Motherhood & Rheumatoid Arthritis

I wasn’t sure I’d ever write about my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis because I didn’t want anyone to think I felt sorry for myself. But I do feel sorry for myself but not because I have this disease. No, it’s because it’s changed my parenting and not in a good way.

Over half a year ago, the symptoms presented themselves with a vengeance. It started with me not being about to lift my arms high enough to put on my clothing. I had to do some major contortion to get my arms in shirts.  I dismissed the sign. I’d had stiff shoulders before. I chalked it up to getting older and not exercising. Eventually the pain subsided and I left it at that.

A couple of days later, my right wrist became inflamed and the symptoms were consistent with carpal tunnel. That’s fine.  I work at a desk every day.  But then my left wrist went and I could even carry a purse. I proceeded to wrap both wrist is wrist wraps and worked this way for several weeks. I finally went to the doctor.

My doctor is a lovely woman. She’s hard and honest, but mostly she listens.  She quietly touched my small joints and larger joints. I hardly felt her touch. She looked at me and said, “Your entire body is inflamed.” She prescribed prednisone and ordered several tests. She called me a few weeks later and declares shed figured out what was wrong with me.

Hearing you have RA feels sort of like a gut punch.  One of my best friends was diagnosed in our twenties and I remembered some of her bad days. She never complained but I knew she was in pain often. I didn’t really want to join the pain club. So I spiraled into a depressive state. It wasn’t pretty. I was angry.

Fast-forward to today. Today, I’m mentally better but it’s changed how I parent. Some days touching hurts. Four year olds still touch a lot. My O is no exception. She touches, leans and climbs all over me. She can’t help herself.  I’m her mom. I work 40 hours a week. The few precious moments together are as important to her as they are to me. 

But it’s in those moments of closeness the pain often trumps her need to be close. I’ve tried a million times to explain that mommy hurts. She doesn’t understand.  Why should she? Mommy has always been up for a cuddle. But I have to ask her repeatedly to stop and when she doesn’t I get testy like an irrational toddler.

Even worse, it’s slowed me down. Anyone who knows me would tell you I’m hyper, always moving. I love to sing and dance. I used to love to just keep going but there are times I am too stiff to move. I am burdened by the pain and I sometimes give in. It makes me less likely to enjoy activities that require activity. It’s not the mom I want to be.

I don’t want to tell my daughter that I hurt and am too tired for an impromptu dance party. Or that going to the park is last thing I want to do. I don’t want to put up my guard when she’s playing around and desiring affection. It’s heartbreaking.

Maybe if I had been a younger mom, this wouldn’t be my experience. But now, I must parent through the pain.  Make an effort to not get upset with her because I can’t manage my pain.  It’s a new journey in our lives and I won’t let RA win and rob me of the closeness my daughter and I desire.

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