Couvade syndrome. Sympathy Pains. It’s not just for pregnancy anymore.
My mother recently was hospitalized for a soap-swallowing incident. Ironically, as I observed and helped her to recover normal swallowing functions, I began to experience swallowing challenges of my own.
When she has had what I perceive to be, but she cannot share, hip pain on her right side, suddenly, I throw the right side of my back out, reaching in for a load of laundry.
When she aches. I do. When she smiles. I do.
Our pain is so intrinsically connected, that where her pain starts and ends, I cannot detect.
Couvade syndrome, also called sympathetic pregnancy, is a proposed condition in which a partner experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior of an expectant mother. These most often include minor weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning nausea, and disturbed sleep patterns. In more extreme cases, symptoms can include labor pains, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds. The labor pain symptom is commonly known as sympathy pain.
Couvade syndrome is not recognized as a real syndrome by many medical professionals. Its source is a matter of debate. Some believe it to be a psychosomatic condition, while others believe it may have biological causes relating to hormone changes.
I am convinced the same sympathy pains present in pregnancy, of which there is no medical evidence, are transmutable to those who are caregivers, those who are in a constant state of worry, obsession and love.
As such, I find myself wondering how connected am I to her brain health? What is the state of my own? Will I experience the same sort of memory loss that so devastates me at times? What would I want to tell my children, my husband, who ever is left holding the bag full of tricks to make me tick?
A cousin of mine, Debbie Wick Herd, recently posted a quote related to a similar theme of If I get dementia. The prompt floated around in my head for days as I considered what would really be important for my loved ones to remember.
I wanted to write how I have coerced my husband to sign an agreement that he would pluck my white chin hairs and for my kids to make certain that I was served bacon at each meal.
But I went with authenticity instead of the truth.
If I Get Dementia
I want you to steady a pen
in my hands that ache to be of use,
roll out the paper in front of me
or flip on a computer
if I am still adept
which I think I will be –
but may forget.
I want to still write
to feel the pulse of waiting
endlessly for the muse to strike
heartbeat bursting through my chest.
For her to paint a picture
– with words
which rush to ink the thin wood
– with words as broader strokes
this time, because though the mind
has shut down
the heart has opened to a
than I might have guessed.
I want you to edit my words,
craft them as you would sculpt
a bust of my being.
You will know what they mean.
Readers have always known better
what their words really
Do not fret for an agent
or whether or not to publish.
The words will find their way
in the world.
They always have.
They are like worms digging through
the refuse of human tragedy
or wiggling to the top
of human triumph.
If I get dementia,
read me stories.
You will find my most treasured tomes
tattered and scattered throughout
Then read me something fresh.
Not news, but a crisp voice,
with a new throated call
to keep the niggles at bay.
And last, read me my own words
so I may recognize them still
and say goodbye
to some of the world
I am leaving behind.
Annette Januzzi Wick
Once again I am elated after reading your beautiful writings. And, I am glad to know I am not crazy, alone or imagining these feelings. I have never shared my experiences because I thought others would think I imagined them. Whether it is a syndrome, psychosomatic or otherwise it is oddly nice (because I would not wish this on anyone) to know I’ve got company on this long often dark road.