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When Being a Mom Feels Like Being in Prison

 

There have been a few times in my motherhood journey that I’ve actually wondered if it wouldn’t be more peaceful in prison.  I could read books uninterrupted.  Write letters.  Sure, I wouldn’t have my freedom but I don’t really have it now and I’m fairly certain that in prison there is nobody constantly yelling demands at you while you tirelessly and breathlessly work towards fulfilling the demand before that one.  Plus, the sleep deprivation.

Ok, I know that sounds terrible.  But have you ever hit that point?  That point where you literally feel like you are being driven mad?

When tantrums drive you over the edge
In one famous incident, my kid screamed for almost half an hour because I wouldn’t let him have chocolate bars for lunch.  Yes, I told him we could have some for dessert.  Yes, I offered a small piece as a compromise.  Yes, I empathized with him.  I stayed close, hugged him, picked him up…. until his repeated screaming of “I WANT CHOCOLATE I WANT CHOCOLATE” began to cause me to start half-laughing and half-crying, because I just didn’t know what to do.  I put him down and he started to scream that I pick him up.  Then, I tried to walk away to take a breath and he took hold of my leg and wouldn’t let go.
He did eventually calm down.  But I’ll remember that one for a long time… maybe forever?
When going to sleep feels like work… you hate
For the first year and a half of my sons life I dreaded every single night like a job I hated.  This was mainly because I knew I wouldn’t sleep well and that there was a good chance I could wake up in the morning and sob from the frustration of not being able to connect more than 25 minutes of sleep.  The days would drag on, and I was not a very fun mommy because I was constantly so tired.
A year on, I still somewhat dread it on the days I’m tired but it’s not as bad, and now daddy can finally sleep with him some nights and I get a break.  I actually look forward to sleeping again sometimes!
The understanding created by adversity
It’s after tough moments I have come to understand how can be that some mothers or caregivers have done some pretty awful things when under the stress of caring for little ones.  I get it.  It can feel like your life has become your own personal prison cell with no escape.

As a fairly well-supported mom, my difficult moments make me grateful (well after, obviously not during).   These moments also illuminate the difficulty that so many others must face, particularly those with less support – either in the form of family, friends, or spouse.

When motherhood starts to feel like a burden, that’s when support is most crucial.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The village is crucial.  We weren’t meant to do this alone.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed on a more constant basis, it might be time to visit the doc.  They might be able to refer you to some support groups near you.  And always remember: it does get easier.  We’re all in this together.

Mommyfriend – You Saved This New Mom

Dear Mommyfriend,

Have I told you recently how great you are?  I don’t know what I would do without you.  On many occasions, you have pretty much saved my life (and sanity).

Being a new mom has made me doubt my ability to do so much.

Why is he spitting up so much?  It must be something in my breast milk.
Why is he CRYING so much?  I am not good at this.
Why am I so much less productive than I used to be? I’m just not managing this mom thing as well as everyone else.
WHY OH WHY won’t he sleep?  It’s something I’m doing wrong.

You remind me not to doubt myself.  

You know that I’m being too hard on myself.  You listen.  Let me get it off my chest.  You remind me that sometimes, it’s the kid, and no matter what we do,  it just takes time to pass.  Other times, you encourage me and tell me about what helped you.  I love that I can help you through this too; isn’t it amazing how our perspective changes looking from the outside of a situation?

You give me amazingly helpful information.

I pretty much would have missed the local daycare list without your mommy advice.  You told me which classes in our area were actually legit.  I bought like 5 sippy cups before finding one I could actually assemble without wanting to whip it across the room because all I can hear is “MUMMY I’M THIRSTY.  WANT DRINK.  WANT DRINK.”  And then you gave me like 3 extra cups that you didn’t use.

We share laughter and treats.  

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Like these.  Mmm.  

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but we often laugh when we’re together.  I love hearing your stories and love that you adore my cute-kid story as much as I do yours.  Plus, I need to tell SOMEONE about my embarrassing stories (too awful for the blog).

