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Life Issues - Parenting

Single Parenting When You Have a Chronic Illness or Live with Daily Chronic Pain

By Elfie Rosario

Being a Single Parent When You are Coping with Chronic Illness Can Be DifficultSingle parenting has its own set of challenges. Worries of inadequate parental guidance due to the lack of a father figure or mother figure to help raise a well-rounded child top the list. Everyone else appears to have a set of parents - a mommy and a daddy. To this scenario, add the reality of living with chronic illness and new concerns arise, "How can I do this alone?"

You may be a single parent or guardian who is raising a child or several children while living with chronic illness. No matter the circumstance, how and where do we find the stamina and energy to raise our children while needing the very strength to deal with our own health? Many who live with chronic illness or pain need rest on this road to recovery. How is this possible when children have needs that require attention and entertainment that would zap the strength out of any person?

I was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), three months after the birth of my son. This rare heart disease causes extreme fatigue and exhaustion due to the lack of blood circulation to the body. It is an enlarged, weakened heart occurring in women during their last month of pregnancy and within the first few months after delivery. Its cause is unknown. Because of other related symptoms, I was also diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). PPCM is an uncommon type of CHF.

As a young single mother, my initial reaction was that of fear. I did not want to die and be taken from my brand new baby and leave his fate to strangers without my influence and guidance. My baby would grow up not knowing his mother. My life has been turned upside-down and inside-out since diagnosis.

Fears and worries should be shared with children to a certain extent. They see how illness keeps us in bed all day. Negativity only emphasizes the bleakness that surrounds the illness. This may be frightening enough for us, but how would children respond to it and shape their little worlds? Tears, discomfort and pain cannot be denied, hidden or masked. Children are keen and sensitive to the truth of all they see. What can we do to alleviate the reality of our illness from affecting our children negatively? Honesty.

Honesty in our actions, responses and explanations influence our children. They may not fully comprehend the verbal explanations of our illness, but they can see it in our face, the tone of our voice, and our body movements. Most importantly, they see it in our smiles and loving embraces. We probably won’t ever be considered "a normal family" according to society. What is normal anyway? Families are made up of their own unique blend of quirks and eccentricities. Chronic illness is now a part of our lives. How are we to let it determine our attitudes toward a healthy and functional future for our children and us, single parenting or not?

Children are wonderful sources of the joy and love of the Lord. Their exuberant zeal for life is contagious. Their views and perceptions are innocent and full of trust. We can learn so much from their example. When they stumble, we as parents are quick to comfort forgetting about our selves for the moment. Friends took my son and me to the beach recently - a rare treat in itself. My thoughts already prepared with, "But I can’t because of…." Excuses. I had so much fun in spite of my self and illness. My joy came from watching my son play in the sand and tease the waves lapping the shore. Knowing all too well the physical limitations my illness has on me; I try to find other areas to engage in enjoyment. Suddenly, a wave knocked my toddler over and instinctively I ran to him…. I RAN….

Someone with heart failure should not be running at all…. But my baby…he was all that mattered. Well, the events of the exciting weekend did take its toll on my body, and my son and I slept long and hard that night and I needed more rest in the days that followed. I would not exchange the moment of frailty or thoughts of incapability with the joy and laughter my child experienced and also gave to me.

"This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength," (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).

Children are a blessing, gifts of God. In whatever capacity children come into our lives or the circumstances we find ourselves in, while living with chronic illness, children can teach us so much about living our lives to the fullest. Being a parent is a sacrifice; we have a responsibility to be stewards over what God has given us regardless of illness.

Children are reminders that we too are children in the eyes of God. Our Heavenly Father gives us good gifts, because he simply loves us. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV).

We are all God’s children and He is a single entity made up of the trinity. It is single parenting at its greatness - God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit; three in one (Matthew 28:19 NIV).

We can lean on friends and family for loving support. We don’t have to parent alone because we are unmarried, or without a significant other. We are by no means incomplete with Jesus in our lives. Jesus Christ is all the partner we need.

Single parents living with chronic illness boldly proclaim, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). Amen.

Elfie Rosario was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy - an enlarged, weakened heart occurring in postpartum women with no previous history of heart disease. It is a rare form of congestive heart failure.