Life has a beautiful and sometimes challenging way of engaging and deepening our learning about ourselves and how we can best serve others on our path.
For the last several years, I’ve felt called to support women in maintaining their health and energy, through the transition to motherhood and throughout their mothering journeys. One of the most common questions I’ve been asking women is “how are you nourishing you, everyday?”.
So often we feel ease in taking care of others, whether in our work or through our personal relationships with family and friends. And, in many cases, we haven’t been taught how to also take care of ourselves, let alone make it a priority.
Last month, Life tossed me an experience that reaffirmed the necessity for us – all of us, Mamas – to pause, check in and confirm that we are at the top of the list of people we take care of.
In early June, amidst the busy-ness of his first school year ending, Emery started experiencing a runny nose and cough. With the timing, I suspected seasonal allergies. Following an unusually cold spring, the leaves on the trees had just burst open and pollen was everywhere! He coughed for about a week, without any other symptoms and had shown signs of getting better, until late one night…when something shifted…and the cough got a whole lot worse – no fever, just an unrelenting cough.
Intuition spoke up – she said “Stop juggling your doctor and mama hats. Put that mama hat firmly on your head and take him in to be assessed by a healthcare provider who’s not related to him!”. Off we went to Emerg, where we would stay through the night and most of the next morning.
In Emerg, I snuggled my munchkin, watched the oxygen monitor intently and did the best I could to remain calm – gosh that was hard, especially without sleep! Following a chest xray, several doses of Ventolin and a dose each of prednisone and antibiotic, we waited through the night, hoping for an improvement in his condition. That improvement didn’t come and he was admitted to Pediatrics. The diagnosis? Pneumonia with desaturation (his blood wasn’t consistently carrying enough oxygen to keep all the tissues in his body happy).
That overnight in Emerg was the first time since his birth, nearly six years ago, that I’d gone a full night with absolutely no sleep. Thankfully, with the support of the medical staff in pediatrics and the healthy food that was brought in by family and friends, his health gradually began to return over the four days he was in the hospital.
A cot was provided for me to sleep on throughout his stay. Staying with him brought comfort and calmed worry, but it also meant that this mama was still on high alert, even while she slept. Every time his oxygen saturation dipped, and the alarm on the monitor sounded, I woke. Every time his body attempted to cough out the mucous, I woke.
In the days afterwards, I felt so thankful for the tools that naturopathic medicine provided for nourishing his lungs, gut & immune system. Following that intense infection & the pharmaceutical medications that were needed to get the healing process rolling, those tissues, had been challenged. I maintained my focus on supporting his healing and on getting us all back into our household, school and work routines…and in the midst of it all…I completely forgot about myself.
The body and mind always find a way to let us know they need help.
And, if their whispers aren’t heeded, they speak more loudly. Last Monday, while listening to a lactation exam preparation webinar, my body spoke…loudly…with a sudden and intense dizziness that required I stop what I was doing and lay down on the floor for several minutes, until it passed.
While I laid there, my brain went to work trying to “figure out” what had just happened. I’d eaten regularly so far that day, it couldn’t be my blood sugar. I’d had a cup of coffee that morning but had also been drinking water to hydrate. It’s not unusual for my blood pressure to be low, but when the dizziness started, I was sitting still at my desk – no change in activity or position – nothing to trigger a sudden drop in blood pressure. Thankfully, I recovered from that episode within 30 minutes and I made sure to focus on ease and rest throughout the remainder of the day.
Over the following days, I reflected on my experience and its cause. When a clear physical trigger could not be identified, I dug deeper, into the mind-body connection:
In Michael J. Lincoln’s book Messages From The Body: Their Psychological Meaning, I read this about dizziness:
“Flying off in all directions. Reality has become overwhelming and [there is loss of a] sense of centre, stability and groundedness. There is no feeling of balance and harmony…”
Absolutely. My head was so busy, I’d forgotten to nourish my foundation, feel my feet on the Earth, after Emery was released from the hospital. And, with all of that energy at the top of my body, the experience of dizziness literally tipped me to the floor.
A friend shared an excerpt from Evette Rose’s book Metaphysical Anatomy with me. The section about vertigo presented statements like:
Related to experiences of “unstable and unpredictable circumstances…causing a great deal of anxiety…and stress” and creation of “self sabotaging blocks”.
“You know how to survive within chaotic situations but have reached a point where you have lost complete control of how you feel.”
“You have a habit of making things hard…”
“People who suffer from this condition are often adrenalin junkies.”
I’d been surviving on adrenalin since that night we took Emery in to Emerg. How had I self sabotaged and made things hard for myself? Despite having all the tools I’ve used to care for myself in the past and I’ve recommended to others, for maintaining energy and minimizing the effects of stress, I neglected to use them. How had I lost control of how I feel? I’d disconnected from the exhaustion my body was experiencing and relied on adrenalin to fuel my day to day functioning.
My body did its work – it got my attention, with that episode of dizziness.
And the wisdom of how it feels (exhausted!) and what it really needs (rest, calm, nourishment, grounding) has shone through.
Now, come the steps towards healing:
Releasing the feeling of guilt around not using the knowledge and tools I have for maintaining my health, that played a big role in manifesting that exhaustion. Part of that process has been writing about my experience and sharing it with you. It’s saying, I’m right there with you Mama – despite my professional learning and experiences, I too get off track, I too am learning from the mis-takes I make along the way.
Pausing and consciously asking myself throughout each day: How are you doing in this moment? What do you need in this moment? What is the most loving thing I can do for you, right now.
I admit it. Slowing down feels hard for me. Doing feels easier than Being. However, with this recent experience, I’ve recommitted to practicing rest and Being. So far, it’s included going to bed in the evening, when I feel tired, no matter the time and what’s left to do, creating more opportunities to nap (sometimes requiring asking for help from others to make it happen!) and returning to the Daring to Rest yoga nidra practices that I fell in love with earlier this year.
Meal planning on Sunday, focused on whole, mostly locally grown foods. B-complex in the morning with breakfast. Magnesium glycinate before bed. Herbal medicines to calm the stress response and nourish the adrenal glands (the managers of that stress response). Time in Nature. With the recent summer heat wave, that’s mostly included trips to the beach – ocean waves, sea air – ahhhhh. Yoga – including grounding postures like mountain pose and balancing postures like tree pose.
It’s a process – a process I am learning from, in order to better serve myself, so I can better serve you, moving forward.
Over to you, Mama. How are you nourishing you, everyday?