I have re-read these words that Robyn Gordon sent to me a week ago so.many.times. While pregnancy and motherhood often feel completely all-consuming, there's nothing like a pandemic and full-on 24/7 parenting to remind us that it's SO HARD. The uncertainty, guilt, and need for a real break have punctuated all of my recent conversations. So here's our timely reminder that we need to advocate for ourselves, ask for help, and prioritize our own well-being.
During pregnancy, not only are we building a human being with our bodies, we are also morphing from an autonomous individual mostly free to spend our time, energy and resources any way we like into a person with responsibilities for others lives and well-being. We begin to feel the limitations of our time, energy and resources as we experience sickness, exhaustion, physical pain and discomfort, or simply getting too big at some point to tie our own shoes or go for a run.
In becoming a mother, we lose some of our autonomy, but we gain many other things, including a deeper sense of self and purpose in life for things in and outside of our home. We become oriented to a deeper richer fuller life if we allow ourselves the transformation.
But we can’t transform alone. We need help. We need to advocate for ourselves and our needs. While motherhood is a time of giving to the next generation, it is also a time of asking for and receiving help. The task is too big to do alone as an autonomous individual.
It’s important to stop, pause and reflect on what it is that you really need to get through this time.
Practice this skill. You will need it the rest of your life. The reality of raising small, helpless humans is that we do often need to put their needs ahead of ours, particularly in the early days of infancy and toddlerhood. This makes it even more important that we take care of ourselves as much as possible and ask for as much help as we need to make sure we are able to take care of ourselves while we grow, birth and raise the next generation.
Otherwise we burn out. The longer our needs go unmet, the bigger the problems our future selves to have to deal with later. If we risk disappointing someone else to meet our needs now, not only do we take better care of ourselves, we also model for our children how to take care of themselves.
Even more, we give the person we are disappointing the opportunity to deal with their feelings and learn how to take care of themselves as well. After all, their disappointment is their concern, not ours. It’s uncomfortable to practice this. We are hardwired to be empathetic and we have a strong desire to belong. And if we have to twist ourselves into knots emotionally to take care of someone else’s feelings, we might need to rethink the relationship.
It’s ok to move away from relationships that are not a two-way street. You are allowed to take care of yourself first so you have the time, energy and resources to put into your baby and your growing family.
You are the longest relationship you will ever have with anyone in your lifetime.
Be kind to yourself.
Put yourself first.
You will have more time, resources and energy to take care of others if you do.