Chronic Pain Warriors are Mothers, and We’re Everywhere

Chronic Pain Warriors are Mothers, and We're Everywhere | Houston Moms Blog

As mothers, we do everything for our children with marginal complaint. We may holler, “I said put your shoes on, child!” after mentioning it fifteen times between making breakfast, pulling out clothes, packing lunches, and making sure the homework folder is updated. What we do, every day, is pretty much a standard routine for us. We’re so used to the shoe battle, or the sock battle, or the brushing teeth battle, or the “get in bed” battle that it’s something we feel exasperated about in the moment, but we laugh about it in retellings when the tiny humans are out of sight.

But then we get sick, and this morning routine becomes more of a challenge. Moms aren’t invincible, moms don’t get a day off, so we just have to accept the illness and battle through. The morning routine changes to include medicine and herbal tea while pouring a bowl of cereal. We make sandwiches in between blowing our nose and washing our hands to contain the virus. We serve breakfast while trying to remember to cough into our elbow, so that we’re modeling good behavior for our children. We even holler about the shoes, as always, while ticking down the minutes before we can drop them off, go back to bed, and surround ourselves with a mountain of tissues.

After a few days, however, sickness ends, life goes back to normal, and motherhood continues. 

What happens, though, when it doesn’t end? What happens to the mother who packs the lunches, lays out the clothes, harps about the shoes, and signs the homework folder while also facing chronic pain?

It’s Constant

Pain is one of those things that most of us can tolerate in short bursts. We cut ourselves and feel the sharp sting, and after a few minutes, we forget all about it. We step on a Lego and bite back profanities at the tiny object that brings such an excruciating feeling for twenty-two seconds. We trip over a squeaky toy in the middle of the night and perform acrobatic feats trying not to stumble headlong into the floor and tweak a few muscles in the process. A few days later, we remember the story, but not the feeling.

Moms with chronic pain, however, wake up with it. We go to bed with it. We focus one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. The pain never goes away, it hurts so bad that the idea of lifting a gallon of milk to make breakfast makes us want to cry in defeat. We don’t cry, though. We don’t wallow in the misery life has created for us. Instead, we slap a smile on our face, get out of bed, an pretend like the pain isn’t there.

That feeling of ache and fatigue in the arms after a good workout in the gym is how the joints in our knuckles, ankles, neck, back, hips, and knees feel all of the time. When we go to the doctor, and they ask us to rate our pain on a scale of one to ten, we’re probably smiling when we claim it’s an eight. Pain scales, we know, are for normal people who actually feel that zero every day, every hour, every minute. Our zero is a four, sometimes a five. If we are crying because of pain, which is very rare, it’s because our tolerance has run out, not because the pain has changed. The pain does change in what we call a “flare,” though. For us, a flare means weeks and months of life being intolerable — somewhat like climbing a mountain without a harness to catch us when we fall, or walking across a pile of Legos mixed with scorpions.

There is no medicine to help it, especially in our society, because doctors are afraid to provide medicine that dulls the pain in a culture that focuses on the idea of creating future addicts. Instead, we take a myriad of vitamins that do nothing, and we tell ourselves tricks to pretend to forget the pain … but the pain is always there.

It’s One More Step

There comes a moment every day in which we can’t take one more step. Even describing that moment seems difficult. It’s almost as if we’ve spent the entire day running a marathon. The effort of getting the kids ready for school, dropping them off, going to work, going home to do housework, facing the grocery store, picking up the kiddos, making dinner, and living seems almost impossible with chronic pain, but we do it every day. And, every day, like clockwork, we feel that moment of crossing the finish line, the moment where we want to say we’re done and fall to the floor {which we sometimes do, and then we say a few choice words because it’s much harder to get up than go down}. 

That moment is usually when we’re cooking dinner, helping with homework, doing the bedtime routine, or being asked for nighttime milk. We don’t get to call it quits. We don’t get to say, “I’m done.”

There’s always one more step, and another, until we can finally lay down for the night.

It’s Accepting This Life

This pain, this torment, it’s never going to end. This is our life. This is our battle. The only hope we have at managing this life is hoping that our partner and children don’t come to resent us because of our limitations, and that is a very real and extremely hard fear to recognize and understand. At some point, usually six months to a year into chronic pain, we break down, realizing that our past life — the woman who could jump and spin in circles, or chase her child through the park with free abandon — is gone. She’s never coming back.

The person who is left has a choice :: become bitter and let that consume everything, or stand as tall as possible and spend every day trying to live in a body that feels like it’s being destroyed one joint and muscles at a time. The strong woman? That’s who most of us choose to be. No one can tell that we’ve made such a strenuous choice. No one can see the battle it takes to smile instead of cry.

Mothers with chronic pain or chronic illness are all around us. It’s the mom sitting next to us at the baseball games, laughing and chatting with ease. It’s the mom pushing a cart containing a toddler pleading to go to the toy section who looks resigned instead of annoyed. The mom climbing out of a spot in handicapped parking, who has what seems to be two perfectly working legs, has chronic pain to the point where walking any distance feels insurmountable. We’re everywhere, and we’re smiling through a body that is dying to be normal again.

With chronic pain, motherhood continues, but life never goes back to normal. We’re surviving the best way we know how, though. One second at a time.

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