His little head lay cradled in my lap. Our eyes stayed locked, both of us struggling to see each other through the tears. He begged me not to let them touch him and I sobbed that I was sorry, pleading with him to look at me and me alone. He let out a moan and for just a moment, I thought of pushing the doctor away, of grabbing my child and making a run for the door. It’s a thought that has crossed my mind often over the years of hospital visits and tests. In cases like this, I just want to pick him up and run away with him, to hide him where no one can poke at him. I quickly glanced up to see if it was over yet and I realized they hadn’t even put the needle in yet. His painful cry was so real to him, yet in that moment, I realized it was fear more than pain that was causing his tears.
When he was a baby, I took his cues, like changes in his facial expression and behaviour, and used those to make my own decisions about his level of pain. How much noise he made was often the determining factor as to how much it really hurt.
I have sat beside him while eight needles went into his arm at once and heard not much more than a tiny peep from him and yet I have held him while he flailed his arms and legs and begged me to help him when no doctor had touched him yet.
As a mother, it often feels like a guessing game.
At times, it can be a struggle differentiating between the two. Not wanting to make him feel alone in his pain, I try not to question it but how do you know for sure? I can pull out a thermometer to check for a fever or I can look in his throat to see if it’s red and swollen. To measure pain, it's a little trickier, but there are pain measurement tools most parents may not know about.
The It Doesn’t Have to Hurt initiative is helping to make sure parents know about these tools. It can be frustrating to try and figure out what’s going on when our kids don’t have the words to tell us, but the neat thing about this program is that it can help us become more aware of some of the research that’s out there concerning pediatric pain.
After years of going back and forth between different hospitals, we've been given tips and tools to help our son deal with painful procedures. Everything from dipping his soother in a sugar/water mix when he was a baby to holding him during the procedure.
Outside of those tried-and-true tips and tools, there are now more resources available to help us know if it's minor or major pain. One example is the Faces Pain Scale. This is an excellent tool that I know will become very useful in our home (and yours too!). To get an idea of the type of pain level your kid is dealing with, ask him to point to the image of a face that shows how much he or she hurts in the moment. Each image corresponds to a number on a 0-10 scale. Older children (aged 8 and up) can just use numbers (0 to 10 or 0 to 100) to tell you how much pain they have.
In moments when a child is terrified and panicking, this tool could help calm him down and focus on what he’s actually feeling. It could also help him feel more understood and help parents to determine what the next steps should be.
Before heading out to an appointment that will include tests and procedures, the best thing you can do is to be prepared. We talk about what the procedure might feel like and we talk about how he might feel during the procedure. And now you can bring along the Faces Pain Scale. Truth be told, when I do these things, I’m preparing myself as much as I’m preparing him.
When my son cries, I cry. I would do anything to make the pain go away. I would gladly take all the needles and go through all the tests and procedures if it meant he didn’t have to feel the pain. Unfortunately, all these medical pokes and prods are something he has to face, but it doesn’t have to be alone. When pain measurement is combined with good pain management for vaccinations and needles, pain can be easier for our kids to deal with (and us too!).
I will be by his side every step of the way and thanks to initiatives like It Doesn’t Have to Hurt, hopefully I can help him learn the words to describe what he’s feeling and in turn, help him learn how to manage his pain.
The night before my wedding my husband and I had a fight. The kind of fight that changes you and your relationship. It was the kind of fight that made me question if I was making the right decision and made me consider making a run for it.
It wasn’t our last fight and it wasn’t our ugliest fight and in the years since I have had moments where I wondered if maybe marriage wasn’t the right thing for me.
I grew up in a home with parents who argued. I don’t mean nasty fights that happened on a regular basis, but they never tried to pretend that their marriage was without struggle. After every argument they made up; sometimes they apologized and sometimes they just let it go and moved on.
I grew up in a home with parents who loved each other and who showed me that love isn’t always sunshine and roses.
Next year my parents will be celebrating 40 years of marriage.
In those years they have loved, laughed, cuddled, yelled, cried and fought.
They lay in bed in the dark worrying about sick children. They wondered how they were going to make ends meet. They comforted each other through the loss of their parents.
Life wasn’t always easy but they faced each obstacle together.
Whether you got married yesterday, 10 years ago or 50 years ago, each and every marriage has its share of struggles. The issues we face may have evolved as each generation has passed but the core of it is not very different.
