Becoming a mom is so easy for some people — they get pregnant when they want to and then they pop out a kid. This is how it happened for my best friend, and I’m seriously jealous of her for this. But that’s not how it’s going to happen for me. For the last 10 years, I’ve had a chronic pain condition that is now making the process of getting pregnant so difficult.
I never imagined I would still be struggling with myofascial pain syndrome by the time I felt ready to have a baby. In fact, before this happened to me, I had no idea that 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
I never imagined I would still be struggling with myofascial pain syndrome by the time I felt ready to have a baby.
I was backpacking with friends in Europe the Summer after I graduated college and after a week my back started to hurt — and it never stopped hurting. I was supposed to spend all Summer with my friends galavanting around Europe. Instead, I went home after two weeks and have been in pain ever since. According to my doctors, my pain turned chronic because my body never healed properly after the initial injury from wearing my heavy backpack. It’s as simple and uninteresting as that.
I was in denial for the first few years, always assuming I would get better. I didn’t take care of myself and did my best to ignore the pain. But I was determined to not let it stop me from accomplishing my goals. I was able to get my Masters degree, complete a two-year tour in Paraguay with the Peace Corps, and get married. Despite these accomplishments, I still feel like I have missed out on so much because of my pain. My desire to travel extensively and work overseas in the humanitarian aid industry became an impossible pipe dream.
I constantly cancel plans with friends and don’t make new ones because it’s too difficult to nurture budding relationships. I spend most of my free time just trying to take care of myself — sitting in doctor’s office waiting rooms, doing my exercise routines, standing in line at the pharmacy, and arguing with my insurance company over the phone. My health is my one and only extracurricular activity.
Four years ago I acquired a team of health professionals to finally get my pain stabilized. I was ready to confront this demon head-on and get some control over my life. I had a pain doctor, a therapist, a physical therapist, and a massage therapist. I was on a cocktail of medications and I was starting to feel like I wasn’t the sick girl anymore. My pain was under control, I had a full-time job with sick days to spare, I had a supportive saint of a husband, I attended all of my crazy Jewish family’s events, and I had dinner every week with my 102-year-old grandfather.
I had a good, mostly normal life. I couldn’t do yoga, spend all day at an amusement park, or pick up my 2-year-old nephew when he came to visit, but I had come to terms with my condition and adjusted my life goals.
Now I want a baby. I’m 32 years old, so I don’t have the luxury to not think about it now.
Now I want a baby. I’m 32 years old, so I don’t have the luxury to not think about it now. I consulted with all of my doctors and they agreed I could do it, but that it wasn’t going to be an easy journey. They also concluded that I was in a good mental headspace to handle it, since I had come so far with accepting my fate as a chronic pain princess. I even had coffee with a pregnant woman with a severe chronic pain condition for advice and moral support.
I was ready to begin the business of becoming a mom.
I started by weaning off my meds. It took five long months to get them out of my system. But once I got off the last dose my body wasn’t happy. My pain levels and fatigue increased and my anxiety was through the roof. I went through a terrible withdrawal and felt like I was hungover and drunk all at the same time — I had to take almost a week off work.
Then, the craziest thing happened. I was cleared and ready to start trying for a baby for about two days when I was offered a dream job in my dream town. But, instead of being excited about my dreams coming true, I was a mess. I had to move, find a new place to live, make a good impression at my new job without taking too many sick days, and try to have a baby all while feeling like crap.
It was all too much. The second I made the very tough decision to forgo babymaking and get back on my meds, I felt immediately more at peace. I mourned the loss of my baby plan for a bit, but I was finally able to get excited about my new life changes.
Months later, I’m settled in my new home, and have been kicking ass at my new job. I’m feeling pretty good and hoping to get back on the baby train soon. Before I ever had chronic pain, I knew I wanted to be a mom, just like I knew I wanted to be in the Peace Corps. And I did that while in pain, so I think I can be a mom in pain too, even though the idea makes me incredibly anxious.
I know my baby experience will be different from my best friend’s (she made me her baby’s godmother — so I forgive her!), and maybe it’s a foolish undertaking to try and be a mom while living with chronic pain, but I refuse to let my condition stop me from the experiencing the joy of motherhood.