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Mothering Through Chronic Illness

In January of 2013 I became a mother for the first time. Leading up to that point, I was considered high risk for potential heart complications. Two times during my pregnancy I experienced very rapid tachycardias. While this was something to which I was accustomed, pregnancy brought on a whole other level of fear.

Fast forward four years. In May of 2017 I became a mother for the second time. After a long 24 hours of pre labor and two ER trips, I woke up on April 30th with another exceedingly rapid heartbeat. It wasn't until two trips into the ER, four rounds of Adenosene, a bag of ice to the face, and a nurse losing her mind that they removed the crash cart from my room that they decided to admit me for an induction.

Both of these experiences occurred before my children arrived, but for each of them, it was my first experience mothering them in the face of chronic illness.

After the birth of both children I experienced fairly serious postpartum depression. Despite being hyperaware of the likelihood based on my mental health history, nothing could have prepared me for the severity or complexity of the depression and anxiety I experienced after my second child. Even worse, during each breastfeeding session I would almost immediately fall into a deep state of dysphoria. During those times all I could think about was running as far away as possible. Shortly after breastfeeding sessions would end, I still felt depressed, but the urge to run subsided. Left in the stead of that urge was guilt. How could giving my baby nutrition and love cause me so much pain? Later I learned that my early breastfeeding experiences with Finn were likely the result of a known condition called D-MER.

Healing came eventually, but everyday is not a good one. If you're depressed, if you're anxious, if you cannot bother to get yourself out of bed somedays, know you're not alone. Somedays depression means your whole body hurts down to the bone; sometimes it means you clean with ferocity to distract your mind. Ask for help. As hard as it may be, asking for help is not weakness, it's you putting your children and family above your pride.

I won't bore you with the litany of symptoms I experience on a daily basis, some with diagnosis some without. Many can attest to the fact that a migraine is not just a headache. For me it usually results in laying in darkness between trips to the bathroom (insert poop emoji here). Earlier this year my gastrointestinal health took another turn. Travis, my husband, has spent countless nights solo parenting our boys while I was stuck in bed with severe abdominal pain, rocking them to sleep, bathing them, reading to them, playing with them. Again the guilt. Where was I? Was this pain a good enough excuse for me to miss these moments. I already worked a full time job as a teacher which steals my days. Now my nights were gone, too? It's been much harder to cope with my mental health issues in the face of this pain. After three months of tests and procedures I have a diagnosis now and the tools to manage the pain, reducing its frequency drastically.

I think children are forgetful on purpose. This is our leg up as parents.They forgive our flaws and shortcomings again and again. Mothering my boys through my illnesses is a challenge, but they don't see my illness. Regardless of how I feel or look, they still run to my arms, they still plant on me their tender kisses. They ask for me in the night. They are my constant joy in the face of struggles that without them could easily consume me. My children are my portion, my treasure, my cure. I want you to know that it is so easy to feel alone, guilty, and failure. If you are dealing with any roadblock to being the parent you always dreamed you would be, know none of us are perfect. Know that your children can love you from the comfort of your couch. Blanket covered knees make excellent roads for tiny dumptrucks, anyway. As my friend Cheryl tells me somehow whenever I need it most, you are loved and never alone.