There are times when being a mom is the most trying job in the world. Whether it’s when they’re a baby and not sleeping all night from Colic, and you’re ready to pull your hair out because you can’t soothe them. Or when they’re a toddler and potty training, coloring all over the walls, destroying their rooms and refusing to eat the meals that you made just for them when you haven’t eaten since the day before. Or when they’re a teenager and believe they know everything, think you’re the dumbest person who ever lived and don’t want to do anything that you wrack your brain to come up with to entertain and spend time with them.
Today is one of those trying days for me. My three year old doesn’t sleep much at night, hits the ground running, LITERALLY RUNNING, every morning until late at night, refuses to wear any clothes and is like a Tasmanian devil tearing the house I painstakingly cleaned, apart in one fell swoop. She argues like she is a teenager and anything I try to give to her she says no to, even if she wants it, just to assert her own independence.
I have lived in physical pain since I was 9 years old and first started herniating discs in my back. By 16 I had my first back surgery as the doctors finally discovered it wasn’t just growing pains, but Degenerative Disc Disease coupled with Spinal Stenosis. It was hereditary and it would only get worse each year… And has! Now sitting with 7-8 herniated and flattened discs, extreme pain throughout my limbs and back, and now the ones in my upper back/neck are going south as well so there is a host of new pain. To say that I wake up completely exhausted and irritated is an understatement. I cannot take pain medicine any longer as the doctors having me on it for 12 years solid, demolished both the lining of my stomach and intestines and killed my gallbladder, forcing me to have it removed this year. To be in this kind of pain and feel so drained 100% of the day AND try my best to handle a three year old’s quirks 24/7 is a task that feels most times, insurmountable. I stay in a constant state of distress, pushing my body way harder than I am supposed to just to keep the pace. When all that I want to do is lay down and not move an inch.
This morning I was trying to compel this little one to clean her room. As you can imagine a toddler can make their room into a disaster zone within minutes that for some reason can take hours to clean up the debris. As I told her for the fourth time to put away her toys, she grabbed her back (as she often sees me do) and says, “Ooooh my back hurts!” This made me laugh from a good healthy place. This kid is virtually indestructible. She believes she has super powers and will attempt and sometimes succeed if I don’t catch her in time, to bound off the furniture. She’s been known to stack her little chairs on top of a step stool, on top of her little table and climb to the top of that, making not a single noise in the process. She has to be always adorned in her make-shift cape she constructed out of a baby blanket and hair ties and her magic wand.
As she told me her back hurt, I realized this is what she hears from me. When she wants me to do something that I just cannot physically do, she hears “I can’t baby, Mama’s back hurts.” Sometimes it’s as simple as lifting her up, taking her to the park or spinning her around outside. It has always angered me to raise my children and be unable to do the things with them that I either loved to do with my Mom and siblings as a child, or the things that I wished to do with them but never got the chance to.
I sat here angry at myself for being so limited and that limitation becoming a normal for my child to use as an excuse not to clean her room. As Moms we suffer a lot, in silence. Whether it’s when we’re sick but there is a million things and little people to take care of, or when we get hurt but don’t want them to worry so we slap on a smile followed with a “Mama’s okay.” I’ve only been vocal about my back from time to time because I wanted them to understand that it is not that I do not WANT TO do these things with them, but that I cannot do them.
As I stood there laughing at her tiny munchkin-like voice telling me her back hurt, I thought of all the time as she grows into a teenager that she will play me out as a joke for this reason. Make fun of me to get a laugh. Our house is a very sarcastic and dry humor zone, so this would be the usual for our sense of humor here. I thought about how much she will try to use it when she can, to get out of things and probably be quite convincing at it having watched me for so long, be out for the count from this. I keep finding myself laughing about it and being amazed at how perceptive and cunning the mind of this three year old is.
Pain is something that cannot be truly understood from the outside looking in. Only from the people who share in it themselves, ever seem to grasp how life-altering it can be and is. When you have to say no to special events or occasions with friends and family because you’re hurting too much to stand, there’s guilt that comes with that. You feel guilty because you have to say no. You feel worried that they won’t understand or think you are just using it as a reason not to show up. You wind up losing close relationships because there aren’t many good days in a month that you feel human enough to actually be HUMAN. And of course there’s depression from always being so secluded in your home unable to fully function while the world moves at a fast pace outside of your window.
It’s been a hard day and even though I’m still arguing with this toddler of mine to eat all of her food and take a nap, I am smiling at the thought that she doesn’t see my illness as a thing to be scared of or worried about. She sees Mommy do all the regular mommy things like cleaning and cooking, making beds and doing laundry and playing with her. I’ve never used this as an excuse to not be present and participate in what keeps my home and family happy, healthy and cared for. Instead she sees it as a joke to get a funny reaction from her mom. I’m not limited in her eyes, it’s just part of our life together. Full acceptance and love sprinkled with humor. This is the part of motherhood that I wouldn’t change for the world.