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74 weeks | Lessons from sinus pain | no. 0068
This is not a metaphor. I really am in pain. Have been for almost a whole week now. This is what happens when your head cold (that you got from your adorable munchkin who is now practically all healed and bouncing off the walls again and not even trying to let you nap or rest or just have a quiet moment) turns into a sinus infection. I’ve been researching all about it online, looking at diagrams with the nasal passages highlighted to show inflammation, learning how all my symptoms are unremarkable. Everyday googling another term, trying to find that magical remedy to feel better. It doesn’t exist.
It’s so hard for me to accept that this is just some normal condition that happens sometimes. Like a headache, I get. Stomachache. Back pain. Sore throat. Cramps. Pulled hamstring. I get all that. This sinus stuff, unbelievable. I mean, what, are there some sort of sacred nerve endings flowing right through my face or something? The discomfort is so disorienting, so mindnumbingly awful. I’ve been dealing with migraines since high school. I ran an unofficial pharmacy out of my locker. Everyone knew you could get some painkillers from me if you were in need. I learned over the years to deal with headaches, to pace my way through them, to ride the waves of intensity in a way that allowed me to more or less function.
I can’t help but compare my history with headaches to the sinus pain. It doesn’t compare. I’m baffled by how hard it is for me to just exist inside the pulsing ache consuming the right side of my face. Surely I’ve had worse migraines, I keep telling myself. But it doesn’t matter. This new pain has its own territory. It teaches its own lessons.
When it’s really bad, all I want to do is be left alone with my eyes closed or standing under a steaming hot shower (but then I feel like I’m wasting water after a while). But with the munchkin getting into eh-ver-ree-thing, that is impossible. His newest skill is deconstructing the humidifier–while it’s on!– and then laughing as he puts it back together. Now that’s he’s feeling great he doesn’t understand why I’m not spending all my waking moments playing, and laughing, and tickling him, and being silly, and singing songs, and building things for him to knock down.
But not to worry, the munchkin still finds plenty of things to knock down on his own. My books are one of his favorite spots to “reorganize.” He also likes to throw important items into the trash can and then recover them with a smile of victory on his face. His arms seem to grow in his sleep and everyday I have to push the cutting board another inch further from the edge of the counter. It’s like he can reach everything. There is almost nothing he can’t somehow get himself into. I have to remind myself this is the cost of him being healthy. When he was having his health challenges, and constantly irritable and tired, we kept praying for the day when he’d be our loud busy body again. That day has come, and he’s not mellowing out for anybody. Not even his mommy.
Having meditated in this pain for six days now, I have come to some conclusions about being a mother with a sinus infection. This whole experience is forcing an exercise in gratitude. In the hardest of moments, when it feels like there’s some iron mask pressing relentlessly into my cheeks, I go through an inventory of things I can be thankful for: At least the munchkin isn’t feeling the same pain I am. At least it’s not both sides of my face. At least I don’t also have a sore throat or a bad cough. At least now I can say I know more about upper respiratory system. At least I didn’t give myself an ear infection when I the whole netipot experiment was a bust.
Being in constant sinus pain also makes me reflect on labor. I did go into the munchkin’s labor with a feeling that I knew something of the pain ahead. I had labored though many miscarriages before him. I knew it would be different, but I had ridden the waves before. I knew that things get more intense before they calm down. It’s like a peak for which you have no predetermined height. You just have to keep climbing. You’ll know when you’re there.
It’s the pulsing from the inflamed areas of my sinuses that tunes me into the labor process. You can breathe with that pulse, count it, sit inside its rhythm and feel like at least you are being present with reality, however unpleasant it may be. I try to challenge myself to feel the fullness of the sinus infection, to notice all the aching parts of my face and gums and eyes and cheeks. To take deep breaths and acknowledge that I have made progress somehow because it means something to be so acutely aware of the journey.
Pain can simplify your life at times. Like there’s an undeniable urgency in your thoughts. You don’t ponder things too long because it hurts to think and debate and look for loopholes. You just make a decision and go with it when you’re in pain. You haven’t got the time or energy to sort through a million options. The throbbing makes things crystal clear. It is either is or it isn’t. You either will or you won’t.
That said, I think I have had enough education for now. Thank you, universe. I’m sure I’ve used up my share of tissue for one winter as a human being. Even as I practice this work of appreciating that even sinus pain is a critical part of the process, I am praying hard that I feel better sooner than later. Mommy has so much work to do…
Okay, time to get the munchkin in bed. Sweet dreams, people.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.