Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hurry Up and Slow Down: Validating My Irritable Uterus

Already the newest But Not Unhappy Baby is getting demanding. Well, it's more like my uterus is getting demanding.(I guess it's not really a good thing that I can ignore hours of contractions. Except when I'm in labor. Then it rocks.) It's been so darn irritable the doctor put me on "moderate" bed rest--which is apparently defined as "only doing the things you HAVE to do."

My first question: What have I been doing that I didn't have to be doing? I mean I'd already pretty much limited my to do list to things that are either smelly (dishes and laundry), whiny (children and husband), or embarrassing (I'm pretty sure you can fill in that blank!). Now which of those am I supposed to let go of? It's been a real conundrum.

I actually got put on bed rest last Thursday but it's taken me this long to get my head wrapped around it. At first I was just stunned. Then I was frustrated. Now I think I'm glad.

Over the last 24ish hours, when I've actually been sitting down and resting, I've noticed something: I'm tired! As in exhausted. My body, my mind, my spirit, all of me is tired. Now, I know I've been blogging about being tired for quite awhile now so this isn't a surprise to you all, but the extent of my lethargy surprised me. With all of our selling-and-buying-a-house-busy-ness I've been running on adrenaline for months now. Being forced to sit down and take it easy has made me face what kind of toll that has taken.

After Baby J was born, almost 3 years ago!, a therapist told me I needed to rest. She wanted me to find someone to take my kids (including the 2 month old baby) for 36 hours and then go find a quiet place and sleep. The therapist actually said to me, "You're not getting more depressed. You're tired. Fatigue and depression look a lot alike. Get some rest." Since I was breastfeeding I wrote her off. Who can sleep for that long when they have a nursing infant? It makes my boobs hurt just thinking about it.

Then, after months of Baby J's sleep problems, our family doctor said, "Can't you find someone to watch your kids so you can rest? Do you have any family in town? Can your husband take a day off work? Get a hotel room and sleep. For as long as you can. You need to sleep." Again, I wrote her off because I honestly believed there was no one who would take my kids for that period of time. Or that my kids would go for it.

Our family doc brings it up every time she sees me and it gotten to be joke between us. But then, the second time I saw my psychiatrist, she said the same thing. She too wanted me to find a quiet place to sleep for at least 24 hours. It was starting to sound familiar. . .

I had an "emergency" session with my therapist last month and she pushed me to set up a few days at a hotel so I could sleep and rest. Just have the opportunity to do nothing. And I almost did it. My kiddos are all old enough that I wouldn't need to nurse anyone and they could all deal with me being gone for awhile. I spent a whole evening looking online for a nice, affordable, quiet place but then things got crazy with our house being on the market and I never actually made the reservation.

I think there's this anti-rest attitude that has been hammered into my brain that just won't let me slow down. I think it partly has to do with the whole "be not weary with well doing" idea. You know, we're supposed to wear ourselves out doing good works and serving God. Who are the biggest Mormon female role models? Pioneer women who practically died on the trail helping others and modern "pioneer-type" women who work themselves to exhaustion serving at the temple/church/cubscouts/whatever. Rarely do you hear a conference talk or read an Ensign article about a chick who said, "Well, I've done a couple things today but I'm beginning to feel a little oyshed so I'm gonna just put my feet up and relax. Let someone else get it done."

I don't think the Church is entirely to blame, though. After all, let's not forget "Good, Better, Best" and "There is a time and a season." No, I blame society at large too. America has long been a country that values hard work--you know, Puritans and boot straps and all that business--and that's not bad. I think those ideas have taken a strange turn over the last 20 or 30 years, though,
when it comes to women. Especially women who have children and stay home with them.

