Mom Talk: Parenting With Endometriosis
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
Photography by Photographed by Taylor Jarvis
Over 176 million people have endometriosis, an inflammatory condition in which endometrial-like tissue (similar to the tissue that lines the uterus and is shed during menstruation) is found in other places in the body, causing a variety of symptoms like chronic pain, fatigue, infertility, and the list goes on. Jessica Murnane is one of these people. Like many endometriosis sufferers, it took the Charleston-based mother of one (Sid, 5) many years to be correctly diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis. Her subsequent journey to heal herself through a plant-based diet resulted in the popular cookbook, One Part Plant, and podcast, One Part Podcast. Her latest project is the brand-new book Know Your Endo: An Empowering Guide To Health + Hope With Endometriosis. Below, she shares her personal story of what it’s like to parent with endometriosis (a condition that affects 1 in 10 women and girls).
Over the years, a lot of people have shared their fears and questions with me about parenting with endometriosis. They ask me how I’m able to manage being a mom while also managing my endo. They want to know how they could possibly be a good, nurturing, loving parent to someone when they struggle to nurture and love themselves. They share the fear that their child will have a “sick” mom. They fear pregnancy for their body…or not being able to get pregnant at all. They worry they’ll be denied a child through adoption, because of their incurable condition.
I still haven’t become a pro at knowing how to answer these fears and questions, because there are no perfect or right answers. All of our experiences with parenting—and especially parenting with a chronic condition—will be so wildly different.
I’m not able to promise that motherhood will be easy or they won’t have rough days. I can’t say for certain that their child won’t ever see them sick. And I will never utter a “you got this!” to someone struggling with fertility or the adoption journey, as if this phrase will somehow magically give them a child.
While I don’t have the perfect answer, I can and have shared my own experience parenting with endometriosis.
I’m a more empathetic mom because of my endo. When your pain is dismissed for a decade, you’re told your symptoms are all in your head, and you’re made to feel that you weren’t tough enough, you get determined real quick to make sure your sweet baby never feels that way. And that empathy and compassion I extend to my son has actually helped me develop more compassion for myself.
My son has seen me sick. And on those days where my period pain/fatigue lands me in bed, we celebrate the first day of my period by watching cartoons together under some snuggly covers. These special period-days have now become our thing…even when I’m not in pain.
Along with the sick days, my son has witnessed incredibly strong days, too. He’s seen me take this shitty diagnosis and use it to help others. He’s seen me take the time to care for myself—by way of food, time alone, or just rolling on a foam roller next to him while he eats breakfast. He’s witnessing the power of making your physical and mental health a priority (which is something I wished I’d learned about much sooner).
And as much as people complain about bedtime, picking up toys, and going to the park for the 100th time, it’s way less hard than a cyst rupturing, monthly painful period poops, and getting a doctor to believe your pain. It’s funny how having endometriosis can give you all sorts of perspective. On the days I’m able to run with him at the park or pick up every last Lego, I never take it for granted and feel pride in what my body could accomplish.
So yeah, parenting with a chronic condition isn’t always easy. But it’s the only way I’ve known. And so far, my son has seen empathy, compassion, strength, and not letting a chronic condition define who you are…and I’m pretty proud of that.
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