I’m a mother with rheumatoid arthritis. Having RA is hard enough, but being a mom with RA had taken this difficulty to another level altogether. I love being a mother and always dreamed of having many children. Life had something different in store for me.
I started noticing that something was up with my health just about the time my son was turning three years old. By the time he was four, I had received a diagnosis of RA. It was incredibly difficult, and my only thoughts were about my son. It was a scary thing, especially since I was a single parent.
That was four years ago, and we’ve now been on this journey for a while. Every day is different, but I was feeling comfortable that he had adjusted to my not being able to do as much as I felt I should. However, I recently had an experience that gave me a different perspective.
It was September, and school had only recently started. I was going through his backpack and came across a letter he had written. He was doing early planning for the holidays: it was a letter to Santa. Already feeling stretched, I dreaded reading it because I could only think of it being a list of expensive things that might not be easy to buy.
Instead, this was his letter: “Dear Santa, Can you please help my mom? And she is really sick. So, can you please help her? She is really sick. Please help her.” Reading his note was like a knife through my heart, and at that moment, I realized how much RA has impacted his life as well as mine.
“I’m sorry,” were the words that came as a refrain in my head. “I’m so sorry, my little boy. I’m sorry we can’t go today. I’m sorry we can’t play. I’m sorry for another day inside watching movies. I’m sorry you can’t play all the sports you would like, but my body just can’t take it some days. I’m sorry for hours at doctor appointments. I’m sorry I just have to rest. I’m sorry you worry.”
It’s easy to get down on yourself when you have RA, but as my mind continued to turn over that phrase, I realized there’s so much for which I’m not sorry: “I’m not sorry that my illness is teaching you compassion, to be selfless and care for others and not just yourself. I’m not sorry for our unbreakable bond made strong through worries and tears and working together. I’m not sorry I’m your mother; I’m so thankful for that. Without you, I would not fight so hard. You are my legs, my back, my heart, and I am blessed to be your mother.”
As I worked through these feelings, I realized how empowered I am as a mother. Despite the challenges I face, I am doing everything I can to be my best for my boy. That sometimes means pushing myself to go to yet another appointment with my doctor; sometimes it means reminding my doctor about my Vectra test so that I can feel confident my medications are working; sometimes it means resting when I need it. I manage my RA so that I can be my best for him.
Every parent-child relationship is different and has different challenges. Although I sometimes wish we didn’t face the challenges that RA has brought into our lives, I am learning that we have our own rhythm and way of relating to each other that’s different and just as special as it would be without the RA – sometimes even more so because we savor those sweet moments together.
Taking care of others while taking care of yourself can be challenging. Check out other Vectra Voice blogs on this topic: