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.

Potty Training Truths From a Second Time Mom

Did you know there’s a 100% guaranteed 3-day potty training method?  Every blog I have ever read has sworn by the 3-day method it seems.  Sadly, I must report both my children must to be defective because it hasn’t worked for either one.  Or maybe the 100% is closer to 80%, or 70%, or, just like all things parenting, it’s a crap shoot.

Parenting isn’t a one size fits all solution, but our experience training our oldest has prepped us for the next time around.

Gear

  1. The first time around we picked the cheapest potty while we were at the store which was a Cars themed potty with multiple parts and made noises.  Yeah, no.  I recommend the Summer Infant Lil’ Loo Potty.  Easy to clean with only two pieces, cheap, and simple.  Less pieces the better.  We have three of these seats, one for each floor and one for the car.
  2. We also like the Gerber potty training underwear.  It’s a little thicker than normal underwear. They won’t absorb like a diaper, but, if there’s an accident it’s not a complete pee pool in your child’s shoes.
  3. A few books about using the potty and wearing underwear are also helpful.  We like Potty and Big Girl Panties.
  4. Skip the Elmo, Disney, whatever, travel seat cover.  They never fit right, slipping and sliding.  If you’re going to get one, splurge.  Otherwise, you’ll have a decoration toilet seat cover, just like us.

Lower Expectations

Lower your expectations, then lower them again.  If all else fails, just lose all hope.

Unless there’s some underlining issue, your child will be potty trained at some point.  Some are 18 months, others, closer to four years old.  Continue to encourage, but keep reminding yourself that it might not happen any time soon.  If you expect this to go smoothly or to be able to use some one specific method, it might be really disappointing and frustrating.  Just as you wouldn’t be upset with your baby when they can’t sit up on their own or walk, this is something that takes time, practice and a lot of patience.

So What The Hell Do I Do?

We ask several times a day if our daughter needs to go.  We walk her to the potty and if she wants to sit on it and not go, that’s fine too.  We also celebrate and will give a hand stamp for any time Kat pees in the potty.  We have to be very aware of cues since a 2 year old isn’t always the best at communicating.  Any time there is pulling on the diaper or babbling that sounds like poop or pee we rush her to the potty.

On weekends when we don’t have plans we will have panty wearing days where we just watch movies all day and try to encourage using the potty.  The 3 days method did not work for us, but there are less accidents on underwear days.

Every once in a while we do freak out and try to make Kat sit on the potty in a moment of frustration wanting to put our diaper days behind us.  Those moments are much, much less than with our first.

Follow Their Lead

Kat was the one to decide she wanted to do potty training.  At 18 months, one day while Reece was at school she walked over to the baby potty in our kitchen (yes, the kitchen, we like to keep it nearby for emergency pees), and started pulling at her clothes.  She couldn’t talk much at this point so I stripped her down.  Then she pulled at her diaper, so I took it off.  She sat down and peed.  A lot.  I was shocked to say the least since Reece wasn’t trained until 3.5.  After that she went several times a day.  Then my husband came home from a work trip and didn’t go again for two months.  This leads to….

Kat on the potty
Kat wants to be just like big brother all the time. She’s “peeing” while Reece does.

The Only Expectation To Have Is Setbacks

Every time my husband goes on a work trip, potty training goes from rocky to 90% potty trained.  Then Rich comes home and it’s huge regressions that last days or months.  I cannot even begin to figure out this phenomena.   Some kids only pee in the potty, refusing to poop.  This can go on for a year.  Totally normal.  When poop accidents happen, keep your cool and be prepared.  If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of cleaning poop out of underwear, never fear!  My guide to cleaning pooperware is here to help you out.

This may not be the method that parents want to hear when they are stressing out about potty training, but, what worked for us with Reece was giving up.  After over a year of potty training, we decided one weekend we would give it a break and try again in a few months.  After giving up hope, the NEXT DAY my son started going 100% in the potty, save occasional overnight accidents when he sleeps later than normal.

Toddler in underwear over onsie
Kat decided she finally wanted to wear big girl panties. She went through a phase wearing Mama’s underwear over her diaper and clothes for about a month.

That isn’t to say trying all the different methods others before me have come up with won’t work.  I just found it so stressful trying to make it happen the first time around.  With Kat we read books, ask often, encourage, and have stopped freaking out at how it’s taking more than 3 days, weeks, months.

It may seem lazy, it is, but letting our kids take the lead and not fight with them over peeing helps us.  There’s a lot less resistance with Kat verses when Reece was training.  Now I don’t get upset over accidents which is easier on all of us.  We have other mountains to climb, we don’t need to make this one of them!