Tuesday, October 13, 2015

10 Ways Parenting with Pain is Different

Photo by Ryan McGuire
I've been a mum for just over two years and I've noticed one thing that makes my parenting experience different from most mums I know - pain. Over the last few months I've really been paying attention to this difference. How it impacts the way I engage with my child, my energy levels, and my temperament. I parent through pain. Almost everything I do is done through the pain filter. The decisions I make are based on my pain levels and tolerance. I also need to have a different level of self-care than most mums. Over the period of one year I was a passenger in four car accidents. Three of which were pretty minor, as far as accidents go, and even the fourth would probably just meet the moderate category. But 16 years on and I am still living with pain every day. Even now I have a severe headache that has threatened to stop my writing in its tracks.


I look fine. I look healthy. I look normal. My chronic pain condition is invisible.

In 2005, after three years living in Australia I was offered rehabilitation in Canada. I gratefully accepted the offer and moved back. I did 4 hours of back rehabilitation five days a week for three months. Then worked with a personal trainer at a gym for another three months. I worked my butt off to try and get better. Just when I was finally starting to see a small improvement in my strength and pain levels the insurance company cut off all support, and I lost most of the progress I'd made.

There are many dreams I had for my future that won't come to pass. I don't say that for your pity. It's just how it is, and I deal in reality. However, I did think in 2004, when my pain was at its worst that I probably wouldn't be able to have a baby because I struggled looking after myself, but that dream has come true. When I married David we both decided I would work 3 days a week. We would make it work with our finances because lifestyle was more important than money. That decision made a significant impact on my quality of life, and ability to do more for myself.
Now that I'm in this next chapter of life I am again challenged to adapt and confront negative thinking and judgement from others who don't understand that this is more than just a back ache with a baby.


10 Ways Parenting With Pain is Different

1. Lifting your baby into the car seat: Even the twisting motion to put my son in his seat is enough to put my back out and cause me pain for the rest of the week. 2. Carrying your baby: One of the reasons we have had to use a leash on occasion on my son is that I can't be chasing him down and the carrying him back to where we need to be if he decides his legs no longer work mid-tantrum. I use a pram a lot! Even though my son is 17 kgs and I sometimes get strange looks, I rock the pram. It keeps him contained so there's no excess lifting, chasing, or bending. Getting the pram into the boot is often a difficult challenge though so I weigh up whether I'd be happier getting it out of the boot or chasing my kid.

Here's a photo of one of the only times I ever wore our ergo carrier.
Here's me - emulating sunshine and motherhood all at once

3. Breastfeeding: I had to be in just the right position to feed my newborn or I would cramp up. I had to take a portable inflatable breastfeeding pillow with me everywhere I went for that reason.


4. Getting up in the middle of the night for my kid: Almost every time by little guy wakes me in the night it takes me that extra bit longer to fall asleep because I have to put ice gel on my back. It usually numbs me just enough to take the edge off so I can sleep. Sometimes the pain is too much and it will keep me up until I'm just half awake and by then my son wakes again. I often have such a terrible night's sleep that I have to nap when my son does the next day, which I hate doing because it means I miss getting something important done that I can't do in his awake time. Pain is physically draining so my energy levels are already lower than most.

5. Changing diapers/nappies: My son has always been a big boy. I have always had to put him on the change table to change his nappy so that I wouldn't be bending over him, an action that takes my breath away or has me holding my breath through pain. As my son has increased in weight I've had to get my husband up in the middle of the night to change him in his cot, when I don't want my son to be too disturbed by the change. Sometimes I just bite the bullet and do it myself but I usually pay for it soon after.


6. Hearing or dealing with tantrums: I'm sure any parent who's had a headache, illness, or is recovering from an injury will tell you how much harder it is to keep your cool with a screaming child. When I'm experiencing pain my patience is easily diminished and my capacity to cope is quickly challenged and escapes me. As a result of not being able to cope easily, my mom-guilt goes through the roof 7. Cleaning: I used to struggle with the house cleaning before I had a toddler. Two hours cleaning the wood floors in our whole house and I would be a write-off. Sometimes the pain would last a couple of weeks afterwards. I have to prioritise what needs done in the house now, and I end up with the same battle every mum has - that as soon as you clean an area the toddler tornado comes through. I usually clean the bathroom in two parts because cleaning the tub takes it out of me too. There's not much energy left over to be creative or play games with my child after that. My tears have mixed with the dishwater many times, (which makes for very shiny dishes.

8. Bathing: It's rare that I ever do bath time in our house. This job nearly always falls to my husband. Obviously that's great quality time my son can get with his dad at the end of the day, but it also saves me from bending over the tub to wrangle by busy boy on my wrecked knees. If there's a night where he won't be home to do it I will usually hop in the shower with my son. But even brushing his teeth can be difficult for me, especially if he decides to be a little dirt bag and fight me off. Then I have to do my WWF moves on him and you know that will hurt me way more than it hurts him.

9. Playing: The amount of times I yell out in pain because my son thinks I can handle the exact same rough play as his dad - good grief. I used to be super athletic and now I'm a total weak-ass wimp who gets her butt kicked by a 2 year old. I should mention that around 69% of my injuries occur because I’m a super klutz.
10. Cooking: It's one of my passions and hobbies, but it's often something I dread. Chopping vegetables starts a stabbing knife pain in my shoulder. Picking apart a chicken for soup does the same thing. The fast pace of timing everything so it's all ready at once also causes stress, and stress is not good for pain. Then there's sitting down and force feeding my little guy his dinner when I feel like I have absolutely nothing left to give. I can't wait for my husband's car to pull in the driveway and take-over. Truthfully, I have absolutely dreadful days, where one wrong move (like turning around in the car to pass my kid an apple) can determine the whole day or week as a bad or good one. But for the most part I've learned to manage my pain really well. I've spent thousands upon thousands on treatments and gym classes. You name it I've tried it, (so seriously please don't name another thing. No. Don't. Shut. Your. Mouth). Managing pain with a toddler is a lot harder, and way more taxing, but it's incredible how we can adapt and make things work for us. I am so happy I had my baby, and that gratefulness doesn't change even at my lowest. I'm also incredibly grateful for a partner who is understanding and does a lot to make my life easier.


Photo by our friend Raj Kanoge

Challenges like this can be isolating so it's important you keep up a dialogue with people around you, or seek out friendships or groups that can support you through it. Your mental health demands that you do. You can find other mamas who experience the same challenges as you on this awesome website - Hello Mamas


*Linking up with Essentially Jess for I blog on Tuesdays.

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