Fibromyalgia and Parenting

It’s 1:56 a.m today, and I am sitting in my bathroom. I am experiencing a lot of pain in my left shoulder and arm, but even worse than that, I feel horrible about an episode with my 5 year old last night.

I have chosen to alternate between baths and showers for my kids. It makes it more bearable for me, especially since I am currently experiencing a fibromyalgia flare. My daughter normally works with me on rinsing her hair and even washing her face during baths. During showers, I have to guarantee that no water goes over her face, making it a whole different ballgame. Last night was shower night and it wasn’t that great.

I instructed her to lean her head back as usual, but she did this thing where she arched her back and leaned her head backward, while putting almost the full weight of her body into my left arm. Her head didn’t quite reach the water. The pressure being applied to my left arm by her doing that was much greater than my body could handle. My shoulder went into pain instantly.

I became frustrated and upset, because what I felt was a simple request turned into full on pain for me. I tried to move her backward ever so slightly to just get the water over her head, but she kept going forward into my arm out of fear that water would go over her face. Even though my hand that she was leaning into was preventing water from going onto her face, she started screaming bloody murder. I think she may have scared my new neighbor.

I tried calming her down while my pain increased and a burning sensation surged through my arm. I was also terrified my neighbor might think I was harming my poor child. My daughter is your average five year old, but last night she was besides her self. I raised my voice, I asked and pleaded for her to just work with me. When you’re in that much pain, it is hard to think clearly. All you’re thinking is relief.

I could have just grabbed one of the cup bath toys, have her sit on a step stool in the bath away from the water and go slowly. Instead, all I could think and feel was how much pain was radiating in my arm and back from her leaning into my hand. I just wanted her to stop and cooperate. I couldn’t in that moment see her anxiety and fear.

Being a parent any day of the week is hard. Being a parent with a chronic illness is a different ballgame. It means having the patience of Buddha, Confucius and Jesus rolled up into one human, because otherwise you can be an irritable mess. That is not how I want my kids to remember me; the ‘Cranky Mommy’.

That moment of pain, irritation and a screaming child was more than I could have handled and I just took her out of the shower, brushed her teeth and got her ready for bed. She cried while I told her she just needed to lean her head into the water and I always make sure that water never gets in her eyes. It was ineffective and made no sense that I even said that while she was hurting.

All I needed to do in that moment was hold her and tell her I understood and it’s okay. I needed to validate her feelings in that moment. But all my mind kept radiating was PAIN, PAIN, PAIN. After giving my three year old a quick shower and getting her ready, I was able to calm down. We did story time as she cried softly. I hurt her feelings. I yelled. I had to fix this. There was no way I was sending my child to bed with all these unresolved feelings.

I asked her to come sit with me in my bed. I told her I was so sorry that I made her feel hurt. Me yelling was not okay and I will do better next time to listen to her. She hugged me so tightly and I hugged her right back. I also told her that by pushing her head forward, I am in a lot of pain. She said she was sorry she hurt me.

Did she need to apologize for being a kid who is afraid of water going over her face, no, but it felt good that she recognized that by doing that, it hurt mom physically. We hugged even tighter.

I am emotionally attuned to my children, and this has heightened in some ways because of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can cause a lot of limitations, but it does not have to limit being a good parent and a parent who can say I’m sorry with a brain that screams pain so often.

I may feel terrible now while it is fresh, but I also know that today is another day and I can give myself the chance of a do over. No regrets, just lessons. Once I am guided by love for my children, it can only get better from here.

Gentle hugs.

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