I am no stranger to physical pain. Seriously. My grandmother liked to say that I had “casual syndrome.” Basically, I am a klutz. But on top of that, weird medical stuff happens to me. No big deal…I take it with a grain of salt.
I can handle a lot of pain. My family and friends will attest to this. Novocain has never worked on me. Yep. I do not get numb. I have had the pleasure of toughing it out through root canals, teeth getting pulled, bridge work, ingrown toenail removal, and a host of other fun procedures. Was I in pain? You bet! However, I can handle the pain, I get into a zone and stay there until the procedure is done. Obviously I have an extraordinarily high threshold for pain. So if I say something hurts, it REALLY hurts.
I had a rather bad experience with the birth of my daughter via cesarean section. Recovery was brutal and painful but new mommy bliss trumped and I powered through all of the pain that I felt. I was able to care for my daughter just fine. I figured that if I could survive that kind of pain, I could deal with anything. I was not at all prepared for what I would face in late 2010.
In an effort to keep this post relatively short, I will give you the Reader’s Digest version of my ailment. What I really want to talk about is A) How pain affects your ability to mother your child and B) How I did not do any of the right things while I was going through my issue. So onto my ailment…
On November 2, 2010 I woke up with an extra butt cheek. You think I am kidding? Nope! There it was, as big, and red, and HOT, and as excruciatingly painful as ever. No, I did not grow an extra cheek but I did get an alarmingly large abscess on my tailbone. The abscess was from a growth that I never bothered to get removed (mostly because it didn’t bother me). What I didn’t know was that this growth was forming tunnels and channels from the base of my tailbone all the way down to the “glory hole”. It was tunneling deep and taking great care to make a complex web of nooks and crannies. My body finally had enough with all of the excavation efforts and waged a war against this growth hence launching an attack with an abscess to end all abscesses.
I was in PAIN! Debilitating pain. Pain like I had never imagined existed. I could not sit, I could not stand, I could not lay down, I could not walk, I could not do ANYTHING without basically going into a conniption. I was very ill from the infection as well. The doctor put me on mega doses of antibiotics but it was 5 days before he could open up the abscess in an effort to get me some relief. (Let’s just say that relief was in the form of MORE pain.)
Mothering my then 20 month old daughter was my number one priority. By God I was determined to go on with life as if nothing was wrong. Except that I couldn’t sit, stand, lay down, or move without crying or at the very least, whimpering. Being the stubborn one that I am, I wasn’t very accepting of help from my husband or mother. My daughter and I are very close and I was so fearful that any sort of separation was going to totally derail our connection. (This was the pain clouding my judgment. Pain free me would understand that this would never happen). Plus, she was the ONLY thing keeping me going and sort of taking my mind off of the atrocity of my situation.
But I got worse.
Pain begets pain. It’s basic science apparently. The more pain you have, the more pain you feel. The more pain your brain feels, the more pain you have. It has something to do with all of your synapses and neurotransmitters. So I was in an unending cycle of vicious pain that was only getting worse. And I was getting sicker. (We’re talking fevers of 103+).
Tiny knew that I was in a bad situation. The first night I had a high fever she literally did not sleep. She would rub my head, rub my cheek and gently say mama. It was her way of taking care of me. Which spurred me into “operation mommy can take care of my sweet angel no matter what.” Except for the fact that I was starting to lose my mind. Literally. The pain was that bad.
My mom has lived with chronic pain all of her life. She KNOWS when pain crosses the line from rational to irrational. I was becoming irrational. I was guilty about everything. I was upset about everything. I was confused about everything. I was acting like it was doomsday and we were all going to die. But most of all, I was going out of my mind thinking that if I did not single handedly take care of Tiny, that she was implode or at the very least, be scarred for life.
And yet, I would barely accept help. I finally felt guilty that Tiny was cooped up so my mom came over daily and took her to the park. I still managed to get Tiny out back to play and I did what I could to keep her engaged and entertained indoors. I also kept snuggling her, telling her I loved her, and making sure that she knew I was there for her, no matter how awful I felt. And I realized that she KNEW this, that it would be ok to give myself a break and to focus on getting well. Because really, I was of no use to Tiny when I was a crying, guilt ridden, mess of a mom who alternated between crawling around on her hands and knees to laying on her side just to get through five minutes.
In case you were wondering…YOU CANNOT EFFECTIVELY MOTHER YOUR CHILDREN WHEN YOU ARE IN DEHABILITATING PAIN! (Was that clear?)
Children are very understanding. They are very forgiving. As I have learned, they are very resilient. Tiny made it obvious that she was overjoyed when I finally started to feel better. She would still point to my “owie” and say “ahhhhhhh boo mama” and blow a kiss my way. However, nothing about our relationship changed. She loves me just the same. I of course love her more than ever for putting up with crazy mama for 6 weeks.
I will be having a pretty brutal surgery to hopefully permanently address this issue in early April. I won’t be able to sit down for 6-8 weeks. This time – I am going to need help and I will ask for it. I’m not going to try to be the hero. Also, since I will have warning, I will create a lot of special “down time” activities for Tiny.
I realize now that my stubbornness to continue to mother Tiny no matter how I felt could have had more long term negative effects on her than if I had just gotten the help I now know I needed with her. What if the pain had clouded my judgment so severely that I lashed out at Tiny in a way I would never have imagined ever doing? What if I could not physically aid Tiny in her time of need because of my own limitations?
I won’t let myself feel guilty for my clouded judgment this last go-around. I have learned from that experience and am ready to tackle whatever my recovery period offers me in the way of parenting challenges. I am going to remain flexible and will ask for the help I need.
I will keep you all posted on my mothering experience this time around. In addition, I have a post coming out about Peacefully Parenting During Times of Illness or Injury over at the Natural Parents Network. I will link to that as well.
Until then….keep good thoughts for me and my extra butt cheek!