A Word About Self-care

I was sitting alone in the house the other day holding Daniel. The other two kids were outside with my dad, and Daniel was having a really fussy day. I had finally gotten him to sleep after spending all morning bouncing him, shushing him, singing to him, walking with him, among other things. In addition to comforting my fussy baby, I felt like I had been putting out metaphorical fires– playing referee between David and Hannah, refilling sips cups, helping Hannah learn to use the potty, giving Daniel meds and dealing with his feeds. Then I realized something.

I am not okay.

I hadn’t eaten all morning, and I hadn’t showered in days. I was wearing no makeup, my hair was tied back in a messy bun, and I was covered in spit up. I felt like I was looking at an ogre every time I looked in the mirror. It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t look like myself; the worst part of all was I felt completely listless. I had zero energy, and I felt like I was in a fog. It took extreme effort to move. No energy and no will to try. I didn’t even recognize myself. I felt lost. Some overweight, miserable intruder had taken over my life.

What happened? I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to that question for days. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

We have been home from the hospital for nine and a half weeks. It has taken this long for us to really get into a rhythm. Daniel’s medication schedule is finally more manageable, and he is sleeping more at night. David and Hannah are growing up and have finally figured out our routine. We are all starting to believe that Daniel is home for real, and that we won’t be going back for a while. You’d think things would be perfect, right?

My main priority for weeks has been “Keep Daniel OUT of the hospital.” All of my waking energy has been geared toward that one goal. Somewhere in being a mom to a medically complex baby and two very active toddlers, I stopped making self-care a priority.

After Daniel’s Norwood, he was intubated for 10 days. Once they took out the breathing tube, I finally got a chance to hold him. He had an arterial line, three other IVs (one in each leg and one in the other hand), a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter probe, and other stickers measuring his heart rate and respiratory rate. Basically I was holding my tiny, six pound baby boy amidst all the wires and tubes keeping him alive. If the arterial line comes out, it could spell disaster, so I know I have to be extremely careful

Then all of a sudden I started to black out. My head started swimming, and I realized I was about to pass out. Immediately I yelled for his nurse, and she came and took Daniel and put him back in the bed. I looked down at my Apple Watch, and it showed my heart rate was 41 beats per minute. When the nurse came in, she double checked it and confirmed that was correct. She then took my blood pressure. It was very high– something like 150/110.

I immediately went downstairs to the doctor–that’s one benefit from living at a hospital. Doctors EVERYWHERE–and I was referred to a cardiologist. The irony of the situation made me laugh hysterically. Why do I need to make an appointment with a cardiologist?? I have practically been living with a whole floor of cardiologists.

I went to my cardiology appointment feeling annoyed. I kept thinking, “I DON’T HAVE TIME TO HAVE HEALTH PROBLEMS RIGHT NOW! BODY, GET IT TOGETHER!” After a full workup, the cardiologist gave me my diagnosis. The thing causing me to have high blood pressure and a low heart rate was….

Stress.

I didn’t think I needed to make eating, drinking, and sleeping a priority. I would power through. Daniel needed me more than I needed those things. When I almost passed out, I thought I was handling things really well. I wasn’t even that stressed at that moment.

Apparently my body knew better. You can’t fake out your body. It will shut down if you don’t eat, drink, breathe, and sleep. From that moment on, I made those four things a priority. It was my mantra– eat, drink, breathe, sleep. If I did those four things, I felt like I had accomplished something.

Why didn’t I remember that lesson at home? Here I am, making the same mistakes.

I am eating the wrong foods all the time. Why? Because it is 11 a.m. before I ingest anything other than coffee. By lunchtime, I am starving and exhausted, so I reach for the things I think will give me a quick boost– carbs and sugar-loaded junk. Forget about exercise. It is TAX SEASON, which means my resident baby sitters are always working. Even if I did have someone to watch Daniel, let’s be honest. I am too exhausted and barely functioning as it is. I am just so tired all the time.

When Daniel is crying and David and Hannah need me, I have more important things to do than brush my hair, brush my teeth, wash my face, put on lipstick, and change clothes. Never mind the fact that I need to do those things to feel like a human being. Nope! I can power through!

Wrong. I have been so, so wrong. This week I am making self-care a priority. I am realizing that I am a better wife and mother–a better, happier PERSON–when I am taking care of myself.

And to be honest, I simply can’t go on like this. I am burning out. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If I am going to have the strength I need to make it through all the hills and valleys, I need to do something different.

Here is how I am changing my routine–

  1. Instead of waking up to a cup of coffee, I am making a smoothie to start off my day. 1 grapefruit, 1 serving each of frozen pineapple and frozen blueberries, a scoop of protein powder, one cup of fairlife fat free milk, a handful of kale, and a small squeeze of local honey, all blended together. I’m still drinking obscene amounts of coffee each day…just after my smoothie.

  2. I am making time for exercise no matter what. I love it. I am so much better when I am working out. I absolutely love CG. I need it like I need medicine. It is no longer an option. I need to make it happen. I’ve worked out two days this week! I feel 100 times better already.

  3. I am drinking more water. It isn’t uncommon for me to go all day drinking only Diet Coke and coffee. I know that is BAD. The only excuse I have is the fact that I am literally just trying to make it minute by minute, and I feel like the caffeine is necessary for me to keep going. I know that is an illusion, though. My body needs water to function. I’m completely cutting out the diet soda, I’m cutting down my coffee intake to 2 cups per day, and I am forcing myself to drink water.

  4. Eating is a priority. No excuses.

  5. I feel silly even including this one, but it needs to be said. I am making basic hygiene a priority. That means washing my face in the morning, changing clothes, brushing my hair, taking a shower. All of the basic things that somehow get pushed to the back burner when other people are more important.

When I feel and look bad, I feel like less of a person. I feel unworthy. I start to hate myself for not being able to get everything done, for being so useless, for looking so ugly, for gaining weight and feeling fat.

Here’s the issue with that way of thinking– if I am less worthy in my mind when I look and feel bad, then I am more worthy when I look and feel good.

More worthy to whom? The only one I should care about is God, and the simple fact is nothing I do makes me more or less worthy of Him. To remind us of Christ’s saving grace, Paul writes, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

I need to let go of the idea that I am somehow less worthy as a person if I am overweight or if I don’t do my hair and makeup or if I have an unproductive day. I need to remember that “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

When I remember my identity as one of the “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9), then I can have the freedom to make good choices. I can exercise and eat healthy foods because I want to be a good steward of this body, not because it makes me a better person. I can do my hair and makeup if I want to, but if I don’t, I’m not less worthy of love.

Remembering my identity in Christ helps me remember to give myself grace. So many times in the last few weeks, I have been saying the words, “I just can’t do it.” I need to eat right and exercise and lose weight, but I just can’t do it. I need to feel better and be happy and get it together, but I just can’t do it.

I may not be able to do it, but God can. I know that “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). My weaknesses are just another opportunities to show how strong my God is.

For all of you reading, please do a mental self-check every once in a while. Are you okay? Sometimes we are so busy that we don’t even think of ourselves. If you’re not okay, go back to the basics– eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and pray. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

“’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Here are some fun pictures of my precious kiddos. I love them so much.

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