Interview With a Parent Coach Who Has Migraine: Part Two

Below is the second half of my conversation with Teresa Stewart. You can read part one here. Note: the conversation is slightly condensed for flow and readability.

To read Teresa’s full bio and more about her services, you can also visit her website at stewartfamilysolutions.com.

Who are you as a parent and as a coach?

I've got two kids, aged thirteen and eight. My career and parenting are linked in so many ways. I have two master’s degrees, one in child development and one in maternal and child health, and I was already working in these fields in policy and advocacy before I had kids.

And then when I had my daughter, I only had six weeks of maternity leave, so I went back to work when she was very little. I’d had a traumatic birth experience, and I definitely had some postpartum anxiety. I also had some breastfeeding challenges, so I was dealing with a lot of really hard stuff.

It's hard stuff, but common

Absolutely. Really common stuff, and even though I was in the field of child development and child health and parent support, I felt so alone and isolated and even judged by my daughter's pediatrician, my OB, and even some people that I worked with. And it was just a really eye-opening moment — I realized if I'm going through this, I couldn't be alone even though I felt alone.

I worked for about three more months at that company with my daughter and then decided I needed not to work full time and be home with her. But being home full time ended up not being the right mix for me either.

So I started to become certified as a childbirth educator. I also had a really scary experience with my daughter when she was seven months old and choking, and luckily I knew what to do! But that experience motivated me to get certified as a CPR instructor. So I started to teach childbirth ed classes and CPR classes.

Transitioning towards sleep coaching

It was a good balance of being with my daughter but also working and feeling like I was making a difference. As a parent, sleep is a hot topic and a big question, and in all the prenatal classes and all the new moms’ groups I was leading, sleep just kept coming up. At the same time, at home, I had a very high-needs baby who hated sleep!

So, my career changed, impacted by my kids. I just wanted to help other people not feel alone or judged but instead feel supported, educated, and empowered.

Still dealing with migraine while parenting

As I was going through the parenting stuff, my migraines were really bad, too. Even years later, when my son was born, I also was still having migraines. And then I had a baby and a four-year-old both running around.

When you're having all those symptoms, you need to hide in the dark and quiet, and you need to not be moving. How do you do that when you have a newborn and a four-year-old who wants to jump on your bed?

The times that it's “just” the head pain, I can push through more. But it's when all that neurological stuff happens, especially the vertigo or the auras or worse, the vomiting, that I can’t. And those are the times where I tell my family — and my kids are older now, more independent, and they understand — "I just need to be in my cave."

Poll

Do you struggle to balance self-care and parenting?

Do any of your family members get migraine?

My husband does not. I love him dearly but he does not still, 16 years later, really understand the severity of this. Especially if I’m not vomiting. I think he gets the vomiting more than all the other stuff because you can see it happening.

My daughter will be 13 next week and definitely body changes and things are happening for her, and she is starting to have more frequent headaches. I don't think she's had a full-blown migraine yet, but there have been some times where she has said to me my vision just feels kind of funny, or she feels sick to her stomach. I do worry because that's right at the age where mine really started. And I hope and pray and fingers crossed she did not get those genetics from me. But I feel like, in the next couple of months, I'll probably have an answer to that.

My son, who just turned eight, has always gotten frequent headaches since age two, so I don't know. I don't know if something else going on with him. He is very sensitive to smells like I am. He's the only other person who seems to get when I say, "Oh, that smells horrible, get it away from me." So, he does have that similarity.

Do you have any advice?

I think with migraines and other chronic illnesses, a lot of parents tend to push and push and just get through the day as best as they can. And what I am learning more and more every day is sometimes you’ve got to let go. Sometimes pushing through and being the hero, in the long run, is not the best thing for you. You have to ask for help.

Specifically related to sleep, I view the sleep of a family very holistically and integratively. And the sleep of one of us impacts the sleep of others. I do work with a fair amount of parents who have migraines themselves or other chronic concerns and help them set realistic expectations.

So I would just encourage parents to reevaluate as necessary and make sure they're considering their own health, not just the health of their baby or their child.

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