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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A little time for me?

About a month ago, things came to a head as far as my health is concerned.  I had symptoms of PPD, tests showed I was seriously nutritionally deficient, I had no motivation... I was at the lowest point that I had been in for more than a decade.  The turning point came in a diagnosis: ultrasound showed that I had polycystic ovary syndrome.  It's a hormone imbalance that causes irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and weight gain due to insulin resistance.  There's no cure for this, the only thing that can be done is to treat the symptoms individually, but it has been known to reverse itself with weight loss.

That diagnosis was what made me decide that I had to start putting myself first, at least a little bit.  I was sacrificing myself to my children, and while that is what's required of a mother to a degree, I was taking it to an extreme.

So I got a gym membership.

I've been working out 4-5 times a week for the last 3 weeks now.  Most of the time I take the girls with me and they stay in the child care center at the gym while I work out.  (We still make our playdates and fun activities in the mornings; I go to the gym with them after they're done napping in the afternoons.)  I've already seen great improvements with my energy and stamina and motivation and my cycles are already back to normal.  So I know this is exactly what my body needed.

While I feel great that I'm getting the exercise, I also struggle with feeling guilty about leaving my children in the child care center.  They're only there for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, but still the first two weeks were really hard for them: lots of tears and I would frequently get paged to stop my workout because one of them just couldn't handle being left there.  (The care-givers give me a pager when I drop the kids off in case they don't do well.)  Let me tell you just how great this made me feel about finally deciding to do something for myself... Needless to say, I constantly question the decision to do this.  And I hate to say it, but it often feels like the price is not worth the reward.  It's been 3 weeks now and Mira is doing better... pretty well, actually.  But Ellowyn still cries every time and she has developed a pretty nasty case of separation anxiety since I've started going to the gym.  It really pains me to see her struggling and I'm constantly wondering if I'm making the right decision.  I know that this is the right thing for me; my body is showing me in so many ways that this is the answer.  But I'm finding it so difficult to put what my body needs ahead of what my daughter needs from me.  I guess it's just not in my nature to be selfish in this way.


Marcy said...

You know what they say about the airplane oxygen masks, how you have to put them on yourself before helping a child? That.

I know it's hard, and it totally sucks when you feel like you're putting your child through unnecessary suffering. Even if you KNOW it's needed, it still tugs at your heart and at your guilt because your kids are upset and it's "your fault" which feels super sucky.

That said... You say they stay in the child care area for up to an hour at most? That's one hour in the day... whereas you're with them all the rest of their waking hours, and available pretty much the entire other 23 hours of the day, right? Remember that-- this is a tiny fraction of the day when you get to do something you NEED to do for yourself. I'm guessing that you feeling better means you're also in a better mood and more fun for the girls when you are with them, correct? You say you've gone from being at your lowest point in 10 years, to feeling much better. A short bit of unhappiness in the afternoon seems worth it if it gives them a healthy, happy mommy who's much better able to fulfill their needs because yours have already been met.

I think there are also some very important lessons that your girls will learn from this. It's hard at first and takes some getting used to, but they will soon learn that you may leave but will *always* come back and pick them up again. They will get a sense of security out of this eventually. Mira's already getting that-- knowing that it's sad when Mommy drops her off, but that it's ok bc she'll see you again really soon. It may take a little longer for Ellowyn, but she'll catch on, too.

There's also a lesson in speaking up and taking care of your own needs. If all you do is give, give, give, that's great for the people you're giving to... but eventually your gas tank runs dry and then everybody loses. As your girls grow up watching you be able to balance your giving to them, but also be able to take time to do what you need to to keep your own gas tank full, they will learn from you and figure out how to do that for themselves, too. It's not being "selfish", it is simply self-care.

Good luck, I hope the drop-offs get easier soon. And that's great that you've found something that's helping you feel better. You deserve to feel good and be happy, and your children deserve a mom who is happy. So in a way, your going to the gym is also for *them.*

Also, bravo for being so open about all of this.

Laura said...

It's true that I have more energy and am happier now. But I had become REALLY good at faking it with the girls. I'm sure they never even suspected that anything was wrong. The fact that I was able to internalize it so completely means that they are doing worse now than they were before (tantrums for Mira and screaming any time I even turn my back for Ellowyn). I know that I need to keep at it and that this is something that we all just have to cope with right now, I just wish I didn't feel so guilty about it.

Crystal said...

I just have a couple of things I wanted to say. First off, when I was first taking Sydney to the gym I'm pretty sure it took around a month or 2 for her to get really used to going and not throw a fit when I dropped her off. Now, she LOVES LOVES LOVES going to the gym and its hard for me to get her to want to leave. It just takes don't feel guilty about the separation anxiety...Mira has already started getting used to it, Ellowyn will get used to it too. They will learn you will always come back as long as it becomes routine (just like everything else they had to learn routine i.e. naps, playtime, etc. right?) Secondly you really shouldn't feel guilty about putting yourself first (easier said than done I know). If your health suffers than who is there to take care of them anyways? In some cases we have to learn to put ourselves first in order to be better equipped to give our all to someone else. That little saying "if mama's not happy, then nobody's happy" really is true at times. I know you say you've learned to fake it with the girls, but how long can that last emotionally and physically? I hope this helps a little...everything will work out in the end :-)

Laura said...

Thanks for the encouragement Crystal.

shellebelle said...

When I had to go back to work, I had to start leaving Autumn at my best friends house every day. It would torture me to see her cry and get upset at my leaving. Little by little the crying and clinging stopped and now she loves to go. It was hard at first, but in the end has been worth it.