As we well know, our experience of chronic illness differs greatly. In order to shed some light on how other chronically ill parents do it I started the Fibro Mama Interviews series. Our first interview was with Brandi from Being Fibro Mom and our second interview is with the lovely Natalie from Surviving Lifes Hurdles.
Please give a brief introduction to yourself
Hi, I’m Natalie, I’m 32 and I live in England with my partner and lovely 3 year old son who both help to keep me going whenever times get tough!
Since being diagnosed with MS 2 years ago my life has changed completely and I have so much more to deal with every single day.
I still love being a mum though and in many ways being chronically ill has made me a better parent than I was. I certainly appreciate the little things more and I don’t sweat the small stuff now either!
I write a blog over at www.survivinglifeshurdles.com and you can also find me on;
Please stop by and say hi!
What are your diagnoses?
I have Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis, which I was diagnosed with just over 2 years ago.
How many children do you have, what are their ages?
I have one little boy who is 3.
Were you diagnosed when you were pregnant?
No, I wasn’t diagnosed until my son was 11 months old when I had a big relapse. I did have MS when I was pregnant (although much milder at that point) but I didn’t realise it! I struggled with juggling fatigue with a demanding full time job during the 1st and 3rd trimesters.
What were your best coping mechanisms?
When I struggled with fatigue I used to rest as much as possible and break down tasks into smaller chunks. I tried not to get stressed out about what I couldn’t do and at times work had to take a hit.
How long did you nurse for and what were your best coping mechanisms?
I stopped nursing when my son was 6 months old, so this was before my diagnosis but getting up in the night to feed certainly didn’t help my fatigue. In the day, between feeds, I tried to rest as much as possible but also made sure I went out for a walk regularly for some exercise and a bit of fresh air.
How did you find the first year?
I enjoyed my maternity leave but found returning to a demanding full time job when my son was 6 months old so much tougher than I’d imagined. My fatigue and brain fog steadily increased until I had a major relapse when he was 11 months old where I was admitted to hospital for a week for tests which eventually resulted in my MS diagnosis.
Following my relapse I struggled with severe fatigue, brain fog, balance and coordination issues to name a few. I’d instantly gone from being a capable, working mother to being someone who had an incurable/progressive illness, was unable to work, depended on others and who needed help looking after her son for any long stretches of time due to fatigue. It was a terrifying and confusing time and I struggled to accept my diagnosis initially. I was scared for my future and what it would mean for my family.
Based on my own experiences, my tips for coping in the first year as a parent with a chronic illness would be;
- Get as much help as you can; from family, friends, charities, medical professionals, paid help etc, whatever you can manage. Leave your pride at the door and accept as much help as possible. Parenting with a chronic illness is hard enough without trying to do it all!
- Don’t be hard on yourself for what you can’t do. If you don’t have the energy for loads of baby classes or you regularly have to take time out for yourself due to your illness it doesn’t matter. Your baby isn’t missing out and what you struggle to provide in one area you will certainly make up for in another!
- Look after your health. It goes against all of your instincts to put yourself first when you have a child but when it comes to your health sometimes you just have to. Accept that your health needs have to be met too otherwise you won’t be in a fit state to be the parent you want to be.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Being ill puts into perspective what’s truly important in life and what isn’t so use this to your advantage and leave getting wrapped up in pointless stress and over-the-top worrying to other first-time parents and enjoy the moment!
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to parents with chronic illness who are, or want to get pregnant?
Find out as much information as you can before you become pregnant. Get advice from medical professionals about any potential complications due to your illness and whether you will need to stop any medication you are taking etc. Also join a few Facebook groups and read some blogs of other chronically ill parents for the valuable real-life experiences and support networks they can provide.
Preparation is key. All those sleepless nights with a newborn are hard enough without a chronic illness so it’s a good idea to get as organised as possible before your baby arrives. Declutter to make room for all your new baby equipment and get everything you will need in the early days set up well in advance. Stock your cupboards with loads of healthy and easy-to-grab snacks and batch cook a load of meals to freeze ahead too.
Believe in yourself. Yes, parenting with a chronic illness will be tough and there won’t be many people who will understand but you will find a way to make it work. Listen to your body, know your own mind and have confidence in the fact that you will love your child with every ounce of your being. No chronic illness can ever take that away from you!
What resources would you recommend to support parents with chronic illness)
I know it’s very specific to both MS and the UK but for me personally I would have to say the muMS UK Facebook group. It’s great for finding out everything I need to know about parenting with MS and it’s a really friendly and light-hearted group.
For more information about pregnancy and Fibromyalgia:
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