This almost seems like a mom rite of passage, but I had my first terrible migraine a few weeks ago. I started the day feeling irritable with throbbing head pressure, but figured I was just tired. By 10:30 am it was growing more painful, so I left work to rest and instead got hit will a full blown aching, chills, light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting migraine. By day 2 when the Excedrine stopped working, I found myself in urgent care getting the “migraine cocktail” (by the way, three injections that burn going in should not be called a “cocktail” – false advertising! I thought they were bringing me a stiff gin and tonic). Even after the cocktail and some Motrin, the headache and flu-like cold symptoms persisted for days so I went in for an MRI to make sure nothing more serious was going on. Thankfully the MRI came back normal, and now I’m armed with prescription drugs and a new prayer, “Lord, help me to never have a migraine again!”
One interesting question you’re asked in urgent care is to choose a number from 1-10 to describe your pain level. One is depicted by a yellow smiley face emoji where 10 is a very angry red emoji that says “worst pain imaginable”. The urgent care clinical team did a great job getting me from a reddish grimace face to a calmer light green face after the migraine cocktail.
But I kept thinking about the pain scale after I got home. Theoretically there is another scale to the left titled, “health scale” that goes to the highest level of well-being you can imagine. It dawned on me that I spend so little time attending to this other scale and, maybe if I did, I would spend less time on the pain scale.
And I’m not just talking about self-care, I know it’s more complicated than that. I often read self-care articles and walk away defeated, wondering how some moms find time to do all the self-care stuff (to some degree I’m just resigned to the fact that I’m not going to sleep, workout, or eat clean as much as I have in other seasons of life). But this is beyond that kind of self-care, or even pampering like back rubs or pedicures. I’m talking about making the daily pursuit of my own health a priority, just like I prioritize the health of my family members, or people I manage at work.
The paradigm shift is to stop thinking of myself last, to give in to a little self-mothering.
When I followed up with my primary care physician about the migraine, he asked if I was aware of any triggers that set it off. Since it was my first one I admitted I wasn’t sure, but had a hunch that lack of sleep had something to do with it. I’m a person who needs a lot of sleep to function normally, and lack of sleep has pretty immediate effects on my health and mood. The doctor suggested I get more sleep. Brilliant! 🙂
Thankfully Eric was willing to make some adjustments. We started “Daddy’s Sleep Training Academy” to help Emma sleep through the night. Mommy moved to the in-law suite in the basement (out of earshot) and Daddy took over night duty. Within just a few nights Emma was sleeping through with just a short period of crying around the time she normally woke up to nurse. It turned out to be better for my sleep and Emma’s sleep to let her cry it out a little ((cringing)). While my instinct to get Emma up as soon as she started crying was coming from a caring place, it was not helping the sleep situation. My “self-sacrificing” was making it worse! I’ve also noticed a couple of examples recently at work where in my effort to be helpful, I actually confused some processes and protocols related to a new program we were launching. It’s a growth edge for me to learn that sometimes what I need to do is – nothing.
We’ve found in our house that grumpy, angry, complaining people are often sleepy, hungry, stressed out people and we approach solutions with a communal mindset. If mom is red lining first thing in the morning, that’s a sign she needs help getting everyone out the door. If dad is exhausted at the dinner table, then baths and dishes can wait until tomorrow.
I heard from so many moms that all they wanted for Christmas this year was time. The faster the world spins, the more time slips through our fingers. In this fast-paced culture, it can feel like there is just no time left for moms to focus on themselves. Yet I find again and again that the more I intentionally shift time to take care of my own needs (pursuing a health score), the more other needs around me take care of themselves. Sometimes the pursuit of your own health is the best thing you can do for the ones you love, manage, and care about. Or put more simply, let me suggest a progression of three questions to ask yourself (in this order) as you move into 2019:
- What will make me healthy?
- What will make my family healthy?
- What will make my neighbors healthy?
The last one comes from a place of desiring a more equitable world where, once our own needs are met (put your personal oxygen mask on first before assisting others) we turn our attention to our community. If you would like to learn more about working for the health of our neighbors, particularly those in under-resourced environments, please visit www.letsmakehealthyneighborhoods.com, or consider starting your New Year by reading my first book on the topic (co-authored with another working mom!) which is available in early January.
I hope 2019 is your healthiest year yet – because there is no limit on the impact a healthy mom can make on this world. 🙂 Happy New Year!