My youngest daughter has always been full of energy. I’ve told her (jokingly of course) that I probably had nine months of morning sickness because she did back flips in my belly.
As a toddler, Madison climbed on anything and jumped off everything. Even recently, a lady who used to work in the church nursery told her, “Oh I remember babysitting you. You always liked to move. And the more I moved, the more you liked it.”
That basically describes my Madison. She was born active – and she’s been active ever since.
When she was seven, she wanted to try gymnastics. I figured, why not? She already did cartwheels and crazy stunts around the house. She may as well have a floor mat underneath her.
Maddie also squeezed in time for softball every summer, as well as Saturday morning volleyball and basketball leagues. Life was just as she liked it. Full of activities, full of fun, and busy, busy, busy. Until last summer when everything came to a screeching stop.
In August, she began to complain of back pain during gymnastics practice. I took her to our family doctor who said it was a muscle strain. She recommended heat, ice and no gymnastics for two weeks. Maddie was not pleased.
After two weeks, the pain continued. I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon who ordered an x-ray. Thankfully, he found nothing wrong with her spine. He recommended ibuprofen and more rest.
Taking a break from gymnastics wasn’t easy. Maddie went from twelve hours of practice each week to no practice at all. She felt lost, but we tried to make the best of it.
Finally, after several more weeks of rest, the doctor said she could return to gymnastics. But something didn’t seem right. I was grateful she wasn’t in constant pain, but she still felt discomfort when she moved a particular way.
I’d had enough. I called back the orthopedic surgeon and asked for more tests. He ordered a SPECT scan. This is a type of nuclear imaging test, which uses radioactive substance and a special camera to create 3-D pictures. Within a few days, we got the results.
“It looks like Madison has a bilateral stress fracture.” The doctor turned to Maddie with a stern look. “This means absolutely no physical activity – no gymnastics, no volleyball, no basketball, no running, no pitching lessons, no PE, nothing – until your back is completely healed.”
Madison looked down at the floor and fought back tears. I couldn’t imagine how she felt, but I knew how I felt. Heartbroken. Not because my daughter could no longer do gymnastics. I didn’t care about gymnastics. I was heartbroken because she could no longer do the things she loved.
In time my sadness turned into frustration. After all, I am her mom. It’s my job to make things better. It’s always been my job. When she cried during the night as a teething baby, I was the one who comforted her. When she nose-dived off her sister’s bed at two years old, I was the one who scooped her up, kissed her nose and made it all better. Now my girl was hurting – physically and emotionally – and I felt completely helpless.
As a mom, I can trust my gut.
Parents get bombarded with advice, but sometimes you have to trust your instincts. No one knows my child better than I do. Not the parenting experts. Not the doctors. Not even my mother. I knew Maddie wasn’t the type to whine or complain about pain. Something was definitely wrong. We have to remember that it’s totally fine to challenge the doctors. I guarantee no one cares about my daughter’s health and happiness more than I do.
Don’t go through it alone.
My husband is wonderful, but no one truly understands how a mom feels like another mom. Yes, we’re all busy, but it took me two minutes to message a group of my friends with an update and prayer request. The support I got was priceless.
More recently, I shared my fears and frustrations with the moms at our Quad City Moms Blog writer’s meeting. We have a wide variety of moms in our group. Some have new babies and some have teenagers. Some work outside the home; others stay home. Every mom has different opinions and experiences. But when I opened up about my struggles, I felt nothing but understood and supported. Let me encourage you. If you’re going through something difficult, don’t do it alone.
Count my blessings and look for the lesson.
I needed to remember to keep things in perspective. After all, this was only temporary. Madison’s back would heal. She would be able to run and play again. There are so many people with greater struggles than mine. It helps to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have.
As for lessons I learned, as much as I’d like to think I’m in control, I’m really not. I have limitations. I can only do so much. And news flash! It’s really not my job to fix everything. No one expected me to make it all better. That was unnecessary pressure I put on myself. During tough times, I like to believe there’s a purpose for our problems. Who knows? Maybe Maddie will grow up and become an orthopedic surgeon!
These days Madison is doing much better. Slowly and surely she has become more active. Today she plays basketball with no pain. She has retired from gymnastics, but tells me that she wants to go to an upcoming meet and cheer on her teammates. Her positive attitude reminds me of one last lesson. If I pay attention, I can learn a lot from my kids.