I'm A Mom With Migraines & This Is What It's Like
I've had migraines since I was about 16, but they've been a big part of my life since as long as I can remember. My mom gets bad ones, and I have a lot of memories of her wrinkled, miserable brow as she took care of us, likely counting down the seconds she could go lie down in the dark. With a pillow over her head, she'd snooze and listen to NPR as quietly as was still audible, and she'd wait it out. Now, as a mom with migraines, I have my own routine. First, I down some caffeine and an over-the-counter pain reliever. I let the kids climb onto the bed where they are allowed to stream Sofia The First or a handful of movies I find tolerable. Then, just like my mom did years earlier, I curl onto my side and wait it out.
Thankfully, I don't get terrible migraines, and for that I actually feel pretty lucky. I've only had the kind of headache that was so painful I cried and considered going to the ER for morphine maybe five times in my life. I feel nauseated, but I've never vomited. I've never gotten strange or scary visual changes, though one time my arm went numb on the side of my headache and it scared the sh*t out of me. My migraines generally go like this: I start to feel an obnoxious combination of tired, cranky, and stupid, like my brain gets into this fog where I'm always searching for words. Then, as I start to feel a throbbing right above one of my eyes, the nausea kicks in. I don't notice too much light sensitivity unless I'm driving at night or a kid slams on the lights. If that happens, I'm likely to mutter a few curses I don't want them repeating.
Now I'm a full-time mom, I have a lot more migraines than I did before.
I'm probably lucky that I get the "aura," which is the name for the pre-headache symptoms, because they are like a warning sign. When the aura happens, I think, quick, grab some protein and caffeine and pain meds and hunker down! Except what mother of young children doesn't often feel tired and cranky and foggy? A lot of times, only after the actual pain has begun, do I look back at my day and realize that I'd been yawning more than usual or that I snapped at someone for no reason.
Self-care is hard to administer as a mother of young kids, but migraines force me to slow down and focus on things like relaxation and hydration.
As a stay-at-home mom I'm actually pretty able to take it easy when I'm in the midst of a migraine. I remember trying to power through them when I taught preschool, and that was pure hell. But the thing I've come to realize is that now I'm a full-time mom, I have a lot more migraines than I did before. It could be that I'm getting older, or that my hormones are different, but I actually think it's because I'm so focused on a million little things that I am terrible about recognizing my early warning signs. And I frequently forget to eat lunch. When my blood sugar gets low, and I get a headache, the last thing I want to do is eat. I am normally so nauseated that nothing sounds good. Except, for some reason, a Coke and french fries.
I got a nice break from migraines during my first two pregnancies and my early months postpartum. But both times, when my period returned, so did my period migraines. And more often than not, when I'm crampy and have the period poops and I'm hormonal and emotional, that's when Mother Nature also decides to gift me with nausea and headaches.
My oldest will fill up my water bottle for me. Both of them will deliver kisses right on my eyelid on the side that hurts, and I swear it helps.
Right now I'm in my third pregnancy, and sadly, my migraines have been worse this time around. I rely on things like naps, soda, french fries, and peppermint oil to help guide me through. (Pro tip: Dilute a few drops of peppermint essential oil in coconut oil. You can apply it to your skin, but I'm normally soothed just by sniffing the jar.)
The tricky part about the changes I've gone through with multiple pregnancies is that my triggers have changed. Since having my first child, I can't even look at wine without getting an almost instantaneous headache. A huge trigger this pregnancy is smells. Just a few days ago, I lit a scented candle I'd previously loved and I immediately started feeling crappy. Also during this pregnancy, I've woken up in the morning, and the headache I might have had the night before is still there. Before now, a full night's sleep was normally curative. This might be a hint that I need to rest more, but with two kids, that's not always possible.
My two older kids are wonderfully understanding, though. They play quietly or watch TV while I rest. My oldest will fill up my water bottle for me. Both of them will deliver kisses right on my eyelid on the side that hurts, and I swear it helps. It really does. And my younger child says, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" when I tell her I have a headache. She gently rubs my "forkhead" as she calls it.
My kids are also growing up knowing the tell-tale signs that their mom doesn't feel well. And while it certainly is a bummer when your entire day gets derailed by pain, and your to-do list flies out the window, I count my blessings. My kids understand and take good care of me. My partner understands and picks up the slack when he is around. I have a mother I can call who totally knows what I'm going through. And, of course, I am really glad the migraines I experience don't cause me to vomit or writhe in pain.
Migraines to me are a constant reminder to make time for self-care. I get them if I eat certain foods, like pizza, so even though that might be an easy choice for dinner, I know it's better if I eat something different. I get them if I'm low on sleep or if I forget to eat. I get them when I'm stressed. Self-care is hard to administer as a mother of young kids, but migraines force me to slow down and focus on things like relaxation and hydration. And, really, I could almost always use some more of both of this. And I'm always down for a sweet kiss on the eyelids from my kids.