Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 6617 MSFocus Summer 2016 I was so naive and unprepared when I became a parent. I was completely overwhelmed by the 24/7 responsibility. And I certainly didn’t expect to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis! Every day, it seemed I lost physical abilities, and I didn’t have the energy or stamina of a normal 32-year-old mother. It was difficult and depressing for me, especially when I saw what other mothers were doing. Our first hurdle was, “what do we tell the children?” Even though they were so young, they knew that something bad had happened. Mom cried a lot; Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa talked in hushed tones. Outgoing little Jamie didn’t want me to leave her sight. Happy-go-lucky Andrew began sucking his thumb – something he had stopped doing months before. One night, my husband, Dave, and I gathered our courage and told the kids that Mommy had an illness the doctors didn’t know much about and there was no medicine to make Mommy better. Jamie’s first question was, “Mommy, are you going to die?” At just five, she could ask piercing, perceptive questions. That night I cried myself to sleep. My MS had robbed my children of the carefree childhood they deserved. I vowed to try to keep our world as normal as possible. As my disability increased, we tried to explain things in terms they could understand. Mommy’s hands were weak and they would have to be patient because it would take me longer to comb their hair, button their clothes and make their lunches. Since helping the children get dressed was stressful for me, Jamie and Andrew helped select the clothing we purchased. It had to be easy for them to put on and take off. (Even 18-month-olds have strong opinions about what they like to wear.) I learned not to fight them or impose my taste on them. In the process, the kids learned to dress themselves independently at an early age. To avoid morning hassles and decision making, clothing was chosen the night before and set out for the next day. As the years passed, however, the overwhelming fatigue and increasing disability meant that I needed more and more help. We constantly made changes that made life easier. As an example: Dave and I rearranged where we kept the toys and games to give the kids more independence.Boxes,shelves,and containers were within easy reach. No climbing necessary. The added benefit to having a place for everything was that when they were done playing, they could put their toys away. Yes, Jamie and Andrew were often slow or reluctant to clean up, but, there was no TV, (or bedtime story, or snack) until things were put away. By Shelley Peterman Schwarz