Tag: anxiety

Self Care for the Solo Parent

“Self Care” is such a buzz word right now. When I first started treatment for my postpartum depression and anxiety, my therapist would always ask what I did for “self care” or what my “self care routine” was. At first, I really thought she was asking me about my hygiene…which isn’t really a crazy thought considering one huge battle with my depression is mustering up the energy to get out of bed and take a shower (sounds awful, but if you’ve felt this way before, you know exactly what I’m talking about). I had no idea that self care had more to do with the little things you do just for yourself than it did with hygiene.

The hard part about making sure I include self care in my daily routine, is that I am a solo parent most of the time. I will not say I am a “single mom” because I am not, but when my husband is deployed for the better part of a year, I am definitely doing it alone. We are far from home (across the country to be exact!) so I lack the physical support from my family as well. Being a solo parent means self care might look a little bit different for me.

 

Setting a strict bedtime for my child is a MUST.

I sometimes struggle, as a working mom, with the guilt of putting my kid to bed early since I haven’t gotten to spend a ton of time with him all day. Not having my other half around to tag team the nighttime routine means it is all left on me. Not only is a strict bedtime better for my cranky (soon to be) two year old, but it gives me the routine and time I need to do something for myself. Knowing that my son will be in bed by 7:30pm each night means I can count on that hour and a half each night (after doing all the tedious chores – dishes, laundry, etc.) spent on self care, such as popping some popcorn and binge-watching SVU on Netflix, laying in a hot bath with that crazy new bath bomb I bought off Facebook, or something as simple as painting my toes. When I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed during the day, I remind myself that I will get my “me time” tonight.

 

What needs to be done right now, and what can wait. 

I had been explaining to my therapist that I felt the constant need to keep a spotless home because that is “what a good mom does” (in my mind). She asked me, “Are you expecting Martha Stewart over for dinner?” I laughed, but she was right. Who was I trying to impress? No, my home is never a filthy mess, but I would get a lot of anxiety when theres an overflowing laundry basket or shoes strewn across the living room. We decided to list the things that needed to be done right now, and things that could be put off until later (or never – because really, the bathroom doesn’t actually have to be painted turquoise just because you pinned it on Pinterest). Things like washing the dishes after dinner…would it matter if I did it the next morning? Probably not. Do we need clean clothes tomorrow morning? Of course. Prioritizing my To Do List is a huge part of self care because feeling overwhelmed and like I am a bad mom for something so silly is just unnecessary.

 

It can be the little things that mean the most. 

Since I do not have a steady babysitter or family and friends that I can bribe ask to babysit, I have had to find self care options that are quick and easy to fit into my schedule. Sometimes this means I stop on the way to work for my favorite drink from my favorite coffee shop or get my eyebrows waxed on the way home from work (because seriously…have you seen how different you look after getting those things cleaned up!?). Self care doesn’t always mean elaborate nights out, massages, or weekend getaways. Self care can mean you sit in the car outside of day care, listening to your favorite song for just an extra three minutes before walking in.

 

Celebrate your independence. 

A huge part of what gets me down is feeling like I am never doing “enough” as a mom. Being a solo parent means I usually don’t have someone to remind me that I am doing a good job or to help me when I’m struggling so I end up NOT feeling like a failure. Part of my self care routine now is looking at my day and thinking about ONE thing I did that proves I am a good mom. It can be the fact that I got to day care drop off on time this morning, that I managed to cook a healthy meal for dinner, or that I made sure I spent extra time cuddling my son today. It sounds so silly, but sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader when you are alone!

 

Yes, my son comes first 100%, but I’ve learned that I am not giving him any less by shifting HOW I meet his needs. He will always be loved, fed, clothed, bathed, etc., but it may look different depending on my needs that day (because, as hard as it was to learn, I am important too!). Putting my kid down for bedtime early so I can veg out on the couch after a rough day is much better for him (and me) than getting frustrated and snapping because he ripped his diaper off (again) and went running through the house right before bedtime. Self care doesn’t have to be something elaborate or expensive, it can be quick, free, and easy once you know what YOUR self care is and how you can fit it into YOUR schedule.

Labor & Delivery…and Trauma

Pregnancy was such a joy for me. Although I dealt with awful morning sickness and some pretty tough back pain, I always just felt SO good. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, mentally, I felt like I was glowing. Around 5 months, I found out that I had “Polyhydramnios” (extra amniotic fluid for no apparent reason) which caused my pregnancy to become high-risk. I ended up needing to go for non-stress tests and ultrasounds weekly, but even through that, I remained pretty optimistic and thankful to just be carrying this little human life. My doctor decided to induce me about a week early (standard practice for Polyhydramnios apparently), so when the time came to go to the hospital, I was just over the moon thinking about bringing my baby home in a few days.

