Guilt and the Chronically Ill Parent
From the age of three I longed to be a mother, and it never occurred to me that for reasons beyond my control that might prove difficult.
I have lived with chronic pain since before my oldest daughter was two years old. By the time she blew out five candles, I'd been to the Operating Room five times.
Throughout my life, despite a loving, stable family and good upbringing, I have encountered health challenge after health challenge. Just as I had prior to motherhood, I fought to rise above and not let my health overcome the person I wanted to be and the life I dreamed possible.
I searched for treatments that would fix the problems and continued to fight to overcome, or at least diminish, the pain so I could be the best mother I could be, not offer my daughters only a portion of my attention, love and energy.
Sometimes it feels that as soon as I rise above one problem, another surfaces. When my oldest was six and my youngest three, I was diagnosed with a disease that had also attacked my father when I was a child, Ankylosing Spondylitis.
As difficult as it is to be elderly and stiff, in pain, and have trouble getting around, imagine those problems when you are 30, with a job, a household, and small children. Arthritis, unfortunately, does not only effect the old. Diseases like Ankylosing Spondylitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis typically strike between the ages of 15 and 50.
And so it is that I am raising my young daughters in constant pain with a body that operates like it's 80.
Determined not to feel guilt over the worry and strain my disease places on our young marriage and family, I become very clear on exactly what I want my daughters to remember, on the childhood memories I want them to have, and most of all, the mother I want to be, and then I work twice as hard and resolutely to be that mother, to create those memories, and to make the love I give so strong and the legacy I leave so rich that it overshadows the pain and the slower pace with which we must live life.
Guilt is easy to feel when you are a parent and even more so when you are a parent with chronic pain, but I will continue to do what I do best: love my girls. True love defeats fear, defeats guilt, and will defeat chronic illness. I will be a good mother because I will make it my biggest priority to love well.