Even before becoming a mom, I knew it was incredibly important for women to take care of themselves first in order to be the best mom they could be to their kids. Of course, I also knew that this must be done within reason. I fully recognized that if my kid was screaming because he hurt himself and I was in the middle of taking a much-needed shower, I should absolutely cut my shower short and aid my kid. But too often, I would see my friends who are moms never take any time for themselves and instead focus only on their kids. They never gave themselves a break or asked for help. For many of these women, this proved to be detrimental to their physical, mental, and emotional health. Ultimately, this would cause them to not be the best moms they could for their kids and it was hard on the whole family.
I vowed that I would never neglect myself after becoming a mom and make sure that I gave myself breaks when needed, would continue to exercise, and would keep up my hobbies (like blogging). However after becoming a mom, I realized this was much easier said than done.
The first few weeks, it was pretty easy to care for myself. Henrik slept a ton, as most newborns do, and my parents lived three minutes away (a huge blessing) so they could watch him for an hour a day while I went to the gym. Exercising helped my mental and physical health immensely so I was really grateful I was able to keep it up after having my baby. I was able to shower, rest when needed, go to the grocery store, put on makeup (most days), do laundry, etc. I felt like I had a really good handle on motherhood and that maybe the transition wouldn’t be as difficult as I had thought it would be.
But the weeks got harder. Henrik required more attention and became needier. I would have to really work to get him to sleep and help him stay asleep. I was constantly reading and researching what I needed to do to help him develop and not scream at night before bedtime (his favorite hobby). Suddenly, it was much harder to do stuff around the house, cook dinner, take care of emails, sort out bill payments, make time for my husband, etc. I started to become overwhelmed and realized that I couldn’t do this on my own.
I started asking my husband for more help. Before this, he was extremely helpful with parenting, but I tried to be really mindful of his demanding work and church responsibilities and let him sleep and work when he got home. However, I started not being able to do as much during the day so evenings when my husband was home were sometimes the only time of day I could actually be productive. He was more than willing to take turns being on “Henrik Duty” during the evening so I could accomplish even just a few tasks. It made a big difference.
He is the best teammate when it comes to parenting. He loves Henrik and knows how to help him settle down when he is crying. They enjoy playing and laughing together and have great baby conversations. In the middle of the night, Chris is always willing to handle diapers so that way I can go back to bed as soon as Henrik is done eating. He washes bottles, tidies up around the house, runs to the store when we are out of diapers, cooks dinner when I can’t, and so much more.
There have been a few nights when he has been gone in the evenings and those are always the hardest. I survive, but they are certainly not fun or easy. I really could not do this whole motherhood thing without him.
Something happened over the weekend that drastically changed my approach to motherhood. About a week ago, Henrik started going through a growth spurt and he suddenly wanted to go from eating every 3-4 hours during the day to every 2 hours day and night (sometimes even more frequently). I could handle all the extra feedings during the day, but night was a different story. I was exhausted and totally drained (literally and figuratively). On Sunday morning after I fed Henrik around 9 am (his fifth feeding since midnight), Chris offered to hang out with him so I could sleep more. I nodded my head and wearily walked back to bed.
I woke up a little after 11 and knew I needed to eat something since all I had been doing for the last 15 hours was feeding someone else or sleeping. I got up and started walking towards the bedroom door, but my vision started to fade. This sometimes happened to me since I’m hypoglycemic so I just leaned against the wall and waited for my vision to fully return. Except it didn’t. I totally blacked out and remember starting to convulse really violently. I vaguely remember hitting my head and knee multiple times against the wall. When I finally came to, I called Chris and explained what happened. Half of my body felt kind of numb and I still felt really woozy (plus my head and knees hurt) so Chris helped me lay back down on the bed. Henrik started fussing in the other room so I told Chris to go take care of that and I called my mom to see what she thought I should do.
I talked with our friend who is an ER doctor and he said what I experienced could have been a seizure or just passing out, it’s impossible to say. I told him I already had an appointment with my general doctor later in the week and he said to just bring it up with him and see what he thinks.
Long story short, I’m guessing this episode occurred because of exhaustion and lack of food. This finally has convinced me that I need to put (at least some of) my needs first. Mainly, eating more in the mornings and resting when I get overtired. I can’t take care of Henrik if I’m blacking out and convulsing nor would it be safe for me to be alone with him.
I’ve started making some changes so I can be healthier. This means cooking larger meals that will produce more leftovers for me to eat when I wake up and accepting help when I feel totally exhausted and spent. I’ve decided that it’s ok to spend more on groceries so that I can have more food easily available to me during the day. I have also decided that it’s not only ok to accept help, but to ask for it when I’m in need. It’s only been a few days, but it has already made a big difference. I feel more energized and while I still have some mild blackout moments, they haven’t been anything like my episode on Sunday. It also helps that Henrik’s growth spurt seems to have passed and is sleeping better ☺.
My advice to all moms would be to not wait until something as dramatic and scary happens to you before realizing that your needs are vital to the health of your child. And accept help! Raising a child is truly a team effort. We’re not supposed to have to do it all alone. Build your team with friends and family members and use them when you are in need. It will make a world of difference in your mental and physical health and help you be a better mother.
I am incredibly grateful for my team. My husband, parents, siblings, and friends have made a huge difference in my life as I navigate this new territory. I could not do this without them, and you shouldn’t have to either.
Photos by Pearl Photo and Design