Since the feminist movement (which, for the most part, I am a fan of) women who choose to have children and then choose to stay home with them have to validate their choices. Very few people second guess a woman who goes into engineering or becomes a lawyer. Even women who choose more traditionally female roles like nursing and teaching are understood and looked at as contributing members of society. Women who stay home with their kids have to prove their choices and we usually do it in not so subtle competitions: who has the most children, whose house is the cleanest, whose kids are the best behaved, whose children score highest on different tests or exhibit the most talent, who is the most frugal, who is the most fit, who spends the most time volunteering, or which mommy can do all those things and still hold down side jobs that bring in bonus cash so that her family can have that nice car or fancy vacation. I can think of only one or two women who are secure enough in their choice to stay home that they don't buy into at least one or two of these catty comparisons.

(Now a woman who does one or more of the above may not necessarily be doing it strictly for competitive reasons, but I'm betting self-validation and approval of others factors in more than she'd like to admit. When I look back on the most meaningful conversations I've had with other women telling them that their choices are okay--that they have nothing to prove--is almost always an easily identifiable theme. For evidence just go look at other mommies' Facebook statuses. They really want you to click the like button.)

(Other parenthetical thought: Do men struggle with this kind of competition too? The busier you are the better you are? Seriously folks. I want answers.)

Some of us chicks maybe try to prove we are more savvy and that we don't buy into these ideas by avoiding housework or not taking on extra jobs. But even then we talk too loudly and too often about why we're doing what we're doing because we're still trying to get people to tell us that they approve of our choices, because we ourselves are not sure how we feel about them.

So now it's the end of March and I've apparently been hard enough on my body that my uterus is yelling at me. It's tired and wants to rest. Even if I don't. So I'm doing my best to embrace it. My oldest is at school. My preschooler and my 2-year-old are watching a lot of "educational" (you can see me rolling my eyes, right?) tv. And I'm writing a really, really long blog post.

Because, in all honesty, I'm trying validate my restful choice. You better leave me a comment telling me that you validate it too! (wink, wink)


Heathie said...

[I like this] :)
I don't want to scripture bash or anything, but there's also a verse that says "don't run faster than you have strength." It seems like it contradicts not being weary of doing good, but I feel like the weary they're talking about is less physical and more of an attitude thing.
On the mission, they always told us, "Work hard, but DON'T wear yourself out. Your own health is priority." Because without it, you can't do anything for anyone else. Even now I try to stick with that advice when I can. It's hard to find a good 8 hour chunk of sleep as a mom, but in my mind that's what the "educational" shows are for: "Sit here for a couple shows, kids; Mom needs a nap." :)

Dianna said...

I validate YOU, for sure. For me, I put off sleeping and resting because that is when I start to think, think about my depression. My coping mechanism is to be so busy I CAN'T think about being depressed and figuratively painting myself into a corner so I almost have to collapse before I will rest. You might want to examine the words "be not weary in well doing" like I did as I read your blog. I doubt our pioneer ancestors would look at our lives and want us to serve in weariness. I know I often do though. It has been my experience that when my mind and heart don't give me permission to recover from weariness, my body forces me to through illness or even injury - like tripping down the stairs when I am hurrying. I hope your body, mind, and heart can agree and give yourself some refreshing, replenishing rest. (I'm preaching to myself too.)

Marinda said...

I saw a link to your blog on my friend's blog. Can I just say, I am so impressed! Thank you for being so refreshingly honest, uplifting and clear minded. You inspire me.

Anonymous said...

This is the viewpoint of an old lady who has been there and done that (although not NEARLY to the extent that you have), and the wisdom of my years says, "For goodness' sake, girl, take a nap!" For years I thought I couldn't rest until EVERYTHING WAS DONE. Listen, everything is never going to be done and doesn't have to be. I'm right behind Heathie. There is no guilt in taking care of your mind and body. That is a good thing you should not be weary in doing well, just taking care of yourself. God bless you and comfort you.

Sus said...

I wish you could truly understand how much what you say voices exactly how I feel. It's been almost 25 years since I had a baby, but I STILL haven't been able to get enough rest. My whole life revolves around working, serving, preparing, and listening to everyone else.

I am, like you, depressed, but not unhappy. When you write these kinds of things you seriously make ME feel validated.

I wish I knew how to change things to make life easier, but I don't. I'd certainly share if I had any answers.

