Thursday, January 7, 2010

...And Changes at Home

Lastly, I describe changes at home since the RA. Having a baby can change the dynamic of a family, and coupling a baby with a raging flare of RA is even more complicated. I was unable to take care of myself or the baby so my husband took care of both of us. I never imagined that we would be testing our wedding vows like that so soon.

My husband also did all of the chores and cooking, while I spent what little energy I had on building up my lab, writing proposals, and working on lecture notes. I was trying to hang on to my job while my husband hung on to our family. I felt selfish and guilty for focusing so much attention on myself while he worked so hard. When I tried to help, I would feel worse, and he would remind me to rest.

I was aided by reading reputable websites (like Arthritis Foundation) for inspirational stories. The biggest help was reading a story where an older man with RA described how he helped around the house. He grocery shopped, but couldn't lift the sacks of groceries from his car to the house. His wife would take it from there. I realized that I could deal with the guilt by helping around the house in little ways. As my medication began to work, I helped more and more.

Now, we are a 'normal' family, where we share in most chores. I do easy stuff, and Mr. JP does the more rigorous things. We are destined to gender-defined roles this way! He does yardwork, home repairs, but also cleans bathrooms. I cook, grocery shop. We both clean and take care of Sparky. It's pretty nice now.

One that helped was practicing Mindfulness (see the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn). Meditation helped manage my stress load and pain. I also changed my diet. Allergy tests showed I had strong allergies to dairy and eggs, so I avoid them. I read conflicting data about the allergy-RA-inflammation thing, but I can say that I certainly feel better when I'm avoiding dairy and eggs.

So these last three posts were intended to show that someone with RA can 'have it all.' We can work, we can be mothers, we can be wives - we just do it a little differently.


PUI prof said...

Thank you so much for your posts. Wishing you healthy and pain-free 2010!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Hooray! You and your husband are luck to have one another.

Laura G said...

Really inspirational set of posts. As someone who also suffers from chronic conditions that interfere with daily functioning, its really nice to hear stories of coping from capable and successful people like you.