Everyone laughed when, on Wednesday January 3rd, newscasters warned East Coasters to prepare for a “Cyclone Bomb” – a hybrid weather formation combining a blizzard with a hurricane. I had to admit that Cyclone Bomb sounded a bit exaggerated and maybe even made-up. The marketers at the Weather Channel finally jumped the shark.
But it turns out that there’s nothing funny about a Cyclone Bomb. Much like a hurricane, this meteorological phenomenon means that within 24 hours the barometric pressure on the East Coast would plummet at least 24 millibars. But the eye of this particular bomb dropped much farther… by some estimates the barometer dropped 50 millibars.
Assessing the situation
By Friday, I was focused on the only three fundamental truths that mattered:*
Number one: The barometric pressure triggered a bomb inside my head that no medicine could touch.
Number two: Schools would be closed for days and I have two small kids.
Number three: My husband/caregiver had left for a work conference in New York just the day before. I was alone.
When I was a kid — way back before triptans — my mother would hole up in a dark room for days on end. In bed before the kids woke up, I tried to remember: How did she manage three kids? What did we do to pass the time? A montage of images reconstructed from remembered stories and family lore swirled behind my closed eyes: me nearly burning the house down with the toaster; me running out of the house naked; me learning everything I needed to know about romance from Frisco and Felicia…
To be fair to my mom, I think every 80s kid learned about love from General Hospital.
My first steps were practical. I stumbled downstairs. Laid out everything needed for the kids to pour their own cereal and grabbed an ice pack. I then texted my husband and asked him to get in touch with my doctor, pharmacy and neighbor to get a steroid taper to my house, stat. When the kids woke up, I put the 7yr old in charge of breakfast and suggested to the 3yr old that this would be an opportune time for her to use her doctor’s kit on an actual sick patient. Pleased with my ingenuity, I began to drift off….
“Mommy! MOMMMY!” This was three-year old Tessa who was now standing on my chest. “WAKE UP!”
I deputized the 7-year old and had him put on the television. “Snow day, kids. You can watch TV for hours!”
I drifted off again. About twenty minutes later, “MOMMMY! WAKE UP!” She gently stroked my hair and pressed her warm lips on my cheek. “Do you feel better? I kiss you. NOW WAKE UP!”
Some of my migraine attacks are ok — I can get up, move around, take a walk, even make dinner. Let me just underscore that this was the *not that kind of migraine.* At best, I could lie in the dark and contemplate mortality. But I knew that Tessa wasn’t just being annoying. She was scared. Her mommy either couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed to help her. My heart shattered.
I called Laura, the only neighborhood friend I knew would take both kids for an undetermined and potentially long period of time. (The three year old can be a handful). I then gathered my strength and joined Tessa in front of the television, where I snuggled with her until Laura could get the kids. Shortly after, my next-door neighbor dropped off a steroid taper from the pharmacy. And later that day, my long-suffering husband rushed home from an important meeting in New York so he could pick up the kids and put them to bed.
Long story short, it is doubly true that it takes a village to raise children when a parent has migraine.
More soon on the challenges of juggling a family of four, a full-time job, a long commute, and chronic migraine. In the meantime, what strategies do you use when you parent? We all need more ideas!
*With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda