31/05/2011 09:26 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Parenting With A Chronic Illness

Parenting with a chronic illness Getty

Immediately following my daughter's birth, all noble intentions to become Mother of the Year were annihilated by a force out of my control.

My first migraine attack since the pregnancy left me unable to even see my baby for the next 48 hours.

Used to dealing with chronic migraine, which I've had for 15 years, I was nevertheless unprepared for such a sudden and aggressive return.

The immediate problem with which I was faced, was breast feeding. No alcohol? No problem. No medication? Big problem.

The relaxed and quietly self-satisfied face of the mother undertaking the "most natural thing in the world" was not an accurate description of what I saw when I chanced to glance in the mirror.

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" was more like it. It hurt. A lot. Nobody tells you that! What they do tell you, after the ship has sailed, is it apparently becomes less like somebody scraping a blade across your nipple, with time! Time though, was a luxury not afforded to me.

After every tablet, I was required to wait 24 hours until able to safely breast feed again. Paranoid, I waited two days. Forced to take medication at least three times a week, simply in order to function, my girl and I didn't stand a chance.

After six weeks I could bear no more. It was a tougher decision that I now like to admit. So far, my parental game plan was looking decidedly gloomy.


Breast feeding was the first of a long and never ending list of "good mother" jobs I am simply unable to manage due to an unrelenting and chronic illness that leaves me questioning my maternal competency on a daily basis.


And I know I am not alone.

If you suffer from any chronic illness and are a parent, this is what I've learned so far:

Kick the guilt as best you can. It makes you and your child feel worse.

Don't fight it. It lengthens your recovery time.

Take all the help offered, you would do the same for them.

Hiding your illness from your child only scares them. Explain it in an age appropriate way. Involve them.

Kids are much more resilient than you think.

Kids are much more empathetic than you think.

Appreciate your healthy days and make the best of them.

If friends are inflexible and don't try to understand, they are not friends.

Being sick does not make you a bad parent.

Just recently, I was told a heartwarming and consoling story by my daughter's kindergarten teacher. Apparently, she had, for some time, been quietly observing another teacher who had previously received some bad news and was having a little moment alone to gather herself. She approached the teacher, placed a hand on her head and asked the question she asks me every morning without fail, "Are you alright today or are you sick?"

Despite, or maybe due to having a mother who is far too frequently unable to care for her, my daughter has an understanding and level of empathy beyond her years.

And for that I am very grateful.

Are you a parent with a chronic illness?