On other days, we can sit in silence and just chill out while our kids tear apart the park/library/whomever’s house it was we decided to go to that day.

Most importantly though – we’re always there for each other, even if it can’t be immediately.  Sometimes it’s just a quick text of support and that’s enough.  Both of us understand this hectic life with little ones.  Time apart doesn’t affect our bond.  But it sure is nice when you are around.

Thank you Mommyfriend.

The Inflamed Mommy – Managing Arthritis with Mommyhood

The doctors always warned me that inflammatory arthritis tends to act up after the birth of a child. Yet I was optimistic – it hadn’t bothered me since my first trimester, and had completely dissipated for the rest of my pregnancy.  Then, it happened.  I was in the throes of new motherhood with my chubby thriving 4 month old, and my ankle began to swell.  It ultimately reached about twice its size by the time he was 8 months old.  I was in constant pain and even sitting on the floor with him was out of the question due to the angle of my ankle.  I was miserable and yet terrified to medicate with anything other than Advil for fear that I would need to stop nursing him.

I had to wait 4 months to see a rheumatologist due to their backlog and the fact I was outside the 2 year window for re-visiting without a new referral.  I even sat in the emergency department one day (when it was quiet) to try and expedite things; the doctors that day could not confidently advise me on a drug I could use while nursing so I had to wait for the rheumatologist who specialized in postpartum flare-ups.

How it all began

I’ve had arthritis since I was in high school.  At the beginning of grade 9, I was continuing to pursue my competitive figure skating career and was excelling in my grade 9 gym class.  Mid-year, I had terrible pain and back spasms in my sacroiliac joint (base of my spine basically) that made it hard to walk.  Walking to my next class became a challenge that I would dread.  A few years and several inflamed joints later, it turned out I had an auto-immune disease. It’s an area we still don’t know that much about – case in point my diagnosis oscillates between psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthropathy.  My eyes occasionally get inflamed as well.

It ended pretty much any hope I had ever had for any athletic endeavor.  My new reality was learning to listen to my body and to give it balance, along with the medications I was prescribed… because that’s what survival required.  I was a teenager and this was a tough lesson for someone so young to learn.  Still, to this day, if I overdo it in a workout I know I could be in pain for months.  I have to be a really good listener for this body.

Even arthritis clouds have silver lining

And yet, being an arthritis manager gives me fortitude.  I’m incredibly grateful to be able to walk down my street pain-free and be present enough to notice the movement of the leaves in the Spring breeze.  I’ve watched my brother suffer with the same issues to an extent beyond my own.  It has consistently matured me beyond my years.  My friends always seem to comment on how “healthy” I am and how early I go to bed…. but I’m not sure if they understood until recently that I feel as though I have no choice.  Pain is an effective motivator.

I feel like I missed out on a few months of my son’s life in some ways – living in the moment of pain instead of being present to enjoy his sweet giggles and new discoveries.  Looking back I should have maintained my relationship with my rheumatologist, but hindsight is 20/20.  I’m always hopeful that this is the year it burns out for good.

Where we are now

Soon after I saw the rheumatologist, my flare up went away.  I’m back to being able to do gentle exercise and enjoy my life pretty much pain-free again.  In December I created my startup, Villagemommy.com.  We help new moms find and meet the other moms near them for playdates & friendship.  It’s going well.  I laugh when I hear people say “oh, you can either have your health, your family or your startup.”  That kind of self-sacrifice isn’t available to us all.

I have a nasty varicose vein on my ankle as a result of it being inflamed so long, but it’s a reminder of my triumph over my condition as well as some lessons learned the hard way.  Always address inflammation and have the supports in place to get to it fast.

I know I’m more fortunate than many.  I manage arthritis, not the other way around.  I know there are lots of other mommies out there who manage auto-immune or other conditions along with being a mom.  What are your coping strategies?

Please share in the comments!  Let this start the conversation.