Marriage is hard. It was hard then and it’s hard now.
What has changed?
Some say life is harder now. Some say finances put a strain on a marriage, with the average cost of a house hovering around $450,000 how are newlyweds supposed to get their lives started? It’s nearly impossible to get by without two incomes which leads to the stress of finding and paying for childcare.
Why is that something that we think we alone face?
Money troubles has always been a major source of strain on marriage. My parents were raising a young family during a major recession that cost my father his job and lead to my mother returning to work before she had expected.
It was a strain on their marriage.
According to my parents, the major difference is that they didn’t expect to start their marriage out in a four bedroom house. The home my parents returned to after their wedding was a bachelor apartment and they were happy. It was a few years before they could afford to move out of an apartment into a house.
My parents were but children when they got married, two naïve kids barely 20 years old who thought it would be easy. We may have been 10 years older when we got married but we were no more prepared for marriage than they were. Both of us entered into marriage thinking we had it all figured out yet both of us found ourselves learning how to share a life with someone who had different ideas of normal.
When I ask my parents what they would do differently if they could go back in time they each had the same answer. They would have taken the time to get educated and start careers before saying I do. It’s the one thing they feel our generation has got on them.
Every generation faces struggles, some of them change with time and technology and some of them are standard issues that face most marriages. Yet along with the struggles marriage offers beauty. It offers love and companionship. It offers someone who has your back and is by your side for life. It offers you a partner in crime. It offers laughter, love, friendship and affection.
I’m struggling through marriage just like my parents before me and their parents before them. We have days when we don’t know how we are going to make it one more day with each other and we have days when we know we could never live a day without each other.
Nine years ago we woke up the day after a big fight and we brushed it off. We figured out how to get over that obstacle and we learned that the key was to face it as a team instead of apart.
Nine years ago we made a promise to each other that we would take on the world together and so far that’s exactly what we’ve done.
There have been times in my parenting journey when I sit back, content, feeling as though maybe - just maybe - I’ve got this parenting thing under control. Usually it’s once I start to feel comfortable in my role as a mother that life reminds me that it has other plans.
I had a good morning. In fact, I would call it a great morning. We had a nice family breakfast, which my kids helped cook. We spent some time reading together, snuggled under blankets. We spent some time outdoors getting some much needed fresh air. We laughed, we cuddled and we chatted. It was the kind of morning that made me feel like I’ve got this covered. I’m doing alright.
If you’re a parent you know what comes next right?
What happens the moment you start to feel comfortable? The second you let your guard down and think you’ve got this. What happens each and every time you even dare to think this parenting thing isn’t that hard?
That morning, my fall back to reality was because of a coat rack. A cheap-not-special coat rack that we bought when we moved into our first house. The kids were pushing each other back and forth on the computer chair. I asked them to stop about 1000 times. Okay; it might have actually only been three times but felt like much more than that. Before I could even spit out the empty threats they crashed right into the coat rack and the legs splintered as it crashed into the wall.
Everyone froze including me.
It only took seconds before I lost my sh*t.
They were both sent to their rooms but not before I yelled and took away dessert, electronics AND play dates. I asked them “why they couldn’t just listen” and even threw out “wait until your father gets home.” They marched upstairs, a little angry at me for yelling and a little scared for breaking the coat rack. I sat on the couch frustrated with how I had handled the situation.
I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to yell. I had promised myself, that even when they pushed me to my limit, I was always going to keep my cool and handle things the right way. I knew I hadn’t handled it the right way.
I sat on the couch wondering what I should do next. Should I go upstairs and apologize? Will apologizing make them think that it was ok that they continued to do something that I asked them to stop doing? Can I go apologize for yelling at them without totally discrediting my authority as a parent?
As I contemplated all my potential next steps it hit me that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. This parenting job didn’t come with work instructions. I didn’t have to do a test or go through an interview before I was given the job. No reference check or performance evaluations involved.
I have to figure this one out on my own.
Every single day I make good choices as a parent and I make bad choices. I do wonderful things for my kids and I make mistakes. I’m a good parent and I’m a bad parent. Just when I think I have it all figured out, life points out that I don’t in fact have any of it figured out.
That’s why I rely on you.
Parents who can help me remember that we are all just doing our best. Mothers who make mistakes in one breath and do the exact right thing in the next. I rely on other parents to remind me that although our paths may be very different, we are all trying to be the best parents we can be.