I think my idea of induction was a little overly optimistic. I went in around 7pm and was given Cervidil to help dilate my cervix overnight. The next morning…nothing. I was disappointed, but I knew there was no way this was going to be a cake walk. The doctor began Pitocin and within a few hours, the most excruciating pain began in my lower back. I pride myself in having a pretty high pain tolerance, but this was NOT like anything I could have expected. I felt like I had one HUGE contraction that just never let up. All my dreams of walking around the hospital or dancing my way through labor went out the window. I was in so much pain, I was basically blacking out, coming to as nurses rolled me around on a peanut ball, and blacking back out again. Finally, after an entire day of this, a nurse came in and said, “I can’t even bear to look at you like this, I think we need to talk about an epidural.” I knew I wanted to get an epidural, but the other nurses kept saying it was too soon. I don’t even remember getting the epidural put in, but boy do I remember it kicking in! I finally was able to relax a bit, but I continued to make very little progress toward labor. The nurses had me rolling back and forth almost constantly. I thought, at the time, that this was normal. Finally, the next afternoon, after about 32 hours of labor, the doctor came in to put a little hole in my water. She came back to check a few hours later and was welcomed by a big old splash to the face (her expression was priceless)! It was FINALLY time to push!

I will never EVER forget the nurse saying to me, “The NICU team is going to come in, you know, just incase he comes out a little floppy.” WHAT? What exactly did FLOPPY mean? I didn’t even put much thought into it at the time, but looking back, what in the actual hell? I would find out later that my son’s cord was wrapped around his neck, and every time his heart rate would go down, the nurses would rush in to reposition me. They didn’t want to tell me about the cord, and part of me is grateful for that. Once it was go time, I pushed for 18 minutes and out he came, looking perfect. I was on top of the world. The NICU team left once they got the all clear, and we thought that was the last time we would see those nurses. We were wrong.

About 8 hours after my son was born, while my husband and I were exhausted and elated all at the same time, the scariest moment of my life happened. I hadn’t slept in days, and after 32+ hours of labor, I was exhausted. I swaddled my baby, laid him down in the bassinet, and tried to get some shut eye.

I woke up to my husband yelling, “Breathe! Come on! Breathe!” I jumped out of the hospital bed as he held our son, who was turning grey and then blue. I started screaming as we desperately tried to pat his back, rub his chest, and get him breathing. He was choking, struggling to get a breath, and not crying. I don’t even remember what happened next, but suddenly our nurse was in the room and Logan finally started to breathe again, gaining color back in his face. I collapsed into a pile on the floor, sobbing. I was terrified. The nurse seemed calm, reassuring us that this happens sometimes and they’re called “dusky episodes”. She convinced us to let her take him to the nursery so we could get some sleep.

While our son was in the nursery, he continued to have these episodes. A doctor came in and decided to send him to the NICU. My husband was a wreck, but somehow it just didn’t sink in for me. In my mind, I thought, “Ok, they are just going to check him out. He is fine, he will be in the best place he could be and we will take him home later tonight.” Walking into the NICU and seeing my son hooked up to tubes, wires, and an IV was heartbreaking, but it still didn’t quite click for me. When the charge nurse explained that he would have to stay in the NICU, I just froze. I remember hearing the nurses talk to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Everything was moving in slow motion around my son and I just felt broken inside.

Leaving the hospital without your baby has got to be one of the most painful experiences a mother could go through. Yes, I was lucky he was alive, and I know there are moms who don’t get to say that. I had to keep reminding myself of this each and every step I took down that long, empty hallway toward the parking garage that night. That week (again, yes, I am extremely blessed it was a week and not months) is still a blur to me. Luckily our son was in his own room in the NICU with a fold out couch, so we spent a LOT of time in that room. The nurses had to convince us to leave for showers and sleep, but it was heartbreaking each and every time we made that walk down the hallway.

Apparently my son had aspirated and swallowed amniotic fluid during birth, which caused an excess amount of fluid in his lungs and belly. Because of this, he needed his stomach pumped, lungs cleared, and antibiotics given all while monitoring him for all the standard things. I know that we are blessed that his was “all” that happened. I feel like when I share our story I have to keep saying that I know it could have been worse, I know he wasn’t a preemie, I know HE IS ALIVE. But what is important to understand that this trauma was just that…a trauma. In no way could comparing it to “what could have happened” make it feel any less painful.

The day we finally got to take our son home, I remember being happy, but dark and sad at the same time. I felt like I had failed as a mom. I felt guilty. What if my husband hadn’t been in the room that night? My son was gasping for breath and I didn’t wake up. I DIDN’T WAKE UP. It was the worst guilt I have ever felt in my life, that I laid there asleep as my son was struggling to breathe. I couldn’t let that feeling go. I remember the first night home, after laying him in his rock n’ play, I walked into his nursery, plopped down on the rocking chair, and sobbed uncontrollably. My husband came in and tried his best to calm me down, but I had lost all control. I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly flashing back to seeing my son turning blue, feeling that intense guilt, and watching every single breath he took.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of my journey with PTSD and postpartum depression & anxiety. Now, almost 2 years later, I am finally able to tell this story without bursting into tears. I have gone through a lot to get to this point, and I have made it part of my purpose as a mom to share my story, not just about what happened that night, but about my journey afterward. For now, I am happy to get through this post with dry eyes, but I know sharing the next part of my journey will be difficult.

 

This is one of the first pictures I took of my son in the NICU. I had refused to take pictures when he was on oxygen and all the other wires and monitors, it was just too painful. The nurses convinced me to take photos and video to help me at home when trying to pump. This photo is still tough to look at because it brings back a lot of emotions. I know we are beyond blessed to have a healthy baby, but it doesn’t take the pain away from our experience.