A woman living with a health condition at the same time as caring for her child faces unique challenges that need to be addressed, honoured, and nurtured. Even in the most optimum of conditions mothering and caregiving can be demanding. Mothers can struggle with boundaries and life harmony in terms of the balance between the level of care they provide for their children and the care they need to take for themselves. This pattern can manifest in our lives in various ways including skipping meals, eating unhealthy foods, or not taking the time for a shower when you feel you want or need to. It becomes easy to step in and be the main caregiver, particularly when your child is very young and you may feel you can do the job more efficiently than another or that your child is most comforted by you. This is how patterns can develop.
When there is the additional challenge of a health condition, a woman may move through a process of grieving as she mourns the loss of what once was. Often this grieving process is characterized by feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed. Emotionally pulled in two directions, the call of motherhood often takes precedence, however, when it comes to a health issue a woman must find the time to prioritize herself. When a health issue arises I refer to the process of learning self-priority, often referred to as self-care, as trial by fire since a woman does not have a choice at this point. It is her health that now determines she needs to make changes in her life. There can be appointments in the mix of new motherhood, the potential of feeling physically unwell and therefore, being unable to perform tasks that were once taken for granted.
The combination of motherhood and living with a health condition is monumental. Life events such as this are referred to by author, Joseph Campbell as the hero’s journey, are cloaked in a multitude of unique and individual circumstances yet are also layered with universal themes and connections that can be made with others. Coping with illness or a life challenge is often the way we can learn more about ourselves as well as others.
In the initial stages of mothering through a chronic health issue or life event it is much too difficult to perceive the light at the end of the tunnel. However, through the process of time, experience, and resources a woman can begin to perceive her illness or challenges as a source of earned wisdom. The timeless notion of looking for the silver lining applies. A few of the positives may include the importance of maintaining self-care, the new connections made when needing support, a new awareness of ourselves and our bodies, and increased knowledge of our health. Often the end result is a life that has been reinvented.