My Chronic Disease Doesn't Care That I Just Had a Baby

If there's anything I have learned in the past 5 months, it's that my chronic disease doesn't care that I just had a baby. I started writing this blog post in bed last night around 11:30pm, suddenly feeling the need to share my experience and my thoughts with any mamas out there who might currently be going through the same kind of struggle. So this isn't the most exciting blog post you'll ever read, but it's real life, so here it is.
I was diagnosed with Ménière's disease in 2014 around the time of my wedding. For those of you unfamiliar with Ménière's disease, it’s a rare, chronic vestibular disease that encompasses fun symptoms such as:
  • vertigo (attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours)
  • loss of hearing in the affected ear
  • tinnitus (a sensation of ringing) in the affected ear
  • loss of balance
  • migraines with aura (blackout blindness in my case)
  • nausea, vomiting, and sweating caused by severe vertigo
  • chronic fatigue
These are just a few of the lovely, constant symptoms I deal with on a daily basis. Not complaining, just informing. I like to think that 98% of the time no one, including my husband and my family, know I'm suffering. I might be delusional, but that's my goal.

It’s most common in 40-50 year olds (except me), and for most people symptoms don’t present in between attacks (except me). See, I’m super lucky because most people only have Ménière's in one ear, whereas I have it in both, giving me a constant feeling of off-balance, pending vertigo, and consistent tinnitus in both ears 24/7. That's just the daily symptoms. At my worst, I'm unable to lift my head from the pillow because my entire body is on the tea cup ride at Disneyland, and I'm vomiting from the spins. Sometimes the ringing in my ears is so loud I can't hear what my husband is saying to me.

Again, I’m not here to complain, but I’m also not going to pretend it doesn’t suck. But in the past 5 months I’ve learned more about self-care and managing a life with a chronic illness than I have in the past two years I’ve had since being diagnosed with it. Why might that be? You might have noticed the tiny magic angel human I’m constantly posting pictures of who now consumes my entire life and being. I thought having Ménière's was tricky as an independent twenty-something? Think again. Throwing a baby into the mix has completely changed how I managed my illness and how I tend to my child. Ménière's also isn't the only health issue I'm constantly dealing with, but it is the most debilitating. Take away your ability to stand, sleep, drive and walk and parenting becomes a little difficult.

You see, the thing is, Ménière's doesn’t care that my kid was up every 1.5 hours last night or that I have a full day of meetings ahead of me. Chronic illness is just that - chronic and constant. So how do I manage having a disease that makes it so I literally can’t lift my head off a pillow, let alone carry my child when he needs me?

I know my limits

Things that are generally easy for most people are tricky for me. I know I have a 15 minute window to walk through Target before the fluorescent lights trigger a vertigo attack and I start to lose the ability to see clearly. I know going places with a lot of loud noises like sporting events or concerts aren’t going to be the best place for me to take my kiddo because it will cause my tinnitus to kick into overdrive and I start to lose hearing. It means for me having to be disciplined and understand that activities today can lead to the loss of ability to function the next day, which simply isn’t an option when you’re responsible for another, tiny person. And you know what, I'm fully aware that sometimes this doesn't make me very much fun for my husband or my friends, but once you become a mama, there's only one little person that matters.

I ask for help

Luckily I’ve only had one really gnarly attack since having my baby, but it did last about a week. That’s a week of being scared to pick up my kid for fear of dropping him, and not being able to sleep because as soon as I close my eyes I feel like I’m back on those damn teacups. During that time I put my pride aside and let someone else in (in this case my mama) to take care of me and my baby. As a new mother it’s hard to put your kid down, let alone admit that you’re unable to do your motherly duties. But sometimes our bodies just say no and that’s when I’m so grateful to have a strong support system.

I rest when needed

And sometimes, it’s a lot. When I first had my baby I actually stopped taking my meds, which already only barely managed the constant vertigo. I quickly learned that being off medication meant being aware of what my body was doing and respecting what it needed. Sometimes this means my baby and I don’t leave the house, and very often the couch. We still play games, read books, sing songs, do tummy time, etc. But I’ve learned to adapt how to rest my body and entertain my baby at the same time.

I’m definitely still learning how to deal with my chronic illness and being a parent, but I’m finally getting the hang of it. I’m a little terrified for toddler-hood, when my kid becomes more mobile and less willing to snuggle all day on those days I need to -- but I know I can only be the best mama possible to my kiddo when I’m taking care of myself as much as possible.

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