I have quite a few friends who have either just had or are expecting to have a baby. It is pretty fun for me to be the “auntie” and to have opportunities for baby fixes. What I have noticed the most about their pregnancies, and their change in life after the baby comes, is that it seems so similar to living with a chronic, progressive illness.
Those of us with a chronic, progressive illness have to shift our focus, time and energy in ways that most regular folks have a hard time understanding. Because of that, I search for things that are more relatable to use to help them to understand. Anyone who says that their focus, time and energy isn’t spent differently with a pregnancy or a child would have to be lying.
For the new parent, there is a little being who is dependent on your care. They need you to focus on them, spend your time and energy with them in order for them to grow and survive. Somehow the parents figure out how to balance their needs and wants with those of this new little human in their lives.
For the person with the illness, there is something lurking behind the scenes in the body causing symptoms. It isn’t as cute as the baby, but it certainly shifts our focus to symptom management. Somehow, I have to figure out how to balance my needs and wants with those of the illness. Figuring out how to spend my time and energy resting versus having company, going out and about versus staying in, etc.
In addition to the time, energy and focus shift, there is also a difference in the choice of social engagements, people, places and timing of all of those. I have to alternate periods of activity with periods of rest. The baby needs to be on a routine for naps, feedings, etc. and so do I. Otherwise I cannot function and am miserable. My symptoms become unmanageable. If the baby isn’t on a schedule, they too become miserable and harder to deal with.
Sometimes it does seem that my illness is its own entity. It often decides whether or not I am able to do something I have planned. It often decides how well I will be able to focus, move about, sleep, eat, and much more.
I think the new baby lifestyle changes look very similar to the changes that happen for someone with a chronic illness. What do you think?