I Can Still Be A Mom While Fighting Ankylosing Spondylitis

  Last night was very chilly. We had to use our furnace for the first time this season. Snuggling under our covers felt so good this morning. It made getting up even more difficult than normal.

  With the chill in the air and leaves starting to fall, I am reminded the holiday season is just around the corner. Which means it is time for me to start thinking about birthday and Christmas gifts. 

  I have 3 children, two are adults. (Although, I still think of them as kids.) Also, I was blessed to welcome a wonderful son-in-law into our family this past July.

  My husband and I try to make our children's birthdays as special as possible. With two having birthdays right after Thanksgiving, it can be overshadowed by holiday events. As a mother with an autoimmune disease it can be a stressful few weeks. Each year I want my sons to know how special they are to me. I want to celebrate the blessing I was given when each were born. 

  My mind wanders back to my early 20's before Ankylosing Spondylitis hit me full force. My oldest two children were born when I was 21 and 25 years old. I remember the joy of shopping for their birthday parties. My oldest son loved trains, so I had a custom ice cream train cake made for him. My daughter was a huge Barney fan, before he became a huge franchise. We searched everywhere for Barney VHS tapes. The tapes with Sandy Duncan portraying the mother of Barney's friends. I would decorate our house and purchase party hats, horns, and those silly things that unroll as you blow on it. Some years we'd rent out McDonald's private room for the parties and invite all the kid's classmates.

  When I was 33 years old, my youngest son was born. By that age, I was feeling more of the symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as Ankylosing Spondylitis and Peripheal Neuropathy. From the time my baby was born until he was about 2 or 3 months old, I had no feeling in my hands. Maybe that's not the correct description of what I experienced. It more accurately could be described as, my hands felt like I had extremely thick gloves on them. When I touched anything or tried to hold anything it was a very dulled sensation. This was horrible and very scary, trying to hold my newborn and feed him. I feared dropping him, so I usually had my husband or mom lay him on a nursing pillow and I just supported him on it on my lap. I also suffered from postpartum depression. Between my emerging health issues and my hormones from pregnancy, it took medication and counseling to pull me through my postpartum depression.

  I have so much guilt about my youngest son's birthdays. When he was little, I didn't have the energy or health to plan and decorate like I had for my other two children. Instead of ordering a special cake for his birthday, I sometimes bought whatever Walmart had in their bakery sales counter. Other times I baked a Betty Crocker cake and added writing with colored icing. I know I sound very materialistic at this point. I know a homemade cake can have much more meaning than any bought cake.

   You see, this terrible autoimmune disease took so much from me. I want to have energy to plan a party. I miss shopping for the perfect theme or perfect cake. I missed out on the joy of truly feeling my newborn's tiny feet, hands, and little nose. I will never get those moments back, they are gone forever. My son will never experience the same level of attention to his birthday that his siblings did. I mourn for the moments I lost, but more for my little boy who deserved his own custom made cake.
I hope as he gets older he has wonderful memories of his birthdays. I hope he never feels neglected or cheated because his mom wasn't the best.

  I will fight these diseases this year with all I have. I will celebrate both my son's birthdays to the very best of my ability. May they always know I love them and will never give up on being the mom they deserve. My children are the light of my life.

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