Moms Get Sick Too
I was a brand new mom when I started “feeling funny.”
I had a rough pregnancy, a traumatic delivery, and a long recovery. So at first I chalked it up to motherhood. But as time went on, my daughter was getting older and I still felt that funny feeling.
Tired (make that exhausted).
Heavy (make that 50lbs heavier in just over 2 weeks).
Weary (make that feeling “crazy” because no doctor could tell me what was wrong).
Anxious (make that scared because I started losing my hair).
It took almost 2 years of being sick before getting a diagnosis of chronic renal failure. I was a new mom, just 26 years old, and told that I would probably be in complete kidney failure by my 40th birthday. I was afraid, confused, so ill — devastated! It was definitely a low point for me.
It took some prayer, weekly doctor visits, bi-weekly visits to the lab, some misdiagnoses, thousands of pills, and newfound faith; but I am 39 years old and living well.
When I was first diagnosed, one of my biggest fears was not being able to see my daughter grow up. It’s been thirteen years since that day, I have a son now, and I can say that being a mother with a chronic illness has not been easy. I wasn’t able to bathe my daughter because bending down near the tub was impossible with edema. I couldn’t play outside for too long because I couldn’t be in direct sunlight. There is a 6 year age difference between my 2 children because the medication I was taking could’ve negatively affected a fetus. I waited until I was stable enough to go unmedicated for 9 months before conceiving a second child. I experienced debilitating stomach pain, more hair loss, and other symptoms as a side effect to some of my medication.
My children experienced a sick mommy. One who would eventually also be diagnosed with anxiety. They would ask, “why are you always so tired, mommy?” They would cry when they witnessed me vomiting uncontrollably. My babies experienced chronic illness in a very real way.
They also saw me recover. They witnessed me push past the pain. We’ve laughed out loud together on the couch many nights after dinner. We’ve splashed in the ocean. We’ve taken thirteen hour road trips as a family. And I have come to cherish every one of those moments, even the bad ones.
My babies have learned that moms get sick, too. We have fevers and headaches. We have good days and bad ones. We get scared and moody. We experience fear, while holding onto our faith. These are the lessons we get to not just tell our children about, but give them the opportunity to witness, firsthand.
I see things much differently now. I don’t worry about not being able to see my babies grow up. I fear not leaving them with the most meaningful lessons of all, before I leave this earth.
Sick moms get to teach their children how to deal with bad news.
Sick moms get to teach their children how to handle bad days with grace.
Sick moms get to teach their children that they don’t always have to be perfect.
We get to teach our children how to honor their true feelings, how to engage in self-care, how to manage disappointment, how to recover after being knocked down, how to push past pain. We get to show our babies how to heal.
Being sick has given me a whole new perspective on motherhood.
Things I’ve learned about parenting through my own chronic illness:
1. Motherhood looks different for everyone. This was a moment of freedom for me. Realizing that I didn’t have to do motherhood like everyone else gave me the freedom to things my way — a new way. I created a whole new vision for me and my family. There is a lot of rest and self-care in my vision. There are also moments of grace and strong faith in my vision.
2. Bad news makes good lessons. At first I tried to hide my illness from my children. It became exhausting and caused more harm than good. When I started being honest with my family about how I was feeling, it became an awesome bonding experience. It also empowered them in ways I hadn’t considered. My children show unbelievable grace to others. They are kind and concerned when it comes to people who are sick or different than them. They are caring and generous with their time. Keeping it real with them has helped them become better humans.
3. Perfection is boring. Perfect went out the window the moment I was diagnosed. Being the perfect mom was just not going to happen. For one, I was too tired to even attempt perfection. And, I found creative ways to compensate for the things I couldn’t do. Eating leftovers isn’t a bad thing when your kids research how other countries eat chicken or rice or veggies. “Fort Night” is an amazing excuse for mom to sit on the couch (I mean “fort”) for an hour. Sick moms embrace peace over perfection.
4. Balance doesn’t exist. In order to achieve balance, there must be equal weight on all sides. That may not be possible with chronic illness. You may have more sick days than well this week. You may need to sleep in more days than you have in the past. You have limits. Your life is unpredictable. Balance is just not something we can maintain. Let yourself off the hook and create harmony between you, your family and your illness. Allow everything to come together and support you in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilt or shame. Be unapologetically unpredictable. Embrace your off day because your good day is just around the corner.
We don’t look sick. We throw on our capes and rescue our babies when they fall and get hurt. We use of bodies, our hearts, and our will to shield our families from whatever tries to come their way. We are brave. We are resilient. We are also human. We don’t feel well sometimes. We need rest and special care. We need tenderness and attention. We are vulnerable. We are needy. And that’s okay, too.
No need to retire your cape for good. But take it off for a little while.
Take your moment, mama. Collect your thoughts. Recover from a bad day. Pray through tears. Scream in a pillow. I totally get you.
Written by: Nakeia Homer
Nakeia is a bright light in our community, representing the People Hope Tribe in the great state of Georgia! She’s the first to tell you that she’s “just a girl from the projects who decided not to settle,” and she’s committed to helping others find that same determination. Nakeia is a social worker, turned award-winning songwriter, turned inspirational writer, speaker, and mentor. She’s one of our MVP volunteers on our Support Team and our Connections Team, and she’s a superhero mama and wife. You can find her on social media @nakeiachomer, on her blog, but caution…you’ll never find her settling for less than she deserves!
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