Migraines have been a chronic unwelcome guest in my life since 2008. I had them sporadically as a teenager, but they decided to come and stay for the last 10 years. They have added stress to my marriage, decreased fun on vacation, made me familiar with medication names, and caused me to buy more ice packs than I ever thought a person would need.
Having children has added a whole new dimension to living and managing chronic migraines.
When it was just my husband and I, the migraines were terrible, but I didn’t have little people who depended on me. Even being pregnant changed the equation. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my migraines continued well into my second trimester.
When I saw my neurologist, he indeed told me, I was, his words – “shit out of luck” and he couldn’t prescribe anything that would be effective for the pain. Half of the last trimester the migraines subsided, which was great, and I was able to breastfeed to 21 months with my second daughter with minimal migraines/headaches.
I have started my preventative medication again and am able to manage them better, though they still seem to come in somewhat unpredictable cycles.
Parenting with chronic migraines
On a “good” or “low” migraine day, it’s more of an annoyance.
I can still go to story time at the library, especially now that we moved. At our last library, the story time lady was so animated that even with the slightest headache or a migraine, I couldn’t go see her. Her voice was so high-pitched, and my head felt like it was going to explode if I wasn’t feeling well.
Anyway, these days, story time is fine, I can handle school drop off, light housework and general errands if I take it easy and don’t push too hard. On a day like this, I don’t really mention to anyone what’s going on because it has become so normal, unfortunately. It’s just a low/medium level challenge. I think a lot of people have challenges like that; for some people, it’s a physical health challenge, for some it’s a mental health challenge.
On a “bad” migraine day I am not the mom of my childhood dreams.
This is the day I am thankful for all-day kindergarten #blessed. I try to be nice to the kindergartner even though I’m feeling incredibly snappy, and why can’t she hurry when she is 5 years old?!
On this day, after I drop the kindergartner off, I feed the toddler frozen waffles in the low lamplight, (let’s call it hygge) with my icy Professor Quirrell-like hat on while hoping that she is tired enough after only being awake for 40 minutes to go down for her first nap of the day. I also hope that this day is not the day she begins giving up her morning nap.
Luckily it’s not, and while she sleeps, I can take some medication and try to sleep off the start of a bad migraine day. Many times this helps and can take an edge off, and I’m lucky my toddler is amused by my silly headache hat. If it’s still an intense day, it’s Sesame Street time and “bad” food, most likely for both of us.
And guess what? At the end of the day, we’re all still OK.
These days give me empathy for those who suffer every single day with bigger problems than I have. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy — mentally, physically, emotionally — to make the “best” choices.
Sometimes good is good enough.
Right now I stay home with my girls, so my “sick leave” looks different than when I was at the office. I’m still working on being open to asking for help from family and friends when I need it.
Benefits from having migraines
Benefits from migraines? Really? I’ve found a couple silver linings. Stay with me, my friends.
Not only are my girls learning about inside and outside voices, but they also are learning about headache voices. They have both been able to whisper very well from very young ages. I count this as a win.
I have learned that Mary Poppins is the longest movie we own, and it has a very nice soundtrack to which I can sleep very well.
My daughters are learning about Harry Potter early by virtue of my Professor Quirrell looking headache hat.
I have a reason to legitimately prohibit the recorder from being played in my home. The recorder is the WORST instrument. You know you hate it, even if you’ve never had a migraine.
I get to wear my sunglasses indoors, like the rockstar that I truly am. My girls have started doing this, too, even though, thankfully, they don’t have migraines.
As I type this, my girls are playing with a tool set while I put earplugs in to deafen the squeaky noise of Playskool pieces being hammered together on our rug. It kills me to ask them to be quiet when they’re having fun, but I remember having a mom who got frequent headaches, and though I recall her asking us to be quiet and not yell through the house, I feel like this is a normal part of childhood, whether you’re a parent who has migraines or not.
So some days I ask them to be quiet and some days I put in the earplugs. And both are OK.
As a mom with chronic migraines I don’t know which day I’m going to get, so I take it all one day at a time.