I'm awfully glad you're giving in and getting some rest. I think you deserve it!

Becca Jones said...

This is one of the reasons I am grateful that I have fibromyalgia. I really CAN'T do everything, so I started having to evaluate what I really could do. Turns out not much. And then it turns out that my home was filled with the Spirit anyway, even with the messy floors, dishes in the sink, and half-dressed kids.

I do feel bad when people look into my front door and refuse to enter the house. And when babysitters refuse to come back because of the mess.

But, over the years, I've learned not to feel bad for everything that wasn't getting done. In fact, I discovered that not even trying to do it all makes me happy.

And then I discovered that a happy woman makes a better wife and mother.

So now I always put myself first. It's a favor to everyone else.

Kelly said...

I am the ultra-competitive mom. And probably proud of it. But thanks for the honesty of your posts. And now that school is cancelled tomorrow, if you need some sleep, you have me (or many other friends) who would happily take the kiddos so you really can get some rest. Just call!

sarah louise said...

(I realize I will be struck by lightening any day now)...but that scripture "don't run faster than you have strength," I always (in my head) follow it with "but you better be running."
I am one of those people who thinks I have to do it all and feel so tired trying. I am slowly learning to let things go, but it is hard to change my thinking.

Thanks always for voicing your thoughts and helping some of us know we are not alone!

Valerie said...

Before I saw the other comments, I was scrolling down to say that I honestly believe that some moms fill their life to the brim so they don't have time to think. Then BAM! One of the commentors actually said that! Awesome am I.

I quit going to certain playgroups because of the cattiness. I can't stomach it. Especially when in the fog and I can barely do anything at all, much less "compete".

Johanna said...

I've been thinking about this post and decided it was time to quit lurking and leave a comment! Get some rest!! You have doctors telling you to do it, so do it!! I don't think we should work to the point of weariness, except in times of great distress (and no, being a mom isn't one of those times). I haven't struggled with depression nearly as long as you have, but when I finally confronted the fact that I was, my therapist said something that really helped me to change my thinking when she told me that I was ill, and I should expect to take awhile to get better and that I should take care of myself as though I had just recovered from something like pneumonia. When I get tired, I try not to do the guilt thing, but just tell myself, "you need the rest, you've been ill". And I discovered that I really feel better when I'm not tired. Sure there are "super moms" but who wants to be one of those?? There are plenty who turn on Nick Jr. and nap on the couch and feed their kids microwave chicken nuggets - and their kids are still happy and healthy. The important thing is that you take care of your health and don't worry about justifying your choices. Yea! for a baby who wants you to slow down. Hang in there! And thanks for sharing your journey.

Emily said...

Whew! Just reading your post makes me tired! BTW, hi! This is your cousin-in-law Emily. I started reading your blog a few weeks ago and am really enjoying it, so I decided to stop lurking. Anyway if you need to hear it again, REST! Doctor's orders. :) I also enjoyed your thoughtful commentary on the need that some stay-at-home moms have to validate their choices. I can't speak to that, not being a mom. I can, however, speak to the other side. There is a blog I read called www.mothersinmedicine.com about just that - mothers in medicine, and the many struggles they have juggling both jobs. I think women feel the need to be validated no matter what their choices are. Anywho, Good luck with moving and resting and having your baby soon!

Anonymous said...


I had "busyness syndrome" and "irritable uterus" syndrome for my first two babies... resulting in preeclampsia and an early birth for the first one.

The third came years later, when #1 and #2 were in school... during the first trimester, after everyone left in the morning, do you know what I did? Slept on the couch! All day, breaking only for lunch!

Turned out to be my healthiest pregnancy. Second trimester I was "nesting" and cleaning like crazy. Third trimester I napped, and put my feet up a lot, but I walked every day, too. Baby was full-term, big, and healthy at birth.

I know you have two little ones at home during the day, but what about playdates (where you drop them off and go home and nap)? Mother's Day Out? Or the hotel idea... just REST! You'll feel TONS better!