Thursday, February 13, 2014

Parenting with Pain Meds

I grew up watching people in pain. My Mom had migraines and developed fibromyalgia, Lupus, epilepsy, and chronic fatigue in her late 40s. Grandma had Lupus as well, but I don't remember seeing her pain very often except as she aged and arthritis pain caused her to decrease her sewing and knitting and take a lot of Excedrin. I had always hoped ailments would skip a generation and my mother did too.

My health and pain were fine until I experienced a stroke in 2008 and two small heart attacks in 2009. I was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder but nobody really worried about that until I became pregnant with my first son in late 2009. I started anticoagulant shots every day. That pain was easy, bearable. After that pregnancy my wrist (where the IV was) was in constant pain. I started semi-annual steroid shots and that kicked that pain for a while.

My second pregnancy saw the addition of a lot of pain. It seemed that every three weeks something happened - bleeding, prolapse, contractions at 34 weeks. Our second son was born at 35 weeks and I hoped that would end my pain. After he was born my hips never seemed to go back into place. There was always a twinge, a concern that a slight pain might stick with me and continue. I was diagnosed with Lupus. My joints flared and relaxed sometimes just with the weather. Sitting on the floor with my sons could lead to hours of shooting pain on the lower right half of my body.

I was my Mother's daughter, just without the headaches.

While parenting is typically a blessed struggle to find balance with love and work, I found myself adding pain, sometimes daily, to the picture. I would lay on the floor in pain hoping I could get up to help my husband with baths or to participate in teeth brushing and bedtime. 

I imagined how seeing this may influence my sons as I had vivid memories of my Mom's pain. She would sit on the stairs and cry during a migraine and as a child I felt this extreme inability to do anything helpful aside from getting her a cold facecloth for her face and helping her to bed. As an adult, I look back at those experiences and I think that they have influenced me to be the empathic and attentive adult that I am today - if you're in pain I will do whatever I can to help, even if it's just to sit in the dark and hold your hand.

My older son, Silas, has started to be a keen observer of people in pain as well. There have been multiple nights where I was in pain and he stopped playing, sat down with me, and held my hand. "Does it hurt Mommy? I sorry you hurt," he tells me. This is not something I've taught him, I never said, "Come sit with me and hold my hand when I hurt because it makes me feel better." But he does. And it does make me feel better. It amazes me to see an almost four-year-old who typically is running around stop and sit quietly for 20 minutes to tend to his Mom.

Silas and a Momma in pain

While parenting with pain can teach adults to enjoy their pain-free moments as much as possible, I believe that it can teach children some valuable things as well: empathy and the power of being with others in their pain.