I have a confession to make.
I was late in submitting this post to my editors. Normally I’m not a procrastinator, but this month, life got in the way. Sure, I had all the typical distractions as a mom – work, daycare obligations, out-of-town visitors – and those I could work with. However, there was one factor I just hadn’t planned for. A flare up of my chronic illness.
I have multiple sclerosis.
Usually it’s well controlled and a minor factor in my life, but this month, it reared its ugly head and took control of my life in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. Having a chronic illness as a parent is an added complication that I try and avoid, but sometimes I can’t.
I was diagnosed in 2012, well before I became a mother. I have relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), which is generally considered less severe than primary progressive MS. RRMS consists of episodes of symptom flares (relapses) and periods of remission. Depending on the day, someone with RRMS can be totally fine and feel completely healthy, and on another, can lose the ability to walk.
I, fortunately, have never lost the ability to walk. For the most part, my symptoms have been mild. Primarily I deal with weakness in my limbs, minor incontinence, and fatigue. Unsurprisingly, my bladder issues worsened upon giving birth to a child (an issue many moms can commiserate with!) Recently, however, my largest problem has been the fatigue. My exhaustion has been crippling. It’s the type of fatigue that can’t be fixed, no matter the amount of sleep.
The past few weeks have been difficult.
I have a toddler, which means that moments of rest are few and far between. Luckily I have an incredibly supportive spouse who has been able to help with the heavy lifting (both literally and figuratively). I am very type-A and self-sufficient, so it’s been very hard for me to admit that I need help. My husband has been incredibly kind and patient as he’s guided me towards accepting his help, for which I am eternally grateful.
The ups and downs of medication for chronic illness
I have been on two separate therapies for my chronic illness. One involved giving myself a shot every day (ouch!) and my current medication is a pill, which is much preferred. Neither of these medications address any of my current symptoms or issues. Like all MS medications, they work to stop progression of the disease.
Technically, you never know if a medication is working until you either have a flare up, or after being on it for some time, you have an MRI that comes up clear. It can be frustrating and worrying to be on a medication and not even know if it works. I guess treating MS is like being a parent. In parenting, you work hard and hope that it all turns out for the best. With MS, you spend a lot of time on treatment and hope that it all turns out for the best. In both cases, you just have to have faith that all will be okay.
Chronic illness and pregnancy
My husband and I thought carefully about whether it made sense to have children, given my condition. Fortunately, we learned that there is a good chance I would not pass my MS onto my child. My neurologist recommended taking high doses of vitamin D while pregnant, which seems to be another effective way to reduce the likelihood that it’s passed along. We also learned that pregnancy is a powerful preventative for MS flares. Doctors aren’t sure why, but I definitely felt my best while I was pregnant (save for the morning sickness and aches and pains!).
We all face battles every day
Each and every one of us is faced with challenges as parents – some are large and some are small. Although some may believe that battling chronic illness is a large challenge, I try not to let it control my life. Both having MS and being a mom have taught me the importance of slowing down, not taking life for granted, and asking for help when I need it. I will have good days and bad as my daughter grows up. Some bad days will be a result of the MS, but the good days will be a result of having her in my life. Those are the days I look forward to most.