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When Chronic Migraine & Motherhood Becomes Reality

The wonderful news I announced last spring that my husband and I were expecting a baby girl after so many years trying led to a much longer hiatus from the site than I’d expected. Nearly an entire year. As it turns out, surprise surprise, mothering took over every scrap of energy and time I’d previously had available to write, educate and advocate.

I by no means want all or even most of my articles here to touch on parenting specifically, but a desire to open up about Migraine-related mommy guilt has me ready to dip a toe back in these fine waters.

Finding additional support from other moms

I’ve had a pretty awesome Migraine support system comprised of close family, close friends, an awesome therapist and our great disease community for a number of years. But much to my surprise, I’ve actually found an awesome little mommy tribe in my own backyard. Most of them just get me and vice versa.

We all met through a support group, and I think that’s made an enormous difference in our ability to establish friendships with much less judgment than I hear exists among other mom groups. It’s been comfortable to open up about anxiety, depression and guilt in that setting. But I’ve only become close enough to one other mom in our tribe to learn she also lives with a physical chronic health condition. So getting into the nitty gritty of the way living with Chronic Migraine impacts my parenting and the sometimes overwhelming guilt hasn’t seemed like the best fit for that setting.


Migraine mommy guilt

I knew this was going to be hard. Being a parent is inherently difficult. Add challenges on top of it, it’s even harder. But I’m finding that parenting with a debilitating, chronic neurological condition sometimes wracks me with nearly unbearable guilt. It’s as though all the unresolved Migraine-related guilt has made a bonfire with the mommy guilt. And the way I perceive Chronic Migraine impacting my daughter is additional fuel to really heat up that fire. Maybe even to eventually take it to dangerous levels if I don’t continue to work through this.

I still have the same support, but even more now. In addition to the mommy tribe, I now have a friend in my town who has made it abundantly clear I should call with any need. I’ve never had that before. And I need it more than ever with sweet baby Harper to care for.

Before we were blessed to have her, all my concerns were very abstract. Now that she’s here, the stakes are so much more real.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no regrets whatsoever. But seeing this bright eyed, happy ray of sunshine every day, watching her grow and change, and having the privilege to be her mom sometimes feels like an enormous amount of weight. Knowing my tendencies, I’d find something to beat myself up about even if my Chronic Migraine went into remission. But it’s hard not to fixate on something that takes such an enormous toll on all three of us.

As with everything in life, it’s a work in progress.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Livingthedream
    3 years ago

    I have found it helpful to put clear tape over the speakers on my kids’toys because the noise is so painful otherwise. We often have blackout curtains closed in the area of the house we spend our day in, and I feel awful that I am raising my incredible kids in this cave. My kids are 2 and 4 and are both more nurturing and empathetic than I would expect for their ages, and I didn’t realize before reading previous comments the role my chronic migraines may have played in that. What I hate most about parenting with chronic migraine is the time that I am losing with my babies. I’ve waited for motherhood my whole life, and my kids are at wonderful stages, but too many days I find myself barely getting by and counting down to nap time so I can have total quiet for an hour. I can’t believe how quickly they are growing up, and it makes me sick that I am missing so much time during these precious years.

  • arden
    5 years ago

    Good to hear your voice again. You can find strength beyond your own. Just ask.

  • mpile49
    5 years ago

    Been there. Now I have grandchildren. Use that support group. I have to say, I raised very independent kids who, if I had come home from work and was crashed with a headache, could fend for themselves. Also, I had and still have a wonderful husband – so supportive. Wish this had existed then. Just hang on, take it one day at a time. You may not make every meeting or event but you love your child. No guilt.

  • cricketbug63
    5 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article, Diane, and also to the commenters that are sharing their stories. It’s nice to feel less alone. I have a 22-month-old daughter and ever since the last trimester of my pregnancy I have been getting migraines more and more frequently. Where I once had 1-3 migraines a month lasting 1-3 days, now I rarely have a day without any pain or migraine symptoms.
    I feel awful for the days when the best I can do for my daughter is to block the two of us into our living room and her bedroom so there’s nothing she can hurt herself with, turn on a movie on whisper-quiet volume, and lay on the couch while she bustles around with the toys that have suddenly “run out of batteries”. I murmur the alphabet to her, we whisper secrets, we colour. She plays dress-up and I comment on how beautiful she looks in her dad’s jacket and shoes from my spot on the couch. I know in my head I’m doing my best, but my heart worries that hushing her delighted squeals is damaging her. I’m so lucky to have such a soft, kind toddler. But is it fair to her that Mommy always has an ice-pack beneath her head, that sometimes Mommy can’t even try to play, that Mommy dreads the days when she’s home alone with her because she doesn’t want to force this bright little girl to live quietly in darkness?

