There is one thing about which I feel profoundly guilty but that I realize does not actually merit any guilt: I get migraines. Often. I've dealt with them for more than 30 years. I hate them. They can be utterly debilitating. But I've never felt guilty for having them . . . until I became a mom.
Yesterday was a killer: a migraine that rose to a boil in less than 15 minutes, nausea, the shakes, dark spots in my vision, and one crazy-ass toddler. About an hour into the migraine, I was on the verge of total panic. My husband is out of town, most of my family live in another state, and my meds can take up to a 2 hours to kick in. I was having Hildegard of Bingen-style technicolor visions of puking into the grimy toilet while my kid gnawed a nearby plunger handle.
To make matters worse, Pork Chop is teething. He's weathered other teeth without much ado, but these top teeth are a fresh kind of hell. He cries while eating. He cries while drinking. If I come at him with a toothbrush, he pulls out a shank. It's bad. And yet, when I'm in the throes of a migraine, I can't help thinking, "Would it kill him to just take a 4- or 5-hour nap? Couldn't he at least stop making sounds? On a pain scale of 1 to 10, how bad can a tooth be? Like maybe a 3? This migraine isn't even on the scale. Unless there's a scale that includes vivisection." Admittedly, trying to outdo my toddler on the pain scale is not really a point of pride.
|Terrifying pain scale courtesy of Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half|
Yesterday, though, Pork Chop did me a solid, despite his own pain. For once, and I mean exactly once, I plunked him down in his gated play area (a.k.a. "The Octagon"), and he played contentedly for almost 45 minutes. He did not scream. He did not shake the gate and wail "Mama! Mama!" like he was auditioning for a Lifetime movie. He just played. And I lay on the carpet outside the gate, my head wrapped in an ice pack, letting the meds work their glorious magic.
I threw a blanket over my face to keep out the light, but was able to watch my son from a hole in the crocheted fabric. He babbled at the dog, who sat by my side, aloof to my son's overtures. He pushed buttons on his activity table and danced, er, rhythmically squatted as the music played. He paged through cardboard books. It made me smile, despite the pain, to see him sternly wave no-no to his Lambchop puppet (because Lambchop's a regular bastard). My baby is becoming a real-and-true little boy. And, on more days than I'd care to count, I'm watching the transformation from the wrong side of the fence.
It's not like I want to hurt or to shortchange my son. But that doesn't stop me from running back and forth over my sins like I would a string of worry beads.
Did I wait too long to eat? Did I drink enough water? Did I drink too much coffee? Did I have a glass of wine? Did I get enough sleep? Did I eat too much cheese? Did I eat too much sugar? (Do I ever not eat too much sugar?) Did I exercise enough? Did I exercise too much? Was I too cold? Was I too hot? Did I take my vitamins? Was the moon full? Did my chakras align? Was I karmically imbalanced? Was I a stone-cold asshole in another life?
What does it matter? I woke up again this morning with the telltale ache behind my right eye. My son was stirring in his crib, making muted cries. Normally, he wakes with enthusiasm, babbling with his stuffed elephant, hopping up and down in his footy pajamas, and laughing the moment I flick on the hall light and come into view. But not today. Neither of us is at our best. On a scale of 1 to 10, we're maybe an 8 on the I'm-tired-of-this-shit scale.
But I hoist Pork Chop from the crib and hold his fat, ruddy cheek to my cheek. He rests his head on my shoulder, already spent before the day has even begun. I smooth his hair, I rub his back, and I say, "I'm so sorry that it hurts, buddy. I'm so sorry. So, so sorry."