Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler was diagnosed with MS when she was 20-years-old and working full time on the set of “Sopranos”. At the time, she chose to keep her diagnosis a secret, and was able to do so because she was symptom free “for quite some time.” When the burden of keeping her secret became too much, she decided to share her truth, and has since spoken out about her life with MS.
Sigler told People Magazine, “I’m at a point in my life with my son, with my new marriage, it’s a new me. I don’t want to hold a secret where it feels like I have something to be ashamed of or have something to hide. It’s part of me, but it’s not who I am.”
Today, the 35-year-old actress is married to minor league baseball player, Cutter Dykstra, and is the mother to 3-year-old toddler, Beau.
So, how is Jamie balancing motherhood and MS? Simply put: delicately.
Sigler spoke to TODAY and revealed,
“I tread lightly with telling him about my condition because there’s not a lot of it that he can grasp, I would never use the word ‘sick’ because I don’t want to overload or scare him. I tell him that mommy’s legs can’t do that and if he wants to play with me, we have to play a game where we’re sitting down. He gets it for the most part.”
Living with MS is hard, but add a child to the mix and you’ve got yourself a to-do list that never ends.
While today we know that pregnancy halts MS symptoms, balancing MS and motherhood after birth can become very challenging. Below are 5 tips on how to better cope and handle your MS when you’re caring for a new addition to your family.
1. Talk To Your Neurologist About Breastfeeding
Will you be breastfeeding? Recent research suggests new mothers with multiple sclerosis may get additional protection against relapse following the birth of the baby if they breastfeed. Whatever course of action you decide to take, speak to your neurologist about the best options for you and your baby. There are certain medications that are compatible with breastfeeding, while others are not, so make it a priority to get educated and empowered.
2. Try To Get Enough Rest
Living with MS is exhausting (hello, fatigue) but when you add a newborn to the mix, “exhausted” becomes an understatement. It is imperative for you to be well-rested, not only for you, but for the human you are now taking care of. If you find that you are unable to get enough rest, you may want to…
3. Ask For Help… When You Need It
There is no shame in recognizing your limitations and admitting you need assistance – consider it being an advocate for yourself and your child. Speak to your partner, family, and friends, and let them know when you need a hand. Loved ones need to understand you are not able to do it all on your own, and their help is valued and appreciated.
4. Know Your Limitations
It is unfortunate that extra limitations are a part of life when you have MS, but as Jamie-Lynn shows, understanding your limitations will help you make adjustments. Sigler still plays sports with her son, but instead of taking the active role, she designates herself goalie during soccer, or catcher during softball. When sports are a no-go, Sigler opts for movie night or art in bed.
Just because you can’t do it all, doesn’t mean you can’t still engage with your child on their level.
5. Love Yourself First
As a new mother with MS, it’s easy to get distracted by what your baby needs. But don’t forget what YOU need. You are, after all, the mother, and your wellness and health is just as important. Make sure you get the rest you need when you need it, and don’t be ashamed to speak up when you need help. The healthier and stronger you feel, the more you will be able to care for your baby.
There will be good days and bad days, but every day is a new opportunity to shine a light on yourself and your family.
As Sigler says, “Beau gives me a reason to look forward to every single day. He’s the light of my life.”
To learn more about pregnancy, pregnancy hormones, and the effects on your life with MS, check out MyCounterpane’s Empowered By…MS and Hormones with Dr. Riley Bove.
Are you a parent living with MS? Please share your experience in the comment section below, or log in to MyCounterpane.com/MS to share your journey with the community.