Today is my daughter’s 6th birthday, and a migraine almost took it from me.
It stormed last night, so the power went out for a bit. Around midnight or 1:00 AM (does it really matter?), I was getting up to unplug my computer when she came through our bedroom door crying, because the storm was “so loud” and it was “so dark” – I’m pretty sure that’s what she said, anyway. It was kind of hard to understand her at that point with the crying. I got her settled in bed next to my husband and went to take care of my computer and to listen at the little one’s door to make sure she was still asleep (no power = no monitor). I returned to the bedroom and climbed into bed next to my big girl, and tried to get comfortable. I quickly realized I would not be able to sleep without the reassurance that my other daughter was sleeping peacefully, so I opted to sleep in my older daughter’s room since her bed was vacant and it’s right next to the baby’s room.
I finally fell asleep in the cramped twin bed after many bouts of tossing and turning and extracting small stuffed animals from under my fatigued body. An hour later I awoke to what seemed like daylight – the return of electricity meant the return of the dual night lights that somehow comfort my six year old. I decided I preferred to try to sleep with a shifty child than the spotlights, so I returned to my room. Soon after I found a comfortable position, she became restless. Though I really tried to ignore her movement, I thought giving her the option to return to her room would give us all the best chance at (part of) a good night’s sleep. Once I offered to carry her to her room and reassured her that the storm was over, she agreed. I really only offered to carry her so I could shield her sleepy gaze from her doorway, where my husband and I had hung streamers to “surprise” her when she woke up on her birthday. The storm had already disrupted my sleep, I wasn’t going to let it ruin our fun, too.
She rolled over to sleep easily and I returned to my room to do the same.
Thankfully I’ve been using my phone for my alarm, as the power outage stopped all the other clocks in the house. I managed not to snooze too many times, but this electricity problem also meant my coffee was not going to make itself, which was not ideal since we would be rushed this morning. Showered and dressed, I started the coffee maker and made my way to my birthday girl’s room. It was still dark in there, and I hated to wake her since she didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I gave her a “good morning” as I entered, to which she returned a rather alert, “Good morning!” — which was unexpected. As I opened her blinds and pulled back her covers, I see she has a book in her hands. She had been reading – in the dark – for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Another side effect of the power outage, I hope, and NOT that she does this all the time…
We finally all made it to the kitchen – by this time both girls were up – and started on breakfast. My dad called to wish her a “Happy Birthday!” but we couldn’t talk for too long, since it’s hard enough to keep the girls focused on eating without extra conversation. I needed to cut up the Quesadilla (Salvadorean cake – not tortilla with cheese) and put it in something to bring to school for the Birthday snack. She picked this for her special snack to share with the class today after the Birthday Circle, which is how they traditionally mark the day at her Montessori school. I also had to make sure we had the birthday poster, which has one picture of her for each of her birthdays, and the paperwork for the teacher with notes about special things that have happened each year of her life. Also we had to pack a lunch today, because the school is doing Mother’s Day lunches for each class this week, so they are not serving their normal menu. My lovely child lives for lunch box day on a normal week (Fridays), so not sending a lunch box with her on her birthday wasn’t an option.
It was a busy morning and I had a lot of things to remember, but it’s my daughter’s birthday: of course I’m going to get it done. It’s important to her and it’s her special day.
I was concerned about time, because on a regular day when we aren’t bringing half the house with us it’s difficult to get a two year old and a six year old (and a 37 year old) out the door on time. Today I especially didn’t want to be late because birthday circle is at 9:00AM and it wouldn’t be much of an event without the birthday child.
Both girls were finishing breakfast, so I quickly went to the bathroom for some mascara and hair stuff, and that’s when I noticed it: the floaty little piece of uncertainty hovering in my vision. It’s how I know I’m about to get a migraine.
The problem with migraines isn’t so much the pain or nausea for me, it’s the not being able to see. I get what is referred to as an “aura” with my migraines, and it obscures most of my vision for the first 20 – 30 minutes of my migraine. Lack of vision is not a great problem to have when you are about to drive your child to school on an important day. Or any day, really, but we couldn’t skip today.
If “willing away” a migraine is not a current treatment, maybe it should be.
I started to panic because I did not want to disappoint my daughter, but I realized the panic might make it worse. I thought if I could keep the first bit of the aura at bay long enough to make the 2.5 mile drive to school, I would be fine. I had no reason to believe I could actually do that.
I took a deep breath. I finished whatever I needed to do to have myself ready. I returned to the kitchen and directed the older one to wash her face and hands and wait by the door. I cleaned the younger one, took her out of her booster, and put her shoes and socks on. I could mostly see everything, and that was going to have to be good enough.
We got in the van – I was pretty confident I had remembered everything, though it took two trips to get everyone and everything into the van. I wasn’t sure at this point if we were on time – I had to slow down a little when I realized a migraine was coming, so I may have lost any extra time I’d had at that point. But regardless, I couldn’t panic even a little, because it will make the migraine worse, faster. (I have no scientific data to back that up, only personal experience.)
My rule was that if ever my vision was too obscured to see the road or other vehicles, I would pull over and accept we would be late or have to miss school completely. I would deal with my daughter’s reaction later. I felt I was familiar enough with how my migraines progress that I could accurately judge whether I was in a dangerous situation.
My mantra for the (2.5 mile) drive was: “Clear vision, clear thoughts. Clear vision, clear thoughts.” (Migraines also make it difficult for me to think clearly. Super awesome, I know.) Yes, it was a short drive, but it doesn’t take long for that aura to take over.
But… It waited. And we got there. SAFELY. Oh, My God. Thank you.
I managed to get the girls out of the car and schlep them and everything across the parking lot and into the school, and as we get to the classroom we see the class – they’ve just sat down for circle time. We made it. Barely.
Her teacher facilitated a lovely Birthday Circle (the third one she’s done for my girl), though, to be honest, I couldn’t really see most of it because the aura kicked in. By the time my antsy toddler and I returned to my van to go home, the aura had disappeared and I could see clearly.
|My lovely birthday girl and her lovely teacher.|
And I’ve felt like crap the rest of the day, but who cares? The migraine didn’t win. I was there for my daughter’s birthday and didn’t have to concede or cancel anything. I’ve stopped trying to figure why I get my migraines, though certainly a bad night’s sleep doesn’t help. Hopefully her memory of her 6th birthday has nothing to do with me feeling like crap, and everything to do with sharing that last Birthday Circle with her beloved teacher, or having dinner as a family tonight at CiCi’s because they have “the best cheese pizza”, or some other thing that is wonderful to her.
Today was my daughter’s 6th birthday, and that blasted migraine almost took it from me. Almost.