    Congratulations to all of the parents that somehow make this work. I hate my body for what it puts my family through.

  • USMCwife
    5 years ago

    I, too, have been dealing with this for years. Mine are 15 & 13 years old. They had a rough childhood bc daddy was deployed constantly. They are always sweet, generous, and kind. But, there is a lot of guilt. Putting the 3 of us in therapy (separately) has helped enormously!!!! My current headache specialist even told me how great it was that they were in therapy. It is very hard for us, as mommies; but, let’s not forget that it’s rough on them too. Especially if they don’t have a support group to understand how truly debilitating chronic migraine is – some people still unjustly think “it’s just a headache”. I didn’t go chronic until my pregnancy with my second, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to attempt motherhood and chronic illnesses. Good for you!!!

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator
    5 years ago

    Diana! Yay! I was wondering when I’d see a post from you again. Have so loved seeing your photos of Harper on Instagram. I myself was light chronic but went chronic daily after my second daughter and finally had to stop working. And, now watching my nine year old developing migraines herself… it’s so challenging. Every day. Thank you for writing about it. Much love to you and your family.

  • Stace31601
    5 years ago

    My son is 8 now and it is amazing how much he understands and saddens me in the next moment. He is very empathic. He even know when he needs to call and what he needs to tell them once they get there. I am one of those that loses the ability to verbalize what I am thinking. He knows what I need when I am curled up in ball, he knows when to get worried and when not to. A lot of times he knows a migraine is coming before I do. I feel so guilty as a Mom when I have to change plans and even worse when he says Mom you can go outside instead of staying inside the whole time for my basketball game or when he tells me Mom I know you aren’t feeling well we can reschedule. It breaks my heart. I am so proud of my son for understanding what he shouldn’t have to and he is such a good caretaker. I am not sure I would of faired as well without him taking care of me nor I would I pushing so hard to find something that I can function on without me being “there but not really there” as my son has told me and my doctor. My son has already learned to be more outspoken when need to be with doctors. He realizes how much I hurt and push myself and helps mostly without a word out of mouth. I feel guilty and at the same time very fortunate to have him as my son.

  • Nicole
    5 years ago

    What a great article! Thank you for sharing. I too feel guilt when my little girl cries when she says she misses me when I am in the midst of a week long migraine. But as they get older it gets easier and I am so proud to have a daughter who is empathetic and caring due to dealing with my illnesses and she really appreciates the moments when I am feeling good. She knows not to take things for granted and that is a gift. Please keep sharing. It makes us moms feel less alone!

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    What an honest article. You are an amazingly strong woman and I am so impressed by how you’re adjusting to your new life. We’re all here for you!

  • migrainestl
    5 years ago

    I have been wondering how you are!! Congratulations–she’s adorable!! I found shortly b4 you announced your pregnancy & felt for you as I had recently been in that situation. My son (also named Harper) is 20 months now. That 1st year is SO hard in SO many ways let alone it was my worst year to date w/ migraines. I know the guilt you feel. I never knew what real “guilt” felt like until I became a Mom. I thought I had been doing better–was feeling better & planned our 1st vaca sans child (and since I went chronic 3 years ago!). I felt well enough for most of the 3 night trip & couldn’t wait to see my son. The next morning upon return I was miserable & had to send my son to daycare while I stayed at home in bed. I felt terribly guilty for being away from my son “again.” However, when I picked him up he was happy to see me & acted no different….I try to just accept that guilt is just part of motherhood & even more so for those of us w/ chronic illnesses. best wishes to you & your wee one!

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator
    5 years ago

    It’s so nice to see an article from you, Diana! Thank you for your honesty and openness. I can’t imagine what the guilt must be like, but do know Harper has a wonderful mom.

    Take care,

  • Jules2dl
    5 years ago

    It’s a terrifying thing to be responsible for another life when often you cannot even be responsible for your own. I remember so many days when I’d have to crawl through the house and hoist myself up on a chair by the counter to get the kids lunch. So many times I’d pile us all onto the bed and let the tv be my babysitter while I packed my head in ice. I hated doing that…relegating them to Disney for the day. “Good moms” don’t let the tv be a babysitter. I even went through withdrawal from a migraine med when my oldest was 2. Four months of horrendous withdrawal like a heroine addict’s and a 2 year old to care for. God got me through that time, and many others as well.
    My kids grew up taking care of me as much as I ever took care of them. They all have infrequent migraines and know what I go through. I’ll admit, its much easier now that I don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone but myself. I’m on disability now, so I no longer have to push through a day at work and end up in the ER. I no longer have to worry about who will take care of the kids. No plans are too important that I can’t just cancel/reschedule if I need to. I can just crawl into bed with an ice pack and wait it out. What a luxury!!

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