Your health is one of those things you don't really think too much about unless there's something wrong.
Caregiver RisksThe other day, I was doing some research for an article I was writing on the health risks to family caregivers (i.e. children caring for their elderly parent). Well, it said that family caregivers suffer from the following:
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor nutrition
- Failing to exercise
- Not being able to stay in bed when ill
- No "me" time
- Lack of outside support
- Failing to make and attend appointments for their own health
The reason I found this almost funny is that while these are all real concerns for people caring for their elderly parents or relatives, each one of these also totally applies to being a mom! The only difference is that we can't just put our children in a care facility (just kidding).
Jokes aside, being a mom is hard, and often times taking care of your own health goes out the window. So what do you do when you suddenly are struggling with some type of health problem that demands attention? How can you justify parenting less to take care of yourself more?
This is a challenge that many moms face at least once, if not more, in their parenting career, and it's not something to be taken lightly. I consider myself lucky since none of my health challenges have been overly serious, but an experience this past Christmas showed me just how much my health mattered when it came the my son's emotional well being.
The Worst Christmas Vacation
We were in Utah visiting family, and I got a terrible cold. Like, "make your whole body hurt and you can't breathe at all" terrible. Then on Christmas night, I woke up puking at about 10 p.m., which continued every ten minutes, or so, into the wee hours of the morning. Being out-of-state, we were without insurance. Being 14 weeks pregnant, and completely dehydrated, I legitimately felt like I was about to die. Oh, and my son also had been struggling with breathing due to a bad cold, and was only sleeping at all thanks to the Nose Frida.
So, my husband took me to the local ER, and they thought I might have a kidney infection due to my history of UTIs and current back pain (we later found out the back pain was from spending the night on the bathroom floor). Despite being given IV fluids and anti-nausea medication, I continued to throw up and feel like death. Meanwhile, my poor sick son sat and watched, although he did fall asleep at one point. Finally, my mom offered to take my son home with her, while my husband stayed with me and waited for some test results. It was so hard to watch my son be taken away when I knew he was ill himself, and in a new and strange place, and most likely afraid (he didn't know my parents that well).
My husband sat patiently and brought me some snacks, none of which I could even look at, let alone eat. To make matters worse, the nurse couldn't seem to find our baby's heartbeat with the doppler. We were scheduled for an ultrasound to ensure the baby was alright. I still felt terrible with no improvement.
Fast-foward to a couple hours later: the baby was fine and I had quit puking, but my mom called to tell my husband that my son had been sleeping all day, was sluggish, and didn't seem very responsive. My husband decided that he needed to go take our son to an urgent care, since we suspected he might have croup. Yayyyyy.
Well, eventually I was admitted and was able to keep some fluids down that night before carefully consuming my entire hospital breakfast the next morning. They never were able to find out what was wrong, but I did spend the night in the hospital alone, knowing my son was sick with a confirmed case of croup, and my husband was beside himself with worry about us both.
The next day, I was able to go home, but I was horribly weak for about ten days following. The trouble was that my son was still sick and freaked out whenever my husband went anywhere--almost like he was saying, "First mommy, and now you?!?" He became extremely attached to my husband, and wouldn't let me hold him or even look at him. As the typical preferred parent, this really hurt my feelings. I later came to understand that my son was scared that I would leave him, and it bothered him that I was so weak and couldn't play with him, either. What did I learn from this experience?
The Oxygen Mask
When you're on a flight, they always say that when the oxygen masks come down, to secure your own before going to help someone (likely your child) with theirs. This is so hard, but so true. I couldn't comfort or help my son until I myself was healed and feeling better. Whether your health problem is short-lived or chronic/long-term, it's important to remember that you can't be the mom they need unless you focus on your health first.
Every person's situation is different, but do your best to take care of your needs first. That way, you'll be able to do more for your kids. It might not be much, but they'll appreciate you trying and they will know that no matter what, you love them with your entire being.
My son eventually forgave me and got over the trauma of me leaving him, but I still think about that experience often. It shows me how much my son values me and my health, and how much he learned to rely on his dad when I couldn't be there for him. In reality, there were many blessings, but it was a scary thing that I wouldn't want to repeat.