My Life With Migraines: Parenting Through Chronic Pain

After I had my second pregnancy I started getting headaches.  My doctor attributed them to postpartum and breastfeeding hormones.  We would revisit if we needed to after I weaned.  A few weeks before Kat turned one I got a sinus infection and migraine.  After ten days I went to the doctors office and they gave me an injection to break the cycle, along with antibiotics for my migraine.

The days that followed were the beginning of my chronic migraines.  I would go three months at a time with NO break from my migraine.  Each medication I tried would bring small improvements, but no “cure” and hardly a break.

Even good days, where there was less pain, or maybe a few hours without a migraine, were still so difficult.  I was all over the place emotionally: edgy; angry; sad; scared.  The migraines also left me confused at times.  If I ate ice cream, my husband would have to put it away or I would put it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer – every time.

Being a Mom in Chronic Pain

During all this, I was a stay at home mom doing a few hours of consulting work from home.  If you’ve ever had to take care of a child while you have a cold, it’s completely miserable.  Taking care of a one and three year old was beyond measure, worse than that when you have to do it on your fourth month straight headache.

Before migraines, I felt motherhood could be overwhelming and frustrating.  When you’re in pain it’s hard to not let emotions overtake you.  I had to work even harder to not lose it on my babies all day long.  I was constantly trying to keep myself in check and stay relaxed.  I felt like the worst mother ever.  Shouldn’t I be able to enjoy our fun activities together?  I shouldn’t be on the verge of losing my shit minute to minute, right?

Anyone who’s a mom knows the weight of mom guilt.  I had guilt about wanting to rest instead of spend time with my babies.  Guilt over asking them to play quietly or stop doing something they were enjoying to do quiet activity.  Guilt about weeks of increased TV time.

When you have a chronic illness it can feel hopeless at times.  I felt hopeless.  Many times.  Reece and Kat needed me though, and motherhood doesn’t give out sick days.  Every day the kids wake up early, my husband would let me sleep in a half hour more – lack of sleep is one of my biggest triggers – then I would drag myself out of bed and put on a big smile.

On weekends I would spend more time lying down to try to alleviate the headaches.  I’m a SAHM, so for the most part, I just had to continue on – business as usual – as I would if I had a headache or not.  A lot of things that used to bother me, still did, but I had to let go of a lot of things.  Being upset about the dinner fight, rushing my kids to do things like clean up or get out the door, and sibling squabbles were all things I had to let go of.  Some moments there are successes, other times, not so much and it ends in big blow outs over non-matters.  Days when I stayed as relaxed as possible might not make my pain go away, but it didn’t make it worse.

The Guilt We Carry

Circling back to guilt.  I even had guilt my migraines weren’t worse.  I have a friend who can’t leave the house without glaucoma sunglasses and a wide brim hat on, if she goes out at all.  My migraines aren’t as bad as others…  My neurologist said something to me, that really resonated.  It’s sort of an obvious truth, which held a lot of meaning to me.  She said: There’s no reason to feel guilt that my migraine isn’t worse than it is, my migraine is my own.  She let me know, it’s OK to be mad, sad, overwhelmed, by what I was going through.  It’s a shitty situation.  It could be worse, but it could be better.

After over a year I started seeing more improvements where I was having few hours without a migraine some days, or only a very slight headache.  There was still a long road ahead.  Currently, a year and a half later and doing Botox treatments, I’m starting to have more days without migraines than with.  When I do have bad days, I remind myself to take it easy on myself.  And it’s not the end of the world if I need to let the kids be TV-zombies.

I’m cautiously hopeful.

Pigtails: Bonding With My Daughter

Kat has always been a baldy baby.  I thought Reece was a bald baby, until Kat came into our lives.  By the time she turned one she had slight peach fuzz.  Her second birthday her hair started to fill out a little bit, but was only an inch at best.

 

 

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Kat, about to turn 2, and starting to grow some hair. Woohoo!

When I noticed Kat’s hair was juuuuust long enough for a ponytail I had a mini celebration in my head.  I started to try to brush her hair more often, which meant Rich holding her down while I sprayed a liberal amount of detangler and brushed.  It wasn’t pleasant.  I had moments where I considered letting my daughter’s mangy hair go unchecked into the wild, curly, messy mop it naturally wants to be.  She can just wear a hat.  Every day until college.

I should have made more of an effort with clips and headbands from the start, but being a second child these good intentions often fall to the wayside.  Her animosity over hair brushing did not provide hope.  I didn’t let that discourage me.

I, somehow, had to get her on board, maybe even excited.  I got a sparkly cat headband with ears, a small array of hair elastics, and a cute wire headband since the wrap around headbands haven’t been well received in the past.

Kat’s hair turning point happened a little bit by accident.  I put a headband on her, and she ripped it off so Reece tried to put it on.  Of course then Kat really needed the headband and begged to put it on.  A mini fight ensued.  I found a compromise with Kat wearing the headband and Reece wearing a bow clip.  She wore her hair “done up” for the rest of the night instead of the usual twenty seconds.  A break through!

 

 

Since hair brushing was not a pleasant time, I tried to turn it into something fun and exciting.  I sit Kat on the bathroom sink so she can see her self and we brush her hair together.  Once that started going smoothly I added in putting her hair in a ponytail.

The first time I put her hair in a ponytail (and almost every time after) she is so proud.  Ear to ear smiles.  Then she leans over the sink and puts her nose right on the mirror, sometimes she kisses herself.  For all the times she drives me crazy, she has some of the sweetest moments.

Reece and Kat holding hands
The 1st day Kat wore her hair in a ponytail out of the house! Reece is so proud he held her hand the entire day.

Since then we have done ponytails, pigtails, and headbands.  Every time she is so proud.

I sometimes find it harder to connect with my second child.  It takes a lot more work to bond because big brother can take up a lot of the spot light.  We didn’t have the same focused solo time that Reece and I had his first two years.

When it’s time to do hair its a small way to have a mini bonding session every morning.  I make a big deal about putting a towel in the sink so her feet don’t get wet, I get the brushes and hair bands out, then ask Kat what she wants to do today.  She watches me as I brush her hair, sometimes moving her head a little too much in order to see.  It’s a peaceful moment of just us girls in the morning.  After a little bit of girl talk, and mother-daughter bonding over hair, and we rejoin the chaos of our morning.

What do you do to bond with your children?  Big ways or small I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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