Being a person who struggles with chronic pain is sometimes a rough gig. I often feel that if the pain was only physical, I could deal with it. Unfortunately, pain seeps through my edges of my body and into my mind and heart. A few years ago, I came face to face with what my pain was doing to me. It wasn’t pretty and I realized that if I was going to be functional at all, I needed to get some things figured out. While this deserves, and will get, it’s own post someday, at the end of a month of pretty intense prayer and self-examination, I realized that I was filled with anger, bitterness, rage, sadness, and frustration over my pain. I believe that since my body carry around my brain and heart, they are going to be changed by pain and it isn’t totally unreasonable to expect some negative feelings towards my pain. While I get why I was angry, it didn’t excuse it and I knew I needed to deal with it. While God has said “not yet” to my prayers for physical healing, He responded with an emphatic “YES” to my prayers for emotional and mental healing, and I am happy to say that since that day, I have not struggled with that deep rage in regards to my pain.
The one area of my pain that still squeezes my heart and makes me feel like I can’t get a deep breath is how it affects my son. My sweet guy is going to be five in a few weeks and he’s never known a totally healthy mother.
My chronic pain started years before he was born, but sky-rocketed when we moved to Colorado with it’s constantly changing barometer, cold that crept into my bones, and exceedingly high elevation. He was only ten months when a manageable pain level got to the point of needing medical intervention.
Right now, he is so little that it’s easy to explain what is happening (“Mama is hurting right now”) and it isn’t hard to always make slightly nebulous plans so that if we need to go home because my pain levels hit the roof, we can without him realizing what just happened.
Yesterday was one of those awful days when pain throws a nasty wrench into my mothering. I had a ton of fun things planned with Jake to celebrate his release from preschool therapy for processing problems and to get a good kick-off for summer. Instead of doing all the things we were supposed to do, I spent a good deal of the day curled into a ball trying to figure out how to get a handle on the headache that had lasted into day six.
It was one of those days that I hated my pain and wanted to beat it with a stick until it went away. I hate how many times I had to say “not yet” to Jake’s question of “Mama, can you play with me?” I hate that I got snappy with him when he wanted to get up from his rest time early. I hate that I had to say “no” to playing with the boys next door. I hate that he spent a good portion of the day watching Curious George and Despicable Me. (He’s at that phase in life where all he wants to do is watch cartoons, so I’m pretty sure he thought he hit the jack-pot.) I’m frustrated that when I woke up this morning I realized that another kind of pain has replaced the headache, so it might be another quiet day.
Seeing my pain really affect Jake hurt me worse than the pain and I sometimes fear what lies ahead for my parenting. I am already sad at the way my pain has changed the kind of mother I want to be and Jake isn’t even in “big kid school” yet. This is one area that I have had to seriously reign in since I know that it isn’t healthy to worry about a future that hasn’t happened and may never happen. I don’t need to add another unhealthy thing to my life, so I’m dealing with that worry even now while I write.
I truly believe that almost every situation has a good side attached to a dark side. Instead of worry, I am trying to discipline my mind to think about the good side of parenting with pain.
Jake has already become an extremely empathetic little boy. At four, he understands that pain doesn’t always go away, but that hugs and kisses help me feel better. He knows that sometimes “medicine makes mama feel ‘bether'” and to ask me if he can get me some medicine. (I never let him handle my serious drugs, by the way.) He sometimes comes up to me and rubs my face and says, “You hurting, Mama?” and then puts his head on my shoulder. If it weren’t for me being in pain, he wouldn’t have developed this tender side of his personality.
He’s also exhibited the blessing of a bad memory. Yesterday, I was feeling good enough to take a walk with him in the evening. I was watching him play in the sprinklers and run circles around me and praying that he hadn’t had a bad day as a result of my pain. I asked him if we had had a good day or a bad day and he stopped jumping in a mud puddle long enough to laugh and say, “good day, Mama!”. I’m so thankful that he didn’t remember how bad I felt or that it wasn’t so overwhelming that it wrecked the day.
I pray that this continues. I pray in the future he remembers going on train rides with me, Aunt Joye and Great-Grandma, not that I needed to go to bed early that night.
I hope he remembers only that we sometimes go to wave at the fish in the park, not the days that I need to sit down on the bridge and breathe deeply before I can keep moving.
The future has yet to be written and it is possible that someday, someone will figure out what is wrong with me and we’ll be able to get rid of my pain entirely. It’s possible that “You hurting, Mama?” will not be something that Jake says anymore and that “bad days” won’t mean that I am curled up in bed.
While I hope and pray that reality will look like that, I can’t plan for it. I can be thankful for the positive things and lessons that are coming out of my pain. I know that God gave Jake and I to each other for a reason. I can see how my ability to fight for what we need has benefited Jake’s special needs journey. I know that same ability to fight will help me be the mama that Jake needs. I also know that God can fill in the gaps between what we need and what we have.
I don’t know what the future holds, but right now my pain is getting better and I’m going to grab this moment and and ask Jake if he wants to go play!