Before APL went back to Boulder for work, one of our old friends from high school, HB, came to visit us in Groveland. She also brought her kids with her. It was really wonderful to see her and it was a lot of fun to finally meet her kids. HB is an absolutely amazing mom. She almost makes it look easy – wrangling her precocious 4-year old daughter T with her 11-week-old son J strapped to her chest. Nursing J every two hours while at the same time teaching T about manners. I was pretty much in awe of her mom skills.
But their visit also brought up a lot of interesting emotions for me. Even though I don’t expect to be a mom any time soon (and getting pregnant with RA will be a complicated process in and of itself) I still find myself worrying about how I will ever be a good mom and have RA at the same time. It isn’t something that I actively worry about on a daily basis. It’s more like a monster hiding under my bed that attacks me at my very weakest moments. When I’m already feeling tired and frustrated, and when I can barely take care of myself, the thought pops into my mind: how on earth will I ever take care of my children?
I know I’m feeling worse than usual right now, and I know I won’t always feel this bad. But even averaging the “good days” since getting diagnosed with RA, I still worry about how I will manage to be a good mom, especially on the bad days. I also know that I’ve only been learning to manage my RA for 2 years, and that sometimes it takes many years to adjust to having RA. By the time I have kids I will hopefully be in a much better place. But it still scares me because I have come to recognize that I will probably never again have as much energy as I would like to have. I will probably always be at least a little tired. And sometimes my joints will hurt no mater what I do. But moms are moms all the time, no matter how they feel.
During their visit, T, who is almost 5, decided that she really liked me. She followed me around. She wanted to sit on my lap or next to me at all times. She wanted to do absolutely everything that I did. And I wanted to play with her – she was so smart and so funny. And I wanted to help take care of her. But it was hard for me to get off the floor once I sat down there with her. It hurt when she crawled over my knees and it hurt to lift her up to the sink to wash her hands. One evening, as my energy waned, I had to go in my room, shut the door, and cry for a half hour because I hardly had the energy to move, let alone play on the floor and answer a zillion questions.
But while I certainly got a glimpse of how hard it is to be a mom, particularly how hard it is during RA pain, I also got a glimpse of how having kids will be worth all the trouble. For one thing, I totally picked the right dad! It was so much fun for me to watch APL and the kids. He was silly with T and let her sit on his lap and tried to figure out how to answer all of her questions. He even held baby J a few times and actually looked pretty happy about it. APL will be an awesome dad.
I also learned something important from sweet little T. I guess I always thought having kids would only make it harder to deal with my RA. It never actually occurred to me that the kids themselves might make it easier for me to deal with the pain. But one morning T watched APL wrap up my knees and afterwards she patted them gently and pretended to put medicine on them because she understood that they hurt me. And strangely the pretend medicine did make me feel better, or at least happier. Plus, once she understood my knees hurt, she was a lot gentler around them.
But my very favorite moment was one evening when she hugged and kissed me goodnight. After hugging me, she also pulled back the blanket I was laying under and gently kissed each of my knees. It made my heart melt and it made me feel more hope about being a mom than I can possibly explain. Thank you, sweet T. I hope someday you will understand the gift you gave me.