Long before my pregnancy (I have 5 year old twins), I was diagnosed with OCD and depression. I’ve been through intense therapy and treatment in my life for this mental illness. During my pregnancy, I learned I have two congenital heart defects. One could be life threatening, the other is so rare my doctor can’t tell me if it will ever have a dire consequence or not. As a result of a difficult pregnancy, I suffer from many other physical maladies to include bulging discs in my lower back and moderate to severe gastrointestinal issues. I have a laundry list besides this a mile long.I am already bored. You may be too. I spend lots of time in various doctors’ offices with men much older than me. It isn’t sexist or disrespectful. It is true. I’m painting a picture, remember?
The question was posed to me: how do you balance your ailments and motherhood? The problem is, I’m not so sure that I do. So, my answer may fall flat, but I will try to convey what I am doing to hold it together. Ultimately, I am just a person dealing with issues that many of us face, and I hope that by being honest and open about my experiences, someone who may be facing the same issues may not feel alone.
I have an incredible circle of family and friends who have stood by me through thick and thin to make sure my tangled web of surgeries, doctor’s visits, and chaotic life never entirely derails. And, yet, I want to give myself some credit here too. I think I’ve asked for two sick days in the last two years, both aided by my husband. One of those days, I had heart surgery. I have an absolutely solid resolve and willpower. I make this work. Yes, sometimes with help. All the time with a resolve to be present for my kids.
On a very honest note, I rarely feel well. Up until October of last year, I was being defeated by my heart. Surgery improved my situation tremendously, but, since surgery, I have had increasing intestinal issues that may require yet another surgery. I wake up many, many mornings and think, “there is no way in this world I can drag myself out of bed and do THIS again today.” Then THIS walks by…my husband…one of the kids…a dog…or the other….and I’m reminded that these creatures need me and I need them. I drag. Sometimes I drag beyond recognition. But I move, and I do not give up, and sometimes, if all I can squeeze out is 5PM, I know my best friend will be here to be Daddy and cook dinner and take over the reading, and crafts, and games.[pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”]…I hope that by being honest and open about my experiences, someone who may be facing the same issues may not feel alone.[/pullquote]Sadly, I am the world’s biggest playdate flake and a social enigma. Inevitably, my calendar is chock full of doctor’s appointments. As soon as I giddily sketch in plans with the children and ANOTHER ADULT AND OTHER CHILDREN (you call it a playdate, I call it the infinite unknown), I get sick or a child of mine gets sick, or the other child gets sick and the play date never happens. You healthy moms out there know what I am talking about too. It is enough to get these things to happen without mommy woes. It is disappointing. Thankfully I have a network of wonderful folks who know I am only occasionally going to bleep through on the radar, they know why, and they are present. Those folks have been absolutely priceless to me these years. I know I’d be in a better place mentally with all of this if I could’ve had more adult time, but its not been in the cards much for me, so I’m thankful for what I do get.
Finally, the most difficult component of mothering and chronic illness is the fact that when I am not physically well, I am also not generally mentally well (not that I am anyway, wink!). Now, I want to be careful here…honest, but careful. I believe I have happy, healthy, bright kids; but I find my 5 year-old ridiculousness threshold is lower than many folks‘, and, it’s hard to try to squeeze out the amount of patience required to manage two five year old kids when you don’t feel well. It’s hard to admit – sometimes, in exasperation, I talk to my kids in a mean tone. I feel very guilty about it. But all in all, I think I’m doing the best job I can. All I can hope is that my kids continue to want to read books with me, and play baseball, and go for hikes and cuddle. Because, more than anything, my children drive me to be better and do better, every day in every way.
I am not sure in sharing all of that if I have addressed how I BALANCE. I think the keys to balance have been listening to my body, working with the beautiful family and friends I have for support and understanding, and being able to SAY NO. I have just had to say no to things I could not do or things I could not be present for. I have tried to keep those NOs to an absolute minimum as they might relate to my children or spouse. Everyone else only gets a YES if I think I can really fulfill the obligation. More often than not, I cannot. I realize that in this place and at this time it takes almost everything I have just to care for my children, my husband, and myself.
The greatest blessing through all of this is that I have been able to be home, a stay-at-home mom, and to devote as much time as I can to my children and to my wellness. I definitely don’t think I have a balance down. I might achieve that if there were 15 more hours in the day, or a few more days in the week. Fall will be interesting as the children begin school and I return to my career. “Upsetting the apple cart” is never superb for us OCDers. I’m prepping myself to be up for the challenge. I have a tough road ahead, but I see the light. I feel certain that my perseverance with all of this will pay off later, and that I will be physically well and able to be an example to my children about what the mind can do for the body when committed.
Christa Landingham and her husband are Madison County natives and life-long residents. They have boy/girl twins and two crazy puppers. She loves all things teaching, organizing, and supporting local small businesses. In her “free-time” she loves to garden, travel with her family, volunteer, and comb local thrift stores. Pearl Jam is her jam.