As hemo moms, we are the best when teaching others about self-care, but can be the worst at taking care of ourselves.
Quick question — When was your child’s last doctor’s appointment and when is the next one scheduled? Now ask those same two questions of yourself. For most of us, we can’t quickly answer the second question.
I know that my last OB-GYN appointment was in July and I don’t have another one scheduled, even though I should have a follow-up because my iron levels were low. To be very honest, this was the first time I’ve seen the OB-GYN since I had my 4-year-old twins. I took the time to make sure that Laithan was set up with a hematologist right away and got factor into the house for emergencies, but never made the follow-up postnatal appointment for myself. A few months later I received a letter that my OB-GYN had left the practice, so all motivation to go back was gone after that. I am very lucky that everything was okay.
Ever since both of my sons were of age to understand, I have taught them how important it is to take the time out of their busy day to do their factor, three times a week. I have explained to them that if they don’t take their factor, they could have a spontaneous bleed that would slow them down from things they really wanted to do. At ages 12 and 4, I believe they successfully learned this lesson. Sometimes, my 4-year-old reminds me it’s “Factor Day” and I no longer have to give him treats for sitting still. I need to apply the same logic to self-care…taking care of my mind, body, and spirit!
We should think about taking care of ourselves the same way we think of prophylaxis: Self-care is something we have to do to prevent ourselves from having a “burnout,” from becoming overly stressed and not completing everything we need to do as a parent. It’s much like we do prophy to avoid a spontaneous bleed or major bleeds caused by injury. If I don’t take the time to do things that are for Lovee’, I may not be able to successfully handle all the things everyone wants from “Mommy!”
I remember when I was a child, my twin brother and I would spend the summer with my grandmother in New York. Sometimes when we would bug her to take us outside to blow bubbles, she would sit on the couch with her eyes closed and say, “I’m resting my eyes.” After several times of seeing her do this, we quickly learned that when Grandma was “resting her eyes” we needed to go find something else to do until she was done. I used to think she was just asleep, but now that I am older, I realize that Grandma was doing a form of self-care. She was not used to dealing with the responsibility of little ones all day. I’m sure that those long summer visits were draining on her. “Resting her eyes” was a way for her to rejuvenate, so she could continue to keep us entertained.
Like my Grandma, I am learning how to “rest my eyes” with four kids. I used to think that I could take time for myself after everyone went to sleep at night. I would stay up late and try to read or even paint. The problem was I would be too tired to really enjoy my time alone and found myself cranky in the morning from staying up late. I learned that actually going to bed and getting up a few hours before everyone worked best for me. Over the summer I wake up at 7 AM, go out on the back porch and read a magazine or just look at my garden while I drink a hot cup of coffee. How often do you get to drink a hot cup of coffee?! Having that time for myself really made me feel like I could take on the day.
We use the acronym R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) for treating a bleed or injury and we teach it to our children with a bleeding disorder. Here’s a new take on R.I.C.E. for hemo mom self-care:
Retreat to a place where you can go and take time away from everyday responsibilities or distractions. I have an office/craft room that I escape to when I want time alone.
Identify things you like doing that bring you joy. In order for self-care to be effective, it has to bring you joy. I’ve discovered over the last couple of years that I love to paint. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I really enjoy it and sometimes my kids like my pictures.
Communicate to your family that you are taking some time out for yourself. Eventually they will understand and respect it like my brother and I did with my grandmother. My family knows when I go in my office/craft room I don’t like to be bothered…even my husband gives me space.
Enforce it upon yourself to make self-care a habit. This is a hard one…I am bad at making myself paint at least once a week. This is where scheduling the time comes in handy and treating it like your most important appointment of the week.
Self-care should not only be what we teach our children with a bleeding disorder. We have to practice self-care for ourselves. Our children learn more from watching us anyway. If they see us taking the time to care for ourselves, such as, by going to a doctor’s appointment to follow up on our own healthcare, exercising, eating right for our body, and doing things that bring joy to our spirit, then they truly will learn what self-care is and as a result, we will all be better care takers.
Lovee’ lives in South Carolina with her husband, Charles, and her children, MaRee’ (15), Marques (11), Laithan and Layla (4.)
*Note: “Infusing Love: A Mom’s View,” is a blog collection of personal opinions and a representation of individuals experiences. While extensive efforts are made to ensure accuracy of the content, the blog entries do not represent HFA or its Board of Directors. The blog is also not intended to be construed as medical advice or the official opinion/position of HFA, its staff, or its Board of Directors. Readers are strongly encouraged to discuss their own medical treatment with their healthcare providers.