It starts with a small, deep headache. I’ve had so many that they’re mostly just annoying at this point. There are bottles of ibuprofen in my kitchen, nightstand, bathroom, purse, and car so that wherever I am, hopefully I can pop a few in time to nip it in the bud. Usually, this works. But sometimes I don’t have any medicine with me, or the medicine doesn’t do the trick.
Then the migraine hits.
Before it fully develops, I try to rush home from wherever I am. This sometimes means I have to whisk my kids away from a playdate or a fun day out with little explanation because talking hurts and arguing hurts more. I’ll toss them some snacks in the back seat and get us all home as quickly as I can.
Luckily, and I know I am extremely lucky, my husband has sick leave and can usually leave work if I can’t function. If a migraine starts after lunchtime, I try not to bother him because I can sit our kids in front of the TV for an afternoon with a trough of snacks until he comes home at his usual time. I let them watch the really annoying stuff that I don’t usually allow and dump a bin of toys in the living room. I lock the hallway bathroom door so no one plays in the toilet, and I retreat into my room.
I am doing most of this with sunglasses on, sometimes closing my eyes when I can navigate the task well enough without sight. I am very quick to yell, even though yelling hurts more than talking. Yelling usually takes less time, and although I know it upsets my kids and I feel bad for doing it, it is necessary when the pain has set in. Any ideas about Mommy possibly having a conversation about Shopkins or that maybe they can argue with me about what snacks I’m serving need to be squashed quickly, and yelling does the trick.
As a mother with migraines, my body and mind immediately go into survival mode. I am frantic but purposeful in getting what I need as fast as I can, which is darkness and silence and a bed. I try to anticipate my children’s needs for the next several hours and check diapers and direct bathroom breaks and pray the entire time that there’s just pee in the diaper and minimal pee on the bathroom floor. I’m not cleaning it up either way right now.
As I hunker down in bed, I put my head under my pillow to help block out any light. I can’t watch TV or read or listen to a podcast, so all I can do as I lie there is think about how many elephants it feels like are standing on my head. I can’t treat this with anything stronger than ibuprofen until my husband gets home because my migraine medication somehow makes my head feel worse and then slowly better, but leaves the rest of me feeling awful and utterly exhausted. It is the last resort.
The yelling I did earlier kind of works, but I will almost always still have to deal with sudden bursts of noise coming from outside my room that need investigating or one of my small children body-slamming my door open to ask for something or to climb on me. I try to show them that I am in a lot of pain. I’m sometimes relieved by my 4-year-old’s show of empathy as he tells me to feel better and quietly walks out of the room. I am quickly reminded that he is 4 when he comes back a minute later with his doctor kit and tries to shove a plastic pretend otoscope in my mouth to take my temperature.
The bribery starts quickly. Play with my phone. Use the computer for as long as you want and with no parental supervision. Buy everything that is being sold on Amazon and order On Demand with lots of violence and swearing. At this point, my kids can literally do anything they want until their father gets home if it means I can be left alone with minimal noise.
By the time my husband comes home, I either choke out that I need him to bring me my medicine or I raise a hand to hurriedly wave him away. I want to be alone and I want him to keep the kids as quiet as possible.
If I have a severe migraine and somehow manage to fall asleep, it needs to be gone before I wake up. Otherwise, I am woken up in the middle of the night by how bad the pain has gotten and that is when I need to get to a hospital.
In those nighttime hours, I need to decide if I can safely drive myself to the hospital or if my husband needs to call someone and wake them up to come stay with the kids while he drives me. You can’t just get up and go when there are small kids that need supervision.
I have tried every remedy (from total woo to science) I can get my hands on, but after months of physical therapy to treat issues in my neck that trigger my migraines, I was told they are something I’m going to have to live with. I do exercises and have corrected my posture to help reduce the frequency, but there’s no telling when I will have another. As I pack my family for trips or events, I just pray I make it through without feeling that initial warning headache and the sense of dread it brings.
Parenting through migraines is a real bitch. If you can relate to this on any level, I just want you to know that I see you. I get it. You’re not alone in your migraine hell, and you’re entitled to do whatever you need to do to push through it (without guilt).