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Via Motherhood: Sainthood by Sick Kids

This past week has been filled with family, friends, students, colleagues, shared meals, calendula cream making, marking of papers for student clinic, and…moms with sick kids.

When kids are sick, life gets put on hold. And when moms are sick at the same time as kids? Wow…it’s a tough gig. Often moms tough it out only to be the last one in the family to get what’s going around, but occasionally moms and kids are sick together and the sickness is often just one more ‘thing’ in a series of stressful events.

And when you are in the middle of sickness, sleep deprivation, and emotional upheaval, finding another person who really understands is a gift. My own memories of postpartum depression return. In the midst of my struggles, the self-talk of feeling misunderstood and the delusion that I was alone with what was happening took over. Even my pastor at the time, unsure of what to do with a postpartum depressed mother of a colicky, never-sleeping-through-the-night child, sent me to see a Catholic nun.

Looking back now, I can see that I was ‘in a state,’ as we would observe as homeopathic practitioners. No judgment – as homeopaths we are simply there to listen, to hear what it is like to be in a state of complete and utter exhaustion. We all experience stress and exhaustion in our own ways.

To be able to hear ourselves, to listen to our own self-talk when we are exhausted is impossible. To have an empathic ear, someone who can listen and really hear what we are saying, gives us the opportunity to hear for ourselves what we most need to hear too. To be accepted without judgment helps the healing begin.

So for all you moms out there with sick kids—whether acute ailments packed with fever and discharges and possibly spots to go with it—and for all you moms out there with kids who are chronically ill…you are on the deepest spiritual journey that can possibly be conceived. You are my heroes!

Yes, it can be lonely… Yes, it is a journey filled with unknowns… Yes, you will be challenged to the max… (I used to think I was a nice person until having babies who grew into children who grew into teens laid bare all delusions of ‘nice’.) Yes, you will find the help and support you need… Yes, you will reach out and someone will be there to listen.


Remember that nun that I went to see? Sr. Nora. As a Spiritual Director, her first directive was to go get some sleep. No talking. Sleep. So on the day of my first appointment with her, I was ushered to a small room with a simple cot, side dresser, and a door that closed. Surrounded by monastic quiet, I slept for four hours. And so it was for four more days…and then, like one of those fairytale maids, I was finally able to wake up from what felt like the 100-year sleep and have a coherent conversation with another…someone who would gently help me find spiritual meaning in the midst of postpartum depression.

(I’d like to include a shout-out to my sister who, at that time, gave up her summer to come and be with my son while I recuperated…thank you, Renee! Talk about a gift! Her presence meant that I could sleep uninterrupted.)

Sr. Nora offered sleep, tea, and an empathic listening ear and then helpfully showed me how even the experience of postpartum depression, a colicky baby, and sickness could put me on the path to spiritual enlightenment with an introduction to the Ignatian Spirituality practice of the Via Negative, the Via Positiva, and the Via Creativa, I now propose one more Via Motherhood, the mother of all three paths.

This road of motherhood has it all. The creation of another being, the opportunity to face the negative, and the chance to celebrate all that is positive.

I really do not know how my mother parented sick kids with all the sleep deprivation and emotional upheaval that comes with it. Where I raised two kids, she raised five and then six of us as teens. Sometimes she got sick too…mumps as an adult is a whole other kind of sickness! Although it was difficult, my mom managed to help each of us kids feel better, through fever and through pain.

A cool hand on the forehead and a calm presence often made a world of difference. I recall that cool hand on the forehead and the scent of chlorine bleach or the yeastiness of bread or buns on the go. Maybe that is what my mom did when we were sick…stayed home and cleaned or baked. Me? I watched kids’ movies with my sick kids…a favorite blanket and a cuddle and all work for the day stopped.

Perhaps there are men who are the caregivers when kids get sick. My dad was often the Vicks Vaporub middle-of-the-night guy, especially with the sore throats or chest colds. Nothing like a little Vicks and a woolly sock fastened around the neck to speed the healing! Really…it was the contact, the care and the concern, someone to tend to the state of sickness…that made the difference.

If only we had known about homeopathy! Maybe this is why I’m so committed to sharing this amazing form of medicine with as many moms and dads as possible. There really is something you can do when your kids are sick.

And besides homeopathy, you can carry on the legacy of how you were cared for in sickness and in health. You can change to suit your family’s needs, you can adopt what you remember worked for you, and nowadays the Internet and chat boards are a great way to connect and support each other.

You have support. Reach out. And take care of the caregiver…that’s you! Even when it seems impossible—especially then—ask for help.

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