One of the purposes I started this blog was to share my tips and tricks as to how I navigate life post-TBI as a Mom. We never planned on having children this young (and now we have three!), but after my accident, we started to reevaluate our “plan” and realized that because of my health, if I wanted to successfully carry babies full term, maybe we should have children sooner rather than later. There wasn’t any indication that I would have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby full term, but given my numerous health conditions, we were concerned. I was also worried that my neck/back/shoulder/hip injuries would prevent me from having an active pregnancy and would cause me to have a lot of physical pain as I progressed.
During my first pregnancy, I experienced something I hadn’t felt in years- my headaches nearly disappeared and I was thrilled. What a perk! Our first daughter was born in February of 2012, and we excitedly entered into the stages of parenthood. It wasn’t until my headaches returned after her birth and I started having days that my entire body hurt that I realized how hard being a Mom after a TBI was going to be. I had a lot of physical pain as I recovered from childbirth and I had days that my headaches were so debilitating that I had to limit our activities outside of the house in order to ensure I could function as her Mom, and take care of her the way I needed to. I knew being a Mom wasn’t going to be easy but being a Mom in some sort of constant pain was proving to be more difficult than I had thought- especially since our oldest NEVER slept. She was the queen of ten minute catnaps during the day and was awake a lot at night and she taught me how to survive on very little sleep.
As she continued to grow and I started doing more things with her, I started having a lot of guilt that her life was going to be so different than her friends and that my limitations would set her back. When she was nine months old, we started attending a Music Together class, and I would start planning no other activities that day, because I was so wiped out from the 45 minute session that I embarrassingly couldn’t do anything else the remainder of the day. The handful of children banging on instruments and singing songs were a lot for me (despite wearing my ear plugs) and I felt like I was hit by a train after every class. I suffered through the entire eight or ten week session and made a mental note to try a different activity. This was the first of many activities that I would do as a Mom that wiped me out beyond measure, but it was also a way I was able to test my limits as to what I could and couldn’t do. It was soul crushing at the time, whenever I experienced something that I couldn’t do, because I was always so focused on what I couldn’t do instead of focusing on what I can. (Side note- two years later I forgot about the music class experience and signed her brother up for a similar class, this time Preschool of Rock. As soon as the first class started I was flooded back with the feelings of feeling like hell again. Ah, memory problems, makes you forget the bad until you relive it again and it feels all too familiar, right?)
The older our children get, the more experiences we are handed that cause me to challenge my adequacy as their Mom, and make me feel guilty that our lives are different than others. Life continues to force us to cancel social plans and truly limit what we do in order to for me to function the best way I can. When I am feeling particularly discouraged, I remind myself that this is the only life they know. I am fortunate in a way that my accident occurred before they were born, so their lives, our schedules and the things we do are the only way they know how. When we explain that the TV needs to be turned off, how I can’t spin around while dancing, why we need to lower the music, that it’s Daddy’s turn to take them somewhere instead of me, why Mommy doesn’t go on amusement park rides, or anything else that I can’t do, it is what it is. I generally experience some sadness if it’s something particularly bothersome to them, but then they are up and running and they have moved on and I don’t have time to dwell. The feelings I have of myself are definitely not how they view me and I can focus on the things that I can do with them – love them, guide them, and show them how everyone lives with daily challenges. We “…get back up again,” as we sing frequently on the Trolls (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) soundtrack.
When my daughter was around two, she used to play “I have a headache” and it broke my heart. I hated hearing her say she needed to rest because she didn’t feel well and felt like she was mocking me. Again, it was just the feelings I had of myself, she was two, she didn’t know how to mock me (yet…..!) and I started to think that her awareness will eventually be one of her strengths, “she’s going to grow up more compassionate” I used to tell myself. The older she gets, the more I believe it. She has a heart of gold and her awareness of how people feel is impressively empathetic (sometimes to a fault, ha!) I can only hope our kids will hopefully be more sensitive to those with differences, be less judgmental, kind, sympathetic, understanding- all positives from what I view as all of our negatives.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had since becoming a Mother is the guilt- and that would’ve came with or without a TBI. I have yet to meet a Mom that hasn’t felt guilty about something- and who hasn’t worried about something they are doing or have done regarding their children. We constantly worry about making the right choices for them and living up to our own expectations as to what we define as a “good” mom. Am I right, Moms? Mom life after TBI has been hard, but it’s been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. So in moments of doubt, forget the guilt, and remember that you are enough as a Mom, in whatever capacity you are able.
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