Math and I aren’t really best friends. In fact, we’re barely on speaking terms. There is one thing that Math and I have in common: a love of Venn Diagrams. Get it? “Have in common” haha, oh man, puns. Point being, a light bulb went off for me recently when I was thinking about how my chronic illnesses interact with my new-found motherhood. I started thinking about what the two things have in common and how having a chronic illness got me ready for the challenges of motherhood.
5. Just Dealing with It
Not all of us are lucky enough to live life without worrying about finances. For me, I worked two jobs to put myself through college. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to do all of it. Actually, I have no idea how I manage to accomplish a lot of things. But, just like many people with a chronic illness, when I am told I can’t do something, I am just that much more determined to do it. So you learn to deal with it. Have to pull an all-nighter to cram for finals but you’re in the middle of a flare-up? Tough cookies. There are just some things in life that you really can’t bail out on no matter how much your chronic illness sucks.
And learning to just deal with the suckiness of it all turned out to build up this thing I call a “Stamina Callus.” Just like you need calluses to be an awesome guitarist (I think? I don’t know I’m not musical), you need to have a certain stamina level to survive motherhood. So when the baby needs to be fed and I’ve only had 2.7 seconds of sleep, I can just do it. Thanks Stamina Callus!
Compensating, to the average person, means to counter-balance something. To a person with a connective tissue disorder, it means constantly shifting your weight or changing your stance in order to prevent or manage a dislocated joint. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos when I was a teenager, but I had been living with it my whole life, obviously. Even from a young age, I remember wondering how my T-Ball teammates could just jump off the bench and run on the field. Whereas if I had done that, my hip probably would have given out and I’d just wipeout before even exiting the dugout.
So bending over to pick up a fifteen pound infant a gazillion times a day really didn’t seem so bad after a lifetime of faceplants. I already had experience balancing, being uncomfortable, and knowing when to ask for help to avoid a really bad spill. And trust me, once you have such precious cargo in your arms, you become even more aware of the dangerous, slippery world around you.
Clearly nothing compares to the lack of sleep you experience once you become a mother. But I would bet good money (like four bucks, maybe?) that the fatigue associated with Lupus and other autoimmune disorders could be a close second. Lupus fatigue also comes with a pesky side of anxiety. It’s like you can feel it coming on, yet you know you have little to no control over it. Imagine you are driving a semi-truck on an icy road on the side of a mountain and right as you are about to go around a scary curve, this blindfold begins to descend over your eyes and you are defenseless.
The fatigue/anxiety combo actually was a pretty accurate test run for being a new mom. In those first weeks, you’re desperately exhausted, yet every time your head hits the pillow, you immediately panic thinking the baby needs you. I’m not gonna lie. That panic is still with me almost eight months later. I still hear “phantom cries” and get up to check on the baby “just one more time.”
2. Must… Remember…To…?
Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgotten why? Well, some people with chronic illness experience these “mental fog” states on a fairly regular basis. With the amount of times I’ve searched for my keys whilst holding them in my hand, you would think I was driving to get the early bird special with my AARP discount. Not only do we experience lapses in both short and long-term memory, but we can be absent-minded as well – and not in that adorably awkward, professor way.
Long before pregnancy or motherhood had me putting dishes in the fridge, I was bringing the remote into the bathroom. That makes for a really weird sentence, but you get the point. I guess I just wasn’t as rattled or shocked by memory lapses since that had become the norm long ago.
1. Time for an Epiphany
Once, when I was walking across the stage at my hard-earned college graduation, I suspected it. Then, again, after fighting through red tape and regaining my license after seizures, I wondered about it again. But it wasn’t until I held my child in my arms did I realize my suspicions were true: “I AM A FREAKING SUPERHERO!” And guess what? You are, too! Women living with chronic illness and balancing motherhood are amazing. We are warriors, we produce life, we rise from the ashes again and again. Can you tell me how that’s not the making of a superhero? Exactly. So go find your cape because it’s about time you accepted the truth that you are an amazing forth with which to be reckoned!!!