Read between the lines

As mothers, we need to take care of ourselves.  If we aren’t advocates for our own well-being, then how can we care for our loved ones?  I’ve been learning and relearning this lesson for almost three years now.  It began in 2010 when I was pregnant with my daughter.  I didn’t want to acknowledge how miserable I was from the morning sickness.  I felt guilty for needing to take naps.  I only allowed myself two massages during my entire pregnancy.  I thought all pregnant women suffered, so I should just hunker down and accept it.
 
 
After my daughter was born, my life was naturally consumed with caring for her newborn needs.  She breastfed every hour and had colic as well as infant reflux.  She was not a napper by any means, and refused every bottle of pumped milk that my husband offered.  Throughout her first year of life, I nursed around the clock and overrode my need for physical and emotional replenishment. With my reserves ultimately drained, I had little left to give anyone.  I felt empty, irritable, withdrawn, and sometimes downright angry.  These were all clear signs that I was in desperate need of self-care, but I kept ignoring them until I reached a breaking point.  After weaning my daughter at thirteen months, I began to nurse myself back to health.  That meant going to the doctor, taking long walks alone, following a strict 10pm bedtime, blowing the dust off my camera, and carving out one morning a week to do something nurturing for myself.  Sometimes I went to the library, other times I indulged in a venti decaf iced white mocha, and eventually I scheduled a few massages.  My self-care mornings gradually filled me up and gave me a fresh perspective.
 
 
It took many months before I felt normal again.  Through it all, my husband and I adored our daughter and knew we wanted another child.  I worried that my biological window was closing, yet my healing had to finish first.  By December of 2012, I was ready to consider pregnancy again.  We decided that we would begin trying to conceive in January.  (It’s no coincidence that I chose CREATE as my word for 2013).  Two weeks later, on February 6, 2013, I took this photo.  Just four days shy of my fortieth birthday, we found out I was pregnant.  Initially, I was surprised and downright amazed.  When the morning sickness set in, I started to get scared.  As the weeks passed, I felt increasingly unprepared to ride the hormonal rollercoaster again so soon.
 
 
Pregnancy requires exquisite self-care.  Until recently, I held off on getting regular massages because I thought that would make me a princess or a spoiled brat.  I felt terrible for almost falling asleep at the dinner table, unable to appreciate meals my husband had lovingly prepared.  I was mad at myself for being too sick to play with my sweet daughter.  In reality, I simply wasn’t paying enough attention to my body’s needs.  As a family, we’re currently figuring out how to get through this together.  My husband has been extra helpful, patient, and supportive.  I’ve been going to bed early.  I’ve also started getting monthly massages.  Even though part of me still feels uncomfortable with the idea, I want everyone out there to know that self-care isn’t selfish.  It’s a necessity.  Massage is therapeutic.  So are nature walks, good books, and moments of solitude.  Yesterday I even went and got acupuncture for the first time in many years.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long to heed my body’s calls for self-care, but at least I’m doing it now.  I want to enjoy my family today, and I want to be ready to welcome our new arrival in October. 
 
 
Please, if you’re tired or irritable or just plain burned-out, take some time to nurture yourself.  I believe self-care is our responsibility not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones as well. 

 

 
From me to you, here and now…
Jennifer