Multiple sclerosis tries to slow Barbara Schants down, but she can’t. With 2 sets of twins under the age of 5 to parent and a business to run, most days her MS barely makes it on the radar.
Barbara and her husband had a difficult time conceiving a child. Year after year, Barbara hoped in vain that she would have a baby. “It was tough because all of my other friends were having kids – most were friends since middle school. I was the last of the 5 old friends…I was trying to be supportive and go to all the baby showers but it was tough.,” Barbara remembers.
After several years of trying, they turned to fertility treatments. 3 rounds of intervention were unsuccessful and the outlook was bleak. They tried again for a fourth and final time and were thrilled to discover it had worked and they were expecting. After getting the news that Barbara was pregnant with twins, they felt “overwhelmed but happy.”
In the blurry months of new parenthood that followed the birth of her daughters, Barbara didn’t get out much. When the twins were nearing 6 months old, Barbara found herself happily able to leave the house and venture out a bit more. She noticed that her feet were oddly tingly. Since she’d rarely left the house for all those months, she guessed and hoped it was simply her body’s readjustment to wearing shoes and walking more.
Instead of improving with time as she’d expected, Barbara’s symptoms quickly worsened and deep fatigue set in. She felt so weak she couldn’t even pick up her babies. Her mom came to stay and help and they scheduled an appointment with a doctor to figure out what was going on. With the aid of her mother, Barbara drove 85 miles to see a specialist. She waited for 2 hours in the lobby and then was given a 5-minute exam with a provider who ordered an MRI and sent her home. Frustrated, furious, and a bit afraid, Barbara thought “NO, you don’t do this to a mom of 6 month old twins who has something going wrong with her body!”
Her search for help and answers continued. Barbara went the emergency room one night, desperate for relief. She found none. Finally, she found the right doctor. He spent an hour with her and diagnosed her with MS.
“It was a rush of emotions – [I thought] at least we know what it is but then what it is, is not so bad. It doesn’t usually kill people but then your quality of life varies,” says Barbara who has an uncle with MS who is quite debilitated, incontinent and in a wheelchair. She tries not to think about his condition too much.
She was put on medication that she injects herself every other day. Her husband has to help her keep track of the injections, which sometimes are forgotten or missed in the joyful chaos of a houseful of small children.
Though Barbara knew that pregnancy almost always triggers a relapse of MS symptoms, she and her husband wanted another child. Fertility treatments worked again and they were delighted to be pregnant for the second time – once again, with twins. When her oldest children were 3 years old, Barbara gave birth to her second set of twins. She thinks the second set of twins is “easier because we’ve been parents before… this time we are so much more laid back about everything.”
Since her diagnosis, Barbara has had just on relapse. During the relapse, Barbara again had extreme fatigue. Steroid infusions helped her feel better but made it impossible for her to sleep for nearly a week. Hyper-energetic from the steroids, Barbara says she got a lot of cleaning done that week.
Barbara is so busy raising her kids, Greta, Cora, Franklin, and Carlton that she rarely has time to think about the MS. She does her best to take her medication, get an MRI every so often, adjust to the changes in her balance and sensation, and try not to worry about how her health will be down the road.
Somehow, in the midst of it all, Barbara invented and patented a bowl called the Baby Dipper out of frustration bowls that wouldn’t stay put when she was trying to juggle and feed multiple children at once. She designed a product that would simplify her own life and, she hopes, the lives of other parents.
What helps Barbara manage the stress of mothering 4 small children, living with MS, and running a business? Barbara loves to travel and look at architecture. Whenever she can, she joins her husband on his frequent business trips and enjoys a change of scenery.
Thank you Barbara, for sharing your Story with us!
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© 2009 by Jenoa Briar-Bonpane and Story of My Life®