When I got married at 37, I was suffering from migraine headaches five to six times a month. Migraine symptoms include excruciating head pain, photophobia, phonophobia, sensitivity to smell, eyesight changes, food cravings, fatigue and mood changes. I also had about three to four “regular” (less painful, non-migraine) headaches a week. I was reliant on my medications to function through the pain.
During those years, people asked me if I was planning to have children. I told them I didn’t know: if I got pregnant, I would no longer be able to take my medications, and I was terrified at the prospect of spending an entire pregnancy – nearly a year of my life – in constant pain. But I did want to have a child, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try. I put my fear aside and chose to let fate decide.
So I got pregnant at age 41. But I was still terrified.
The migraines disappeared during the pregnancy. I felt like superwoman. Additionally, I no longer had any regular headaches, and my allergies disappeared, too. Pain-free, I was able to be so productive that my house had never been so clean!
When my daughter, Grace, was born, I had trouble nursing; I was only able to breastfeed for six months and pumping my milk at work had become increasingly difficult. After I stopped nursing, the migraines came back with a vengeance – two to three a week – when I didn’t have a migraine, I had a regular headache. My doctors couldn’t find an explanation, other than the possibility that my hormones were balancing out. I experienced six months of chronic pain, and daily worry about whether or not I would wake up in the morning with a migraine or just a regular headache. I also learned that the medications I had to take to control the pain had also caused acid reflux.
I felt awful, like I was functioning at half my capacity. Because of the pain, and all of the medication, I couldn’t care for my daughter as much as I wanted to or planned on, and my husband wasn’t happy with me, either.
Eventually, the frequency of my migraines went back to the way it had been before my pregnancy. It was still a lot, but I was grateful for even a small reduction in my chronic pain.
I recently started a trial for a new migraine medication and learned that what I had called “regular headaches” were in fact migraines. I’m still experiencing headache pain, but I’m being treated. The treatment is allowing me to live a higher quality life.
My experience with parenting with chronic pain has taught me some very important lessons about how I want to live and parent:
- I stopped caring about what other people think of me as a parent or person. Before, I used to worry that people thought I was a bad mother or friend. But I’ve realized that they have no idea how much pain I suffer daily. What’s important is that I know I’m doing the best that I can.
- I realized that the most important thing I can do for my daughter is give her love. My daughter, who is now four years old, is aware that I suffer from migraines. She is so sweet and understanding about it; when I’m stuck in bed with a migraine, she gives me her favorite stuffed animal and reads me stories to make me feel better.
- I am grateful for the pain-free times, and the days when pain is tolerable enough that I can enjoy things. In the past, sun exposure and drinking wine have triggered migraines. But recently, I was able to sit in the sun by the lake, enjoy a glass of wine and spend time with my family.
- I’ll never stop searching for ways to ease my pain. I actively participate in migraine support groups. I also write and maintain a blog about migraine remedies I have tried. I am currently in a study for a new migraine medication that hasn’t been approved by the FDA; according to the terms of this study, I cannot reveal how the trial is going, but there is a one-third chance I am getting a placebo.
- I stopped worrying about the things over which I don’t have any control. In the past I would worry about missing out on events or holidays with my family due to a bad migraine. But I don’t have control over when migraines are going to occur. Worrying about it isn’t going to stop the headaches; so why waste my valuable time and energy?
- I’ll never stop learning and sharing my experiences with others about chronic migraines. I will continue to research all my available options and to write about my experiences with different prescription drugs or alternative treatments.
I live and function with chronic pain daily, and I fight every day to function like I’m not in pain. Because what I’ve learned is that being there for my family is more important to me than my pain.
For more information about migraines:
(resources provided by the author)
This piece was submitted as part of the GrokWithUs initiative, designed to highlight the stories and experiences of GrokNation readers.
Amy Ewald is a 46-year-old wife and mother of a 4 ½-year-old daughter who experienced her first migraine at age 11. She has worked in the IT industry as a Systems Administrator for over 15 years. In her pain-free time, she writes two blogs, one to educate everyday computer users with Tech Tips, and one dedicated to helping those who suffer migraines. Amy also enjoys walking, yoga, writing, reading and spending time with her family and is currently writing and illustrating a children’s book for parents with migraines.