I’m capable of so many things. But in one of the most important aspects of my life, I am failing. Miserably.
I’ve proven myself more than capable. I am a mother, I am a wife, and I have a full-time job. I love my job. I also love all the other things I do. I support mothers as a postpartum doula. I design workshops for labor nurses. I am a writer. I am a friend. I clean my house, I mow my grass, and I take my daughter to the park. I cook healthy dinners for my family almost every night. I support my husband through law school. I offer knowledge and support to pregnant women and new mothers across the country, both friends and women I will never meet. And every morning, I make sure my daughter brushes her teeth and puts on clean underwear (bare minimum).
The way I’m failing is this. In taking care of everyone, and everything, else in the world, I’ve forgotten how to take care of myself.
How do I know this? (How did I NOT know this?) My body has overthrown me. For the past month and a half, I’ve been sick. At first it was a cold, a sore throat, and chills. Then it descended deep into my lungs. All of a sudden, two nights ago, I lied awake all night coughing and wheezing and barely able to breathe. Believe it or not, I waited a month and two weeks before I sought any treatment at all. Why? Because I already knew what was wrong with me. But I didn’t know how to fix it.
What is wrong with me?
I’m not a superwoman.
I am an every-day woman. I know this because I watch my dear friends and fellow mothers working just as hard as I do. Going without sleep, hauling their children to softball games and gymnastics classes, pursuing their masters’ degrees, baking gluten-free f&*^ing muffins, keeping doctor’s appointments, going to work as doctors and nurses and teachers, and growing, nourishing and raising their children. Bringing home the f&*^ing bacon and and frying it in a pan. Keeping their kids safe from a myriad of dangers and in stolen moments, trying to pursue their dreams.
As everyday mothers, we do heroic things every day.
As a nurse, doula and mother, I have a terrible vision that runs through my head on a regular basis. The subject of this vision changes. Sometimes it is my child. Sometimes it is my patient. Sometimes it is a new mother and her baby. What happens in the vision is always the same … my child, or my labor patient, or the postpartum woman and her baby, are drifting down a fast-moving river, in a tiny boat, without a paddle. Every second that passes, they get closer and closer to where the river drops off. The falls are as high, fierce and as deadly as Niagara Falls. I am standing on the riverbank watching. Realizing every time: I am their last chance. IF I DON’T DO IT, THEN WHO WILL?
The silly, and stupid, thing that I didn’t realize is this … I am not on the riverbank. I myself am in the river. Because I am so weak, and depleted, and have completely emptied my reserves, I’m trying to throw my rope while being pulled through the current myself.
We sometimes forget what a profound act it is to save ourselves, because it’s so simple to do, yet nearly unthinkable. This world will tell you that mind-numbing exhaustion is normal, that being sick for a month is normal, that not sleeping and being kept up with worry, that built-up frustration and fear and depression and anxiety are normal. The world will tell you that it’s normal to be drowning.
It’s not normal, and only you can fix it.
Yesterday I went to the pharmacy and I picked up all these prescriptions. Ideally I would choose herbs over drugs, essential oils over antibiotics, and chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture over pain medications. We’re beyond that now. These little bottles full of medications are a miracle to me. I can finally breathe. They are helping me heal. Even more, every time I look at them, they serve as a wake-up call.
Don’t be scared of letting anyone else down. Don’t let yourself down. We need you to be ok.