughter letters, although that is said also said very often. These are letters with raw and honest content that I need her to have with her in case something happens to me, and she doesn’t have the mom wisdom I want her to have.

It ranges from topics of social justice, to advice about picking the right face moisturizer. It includes news clippings, or tweets, and social media posts about relevant social issues as well as my take on them. Facebook posts from people like Dan Rather, where I underline the most important points I want her to remember as she grows up. The name and synopsis of a movie I want her to watch, and what did for the feminist movement. And sometimes, a conversation I so wanted to have with her that evening, but I couldn’t because of my pain didn’t allow me to be that coherent. By the time the pain medicine hit, she was already in bed.

It’s my way to become less and less the victim of this disease, and regain some control and power to become more and more the mother I wanted to be. It gives me a voice past my pain, past my disease, and perhaps even, past my years here on earth.

It was the ongoing theme of pain from her cards that made me wake up and do something about it. Just like her cards, I want her to find a common theme on my writings too – that she is powerful, has a voice, and most importantly, that she was unconditionally, and insurmountably loved by mom.

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Thinkstock Image By: Ingram Publishing

Originally published: May 7, 2017
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