I don’t mean to do it, but it happens. Each time I’ve given birth, I’ve become consumed by the magic and wonder and exhaustion and fog of new motherhood, and over time, I’ve kind of lost myself. It happens out of love, and because I mean well, and because my desire is to usher our babies into the world in a peaceful way, but it turns out (and I suppose this should be obvious to me by now) that when I’m not good to myself for long periods of time, I’m no good to anyone else either.
I start to fizzle.
I don’t notice it at first, but it shows up in the hard parts of the day. I’m quicker to respond out of frustration than out of love. I’m hyper aware of all of the needs in my midst and I corner myself into the belief that I’m the only one who can meet them. I don’t ask for a break, because I feel like this is my job and I ought to be able to do it well. I take it seriously; I take pride in my ability to “get it all done.” And then, when no one else is looking, I crumble.
This past week, it was in the rocker in the nursery late at night. As I rocked our newest babe, wide awake at some unfortunate hour, I cried out of exhaustion and desperation and a deep, deep desire to just. do. anything. alone.
These babies? They are the most incredible gifts. And for the first little while, they’re also like extra appendages. If they’re the clingy type (Hey, I’d be too, if I’d never known anything outside of a womb before), we’re either nursing, wearing, carrying, rocking, swaying, bouncing or otherwise comforting a tiny human for hours on end and a looooong string of days at the beginning. I think this is good and absolutely beautiful.
I also know it can feel endless.
It isn’t endless, but when you’re in it? And when you’re up most of the night tending the needs of a little person, knowing that other little people are going to be waiting for you first thing in the morning with their own needs? Let’s just say there are blurry, dizzying moments, yes?
This isn’t all bad. For the most part, I think my head and heart should be focused on our babies and their siblings and the needs of everyone in our home. I’m called to this, and I’m grateful. But I have to be careful. I have to take time to recharge if I’m going to be at my best for anyone. We all do.
A few days back, I asked Jason if I could take time this weekend to redeem a gift certificate for a pedicure. I already had another item on the calendar that was going to get me out of the house alone for part of the morning, and I knew I’d benefit from an hour or two more. If I came home to nurse in between, we could make it happen, so we did.
I felt crazily guilty as I left the house with two of three kiddos crying inside, but I left anyway. I did something intellectually stimulating for an hour at our alma mater, and a little part of my brain came back. I grabbed a coffee without anyone or anything in tow. I dashed home to nurse the baby, and then I headed back out for a pedicure. Turns out defining a few hours as “me time” was probably one of the best things I did for my family all week.
It took those few hours, but I started to hear my own thoughts again. I felt energized. I stopped to look at pretty things in a lovely shop downtown–without any interruption. I pushed down more thoughts of feeling guilty and began to recognize my why for the afternoon: because when I stop pursuing lovely, I stop feeling lovely. And when I stop feeling lovely, I stop being lovely to the people who matter the most to me.
The cost of not caring for myself is far greater than the cost of making room for self care.
Yesterday afternoon I talked to adults who weren’t my beautiful children and I found myself in conversations about faith, doula work, navigating relationships and pursuing what is good. I had the chance to make a part of myself feel good again (hello, fresh polish!) in a season of limited rest, messy days on repeat inside the same four walls and post-baby body woes. I realize these are wonderful burdens to carry, but they’re wearing all the same.
A few weeks back, I decided that my word for 2017 would be “worthy.” I’ll unpack this in a separate post, but I couldn’t help reflecting on the word yesterday as I passed this time away from home and navigated guilt along the way. Worthy: having worth, merit or value. I have some work to do in owning this word in my heart and life, and this will be a year of determining what that can look like. What I do know is that my family is worthy of the me who is loving and patient–the me who teaches from rest and who operates out of self control and grace. I want to be a wife and mom who can love my people well at all times, and sometimes that means I’m going to need to love myself better along the way.
Do you find yourself on empty these days, too? The world around us is wild and crazy, but there are ways we can do our part to calm the storm. We can raise our babies well. We can start at home. We can start by setting our minds on what is lovely, and by being honest with ourselves and others when our tanks are running dry.
you are worthy. you are. we are.