The Toll of Chronic Illness: An Un-Mother’s Day

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I suppose that we all, in our own ways, have emotions tied to varying holidays. Some happy, some sad. A lot is said about the holiday blues, the holidays in question typically being Thanksgiving and Christmas. For me, the holiday with the most emotional impact is Mother’s Day. I really don’t like Mother’s Day. It just reminds me of what is, I think, the biggest loss of all related to my chronic illnesses. Being a mom.

I got my diagnosis’ fairly early from what I understand. Let’s factor the depression and ADHD out here, because they have little to do with this issue; the focus is on the fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis (IC). I was diagnosed with fibro when I was 26, and IC when I was 27. I was not married at the time, and, as is probably pretty obvious given my comment above, had not had children. It didn’t dawn on me at the time of either diagnosis that the cost of the illnesses would be so high. In retrospect, that is probably best or I would have had a lot more difficulty coping at that time.

Now, and this is where I am different from many women, I am not one of those people who has always longed to be a mother. I am a person who has always seen myself working full time. And getting married. But children were not high on my list of aspirations.  So I can not say I have walked the walk many women with varying illnesses (or problems with fertility while not being ill) have in finding out they could not have children.  That isn’t my walk, that isn’t my loss. I am not part of that club. So being 38, and childless, and feeling the loss, I am an outsider even within the group of people who might also be childless and feeling the loss. In this I feel so very alone.

I got married late. I was almost 35 (2 weeks from it!). It was then that the real pain of my illnesses began. It as then that the emotional impact of the illnesses started. Up until that point, it was mostly about the physical pain. But when I got married, the real possibility of children came up. The well intentioned questions from others about when we would start a family. And the beginning of the feeling of abject failure because I knew, somewhere inside me, I did not have the energy to be a parent. And being a parent is seen by our society, even with all it’s talk of the importance of financial success, as the highest and most nobel of callings.

So why don’t I have children then? Why haven’t we tried? And then, why don’t we adopt? For me, for us, it isn’t about being able to have children ourselves. We have not tried, so we don’t know. I know my body would really have trouble with it, especially my bladder. I know I take too many medications for my body to be a safe place for a child. I know I need those medications. But because of my fatigue, my pain, my trips to the bathroom, even adoption is pretty much off the table.

Perhaps, if I didn’t work in education, and I didn’t see, day in and day out, how much time a child really needs to thrive, I might not have come to believe it wasn’t fair to have a child I would never be able to give all that to. I realize no one is perfect, but kids really do need their parents to be there for them when they need them. I can’t even be there for me when I need me some of the time. Or my husband. And the pain from that guilt, and that loss, is brutal enough.

I have asked myself, could I stop working and would that make it work to have children? But I know myself. I was made to do what I do. God made me to help people find their voice, and be able to access their world. I am good at it. Not working would be very hard for me. But even if I didn’t work, I know my body. And it would still have trouble getting the sleep it needed. It would still need to go to the bathroom a lot. It would still cause me pain. I would still have days when I just needed to sleep for 48-72 hours and was not capable of getting up long enough to see a child. And that would not be fair.

Of all the things that I have lost to fibro and IC, this one is the hardest. The loss of being a mom. The loss of my husband and I being parents. So Mother’s Day is just hard.


One response to “The Toll of Chronic Illness: An Un-Mother’s Day

  1. My Dear Cheryl,
    You “mother” so many children every day. You enable them to live happier, indepedent, fruitful lives. You care for them, love them, and build strong attachments with them. You help nourish them for future growth. You feed their souls, and help them to reach out to this beautiful world, singing. You make personal sacrifices for their well-being, and advocate for each one. I don’t know why you have to suffer sometimes, but I do know that you cherish of all God’s children in your care.

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