Witnessing your child in pain can be one of the most heart wrenching trials in a parent’s life. Advocating for medical treatment, consoling your child and staying healthy yourself can be a BIG job for any mom or dad. Read on for tips on how to handle such a big job and what to do when you can’t find answers.
I want to tell you a story about our oldest child, Liam and an incredibly hard trial he had to go through.
Last year he began experiencing some terrible stomach pain (coupled with vomiting) for several months and even though now things are much, MUCH better, it took me a long time to gain some wisdom from that experience. It was really painful to watch as his mom, but we’ve learned a lot from it and I’m finally ready to share it so that hopefully we might be able to help someone else!
Liam’s gastrointestinal troubles actually began years and years ago…probably as an infant. He was the most colicky baby of all of our children, and it wasn’t just because he was our first and we didn’t know better! Everyone mentioned how fussy he was and that it took a quasi-miracle to calm him down.
Fast forward several years and Liam began complaining of occasional stomach upset and sometimes vomiting for no apparent reason. He’d just go into the bathroom, throw up and then come out and announce, “I just threw up, Mom!” We attributed it to simply a sensitive stomach at the time and even though we brought it up to the pediatrician a couple times, no doctor ever had any helpful suggestions and it wasn’t bad enough (yet) to warrant additional research.
Then last year, right after Marilyn was born (about May 2015), Liam began experiencing INTENSE, daily abdominal pain. It seemed to almost come out of nowhere and it was so bad, some days all he could do was roll up in a ball and lie on the couch. It was heartbreaking for us as his parents to see him this way and nothing we did seemed to help. We took him off dairy for a while, then gluten, then some other random stuff. Then we started wondering if maybe it was stress, or constipation or anxiety over having a new baby in the house.
The climax came after a month or two when he was in so much pain one night he was literally screaming and begging us to help him. It scared the living daylights out of me, so we took him to the nearest pediatric ER. They poked and prodded and did scans; then declared him constipated and sent us home. My momma heart just KNEW this couldn’t be it!
So then we began taking him to doctors. First our regular pediatrician, then a gastroenterologist, then another GI, then a naturopath, then a psychologist…you get the idea. And they ran test after test: bloodwork, urinalysis, MRI, tests for Celiac and Crohn’s, colonoscopy and endoscopy all without conclusive results: everything looked normal. It was an exhausting, frustrating and expensive several months.
All while this was going on, something in the back of my head kept hinting to me that his diet needed to change. I’ve always worked hard to feed my kids fairly healthy whole foods, but Liam has always been my pickiest eater. If it was his choice, he’d survive on cheese crisps and pizza for the rest of his life. What surprised me most about the doctors that we went to up to this point, was that not a single one of them (barring the naturopath) questioned his diet or suggested he change it. I thought it quite strange that when they saw an otherwise asymptomatic, healthy kid with stomach pain, they didn’t start wondering if maybe it was something he was eating.
The last straw came when we visited yet another GI, at a pediatric hospital who came very highly recommended to us. At the end of this visit, the doctor suggested that we start pain management therapy and techniques. In other words, he was essentially saying, “We have no idea what’s going on and can’t help your son. He will suffer with this indefinitely and we can only put him on pain meds and hope he learns to cope.” I left that office almost in tears…how was I supposed to explain to my 10-year-old that he would have to deal with this pain, without a solution, for…EVER??
I refused to believe it. I had already promised him that we would find a solution no matter what, and I planned on keeping that promise, goshdangit! It was at this point that we saw the naturopath who, even though they couldn’t offer much in the way of answers, did start him on some holistic supplements that actually helped. If Liam took them regularly, the pain could mostly be held at bay. I also then emailed a friend of mine who I knew to be very passionate and knowledgeable about nutrition (including gut-healing diets) and whose husband was also an MD. She explained some things she thought might be going on with Liam and then recommended we see her husband.
It turned out that not only is her husband a traditional family practitioner, he also specializes in integrative medicine (or a more holistic medical approach). He listened to our whole story, looked up and learned about the supplements that had been helping Liam and then FINALLY gave us some real answers! I won’t bore you with all the details but in short, he said Liam’s GI tract was damaged and needed some healing. He also suggested we start him on a low FODMAP diet and recommended a few other things to change as well.
You guys – once we really committed to this diet (because it took a few tries and some tears before Liam was committed to eliminating ice cream and wheat!) the pain DISAPPEARED. Seriously, it was a true miracle. It really wasn’t until about March of this year (NINE months after the beginning of his pain!) that he turned to me and said, “Mom- my stomach doesn’t hurt anymore!” We were so happy! After almost a year of tears, prayers, blessings and pleading to take this pain away, it was finally gone.
I learned a couple of valuable lessons during this time period:
- When my loved ones are suffering, and there’s nothing I can do, I’m often tempted to get angry. It upsets me and it upsets my children to see me this way. During this last year, I learned a lot about Christ’s perfect love and His commandment to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”
- A mother’s job is HARD and suffering alongside your child is the hardest part of all. If your child is in pain, he needs you at the top of your game. Take care of yourself and find an empathetic friend to talk to.
- I believe that the solution to many (if not most) health problems is DIET. If our bodies are in pain or not functioning properly, we owe it to ourselves to research and discover which foods will heal us. Our food supply has a lot of problems with it today, so going back to basic, unprocessed whole foods is always a great place to start.
- A mother’s intuition is rarely wrong. I think it’s a special connection we moms have with God’s spirit, telling us how to best care for our children. If we have a problem and need a solution, sometimes we just need the courage to listen to that little voice inside. I believe it will always lead us to where we should go!
Good luck raising those amazing little humans, mamas!