Many have heard the term self care. It’s in magazines, self help books, and even in the beloved motherhood bible, “What to Expect When Expecting”. There is no doubt that self care is important. Most especially after surviving an unexpected traumatic birth. In this blog post, Diana, an AFE survivor and Social Worker, took time to write some of her tips on self care from one mom to another.
After I experienced an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), I struggled, physically and emotionally. I was overwhelmed with the stress of a near death experience, having a newborn, and being stuck at the hospital. While I was at the hospital, I didn’t have to worry about my daily responsibilities; No Laundry, cleaning, or cooking, my husband and I were well fed, I had my meds delivered on the clock , my new baby daughter was being taken care of, and I was being looked after around the clock by medical team It was when I got home that I really began to struggle to take care of myself. Being a Social Worker, I advise clients and their families about weekly self-care, but for some reason I just wasn’t doing that myself. I think, in some weird way, I blamed myself for my AFE and that I deserved to be miserable and punished, which couldn’t have been further from the truth! When I started to finally take care of myself, I started to feel a little better and a little more hopeful that things would improve, which is what I needed to get through the day to day! It is important to try different things and figure out what self-care strategies will help you most.
- Find your supports: Probably one of the most helpful things for me, was finding people who were supportive and understood what I was feeling. It was hard to open up to most people, I felt alone and like they didn’t get what I was going through. Then, I joined the AFE Facebook Support group, and all of a sudden, my world was opened to so many others with similar stories. Even more, I was able to connect with local women and we were able to met and share our stories. Finally, someone understood me and I felt validated and that I wasn’t alone.
- Take time to be with your thoughts and feelings: I tried to suppress many of my feelings since it was easier to avoid them than to deal with them. However, like a shaken bottle of soda, too much pressure would build up and explode… resulting in many meltdowns. Once I started to let my feelings out, through journaling, talking with close friends or family, attending therapy, and sometimes just crying in the shower, my “meltdowns” became less intense. I still had anxiety attacks that took months and months to treat, but I didn’t feel like I had a huge weight pressing down on my chest. Acknowledging what you are feeling and that it is okay is a step in the direction of healing.
- Be selfish: Initially, I had a hard time saying no. People wanted to visit me and the baby, and I often found myself staying up longer or later then I had wanted to. I finally started saying ‘no’ to people if I wasn’t up for visitors and would excuse myself to go lay down if their visit was lasting too long. Despite missing the kiddos I worked with and realizing the work that was piling up, I was fortunate enough to extend my maternity leave to help myself heal mentally. Putting myself first helped me to feel more rested and more in control, something that I felt was lacking during and after my delivery.
- Eat well and get enough sleep: It sounds simple, but when you’re a new parent or coming to terms with a loss, sometimes we forget to eat and don’t rest enough. You need to realize that your body has been through a lot and it needs time to rebuild. If you are not rested and not nourished, your recovery will take much longer. This is also the time to take people on their offers to bring food! At first, I felt weird having people bring me food, but I began accepting the help and I ended up not having to cook for a month.
- Accept help: If someone wants to help clean, bring food, run an errand, or drive you somewhere, do not be shy. Sometimes people don’t know what to say after someone goes through something so traumatic, so they offer to help because they care. If it helps to lighten your load, I suggest go for it. There will be plenty of times to pay it forward. For now, the most important thing is to heal!
Eating healthy, exercising, and meditation are recommended. In my case those were not options. I found that chocolate and ice cream worked great! The point is, find what makes you feel good and go with it!