Introducing Guest Blogger, Jenna Montgomery
As a mom to a 20-month-old toddler, I now know that being a mom is the hardest job in the world. Even with a sweet, happy baby that has always been a good sleeper, and even with a husband that works from home, it is still the hardest job I have ever had. Now that I really know what it means to be a mom, I wonder how mothers of twins do it, or how mothers with five children actually get through the day. But, I am sure they would think the same of me if they knew about me. I have a chronic pain condition. I dont know if this makes my job as a mom harder than it does for other moms, but for me it is a daily challenge to overcome.
For 15 years I have struggled with chronic pain and chronic migraines. When I was first diagnosed at 21 I was worried the burden of my condition would scare people away, so I struggled with it alone. I was embarrassed and worried that people wouldn’t believe me. It was easy to hide because I looked healthy, but no one really knew my true experience.
Four years later I met my husband, the first man I met who saw my condition as an asset and not something to run away from. He thought it made me strong, brave, and independent – all the qualities he wanted in a wife. He was the first person to help me start to see the positive in what I had thought of as a negative for so many years.
After we got married, I worried if I could actually be a mom. I knew my condition would never go away and it scared me that my body wouldn’t be able to handle pregnancy and all the physical tasks required to take care of a child. I spent many hours discussing this very topic with my therapist who helped me realize that I could do it – that my body wasn’t getting in the way of my dream of becoming a mom, it was my head. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to be a “normal mom” and be able to do “normal mom” things that it meant I couldn’t be a mother at all. My wonderful therapist showed me that I could be a mom in my own special way and that there is no such thing as a “normal mom”. All moms are figuring it out as they go.
When I got pregnant, I tried to research about moms with disabilities and how they went about their daily lives. Sadly I discovered there are very limited materials about these women. And I didn’t necessarily fit into any of the categories of disabilities that did have resources. I realized I would have to figure it out for myself. I was finally ok with that fact thanks to my therapist who helped me find my inner strength despite my condition.
Since I had my daughter, there have been some really tough days and weeks. Days when doing anything, let alone taking care of a baby, felt impossible.
One big challenge was not finding answers to my questions about new motherhood on the internet. So many of the mommy blogs just didn’t apply to me and my specific concerns. For example, I wanted so badly to find a crib that wouldn’t kill my back when I got my baby in and out of it, or a safe modification I could make to a current crib, or something that would help, but there was nothing (unless I wanted to pay for a $2,000 crib)! I mean, finding answers on the internet to any and every question is what moms, and everyone, does in our culture these days.
I couldn’t “wear” my baby in a wrap on my chest or my back. I couldn’t push my baby in a stroller for a very long time, I couldn’t take her in and out of the car in the car seat, and I couldn’t hold her for more than a few minutes without sitting down. Learning how to take care of a baby without these conveniences of modern motherhood was really rough.
Furthermore, I had to relearn how to take care of myself. No longer could I retreat to my room whenever I didn’t feel well and shut out the world. I had to be present because my baby and my husband needed me. I would push through the pain as much as possible and count the minutes until baby’s bedtime when I could finally go take care of myself.
Although figuring out how to take care of myself and my baby has gotten easier as the months have ticked by, I still have days when the pain is too intense and I have to check out. I feel guilty every time this happens. I feel guilty for not being there for my baby and suddenly putting all the burdens of the baby, the dog, and the house on my husband’s shoulders.
Motherhood has gotten much easier and much more fun as my body has recovered and my husband and I have figured out our new daily routines. Chronic pain is still a constant struggle and dictates my daily routines. But, on top of all of this, I feel that I am a lucky mom. I am lucky that I am able to work full time and support my family financially. I have a supportive husband and a healthy, beautiful daughter. I still think about the new mom of twins, or the mom who just had her fifth child and I think “how does she do it?” and I’m sure they think the same about me.
Now my husband and I are thinking about baby number two. I am scared to go through it all again because pregnancy and raising a newborn was the hardest period of my life. I am scared to do it all over again now with a toddler I have to chase around. Its maybe even scarier this time because I know what to expect, I know what the pain of pregnancy and recovery will be like. My husband and I have been discussing when the right time will be or if the right time will ever come. We have wondered if maybe our destiny is just to be a family of three, given my condition.
The thought of not having another baby makes me deeply sad. But, maybe it’s not in the cards for us. We don’t have a lot of help with child care or help around the house and a lot of it inevitably falls on my husband. So, he is rightfully worried that another child will be making life much harder.
I don’t know what will come next for my family, but I have more to share with you about being a mama with chronic pain. This blog only touches the surface and outlines my story. In the last year and a half I have learned a lot about how to make up my own rules about motherhood and ignore what everyone says about “the right way” to do things. There is no wrong or right way, there is only my way. Hopefully I can share with you more about what I have learned, because I wished so much there was a blog like this when I was going through it.