Friday, July 15, 2011

take care of yourself: on body, soul, and sleep

I've felt frazzled lately and this week I set out to do something about that; to take care of myself. I know getting my body moving helps lift my spirit. So instead of our usual mid morning to-do stuff, I would go for a good, long walk with Lilly in the stroller, rain or shine. At three, she's not crazy about this, but with the wonder of what we've been finding in nature, it's been a really good thing for us.

On the first day, we came upon a duck on main street downtown, trying to get all her little ducklings up on the sidewalk. -- It took several attempts for the little ones and much encouragement from mama duck. It was an amazing experience to watch; would she leave the littlest one behind after all the other ones had made it up after numerous failed attempts? But no, down she went again, helping her babe up with her beak. Talk about attachment parenting. Then down the sidewalk with ducklings in tow, she headed for the river.

Another day, we spotted a deer right in front of us on the trail in the prairie arboretum we're so fortunate to have nearby. Then on our way home, Lilly got a skinny dip in the fountain downtown with a friend while I got to talk with mine.

And every day we've picked black berries. When I suggested the pool for a change midweek, she insisted we head to the arboretum instead to pick berries (she's gotten good at spotting them!).

Our walks in the arboretum have been balm to my soul as well as my body. To surround myself by meadows, prairie- and woodland -- it gives perspective.

Taking care of myself this way, has in turn helped me take better care of Lilly too. Claiming restoration, I also find patience.

I've reached out to friends more too. Like nature, friends connect me when I feel like hiding beneath the covers. Plus, parenting together is so much more enjoyable than doing it by yourself. Which is bound to get tedious and tense, for her and me, no matter how hard I try to foster a stimulating and positive environment.

So we've been to the park with friends, explored college campuses together, and last night I even got to go out with a friend who used to work for an independent publishing house to hear her thoughts on my book while sipping wine on the pub's riverside patio, first with the sun setting on us, then with the near-full moon lighting our way as we left. With Lilly, neither Leighton nor I get to go out much, so my night out was a particular treat. Talking about something I'm passionate about with someone who's become genuinely intrigued by it, was just so inspiring. As my friend said this morning, her brain was happy. Mine was too.

But even a piecemeal conversation with a friend and fellow mama is bound to give us both something. Be it the opportunity to commiserate, encourage, inspire. And with the daily tedium of life, I crave this. Even if we only get to briefly look at and comment on a couple of the art projects exhibited at the college library; it gives a sense of enrichment. That we're more than caregivers. That we are our own selves with our own passions and curiosities. That we have minds (that are not all mush).

And finally, I decided it was time to have Lilly move into her own bed at night. She'll nap (when she naps) in her own bed, but whereas Leighton was kicked out of bed as it got too crowded a while back, I've endured the kicks. No more.

It was a serendipitous encounter with a friend I hadn't seen in ages while out on our first hike in the arboretum that inspired the transition. After some berry picking, we sought refuge from the scorching heat at her house, sipping ice tea while talking.

My friend is an energy worker, spiritual healer, and a massage-, sound- and color therapist. Seeing where I was at, she encouraged me to find ways to get any stuck energy flowing. And to let go of anxious struggle and striving.

Nights that exhaust me with kicks and squirms, general restlessness and requests for my boobs have become a definite killer in my daily existence. Frustrated by the constant weight of demands and crowdedness, I've been prone to impatience, and resentment. In the mornings, I've found it hard to contain my venom against Leighton who at least has had a bed to himself at night; who can close the door on the daily rat race of life.

Mobi TykeLight Portable GloMateTwilight Turtle - Constellation Night Light with Small Plush TurtleI think the ease with which this milestone transition has taken place (knock on wood) is in large part the result of some other recent bedtime changes. Firstly, while I still need to nurse Lilly and then lie with her in bed for at least half an hour until she's asleep at nap time, I've been able to nurse and then leave her awake in bed at night for the last couple of months or so (minus on our trip and right after). This transition too happened smoothly; she was just ready (just in time). Secondly, the socket for the night light in my room died, so we re-introduced the twilight turtle constellation nightlight and the Mobi TykeLight, which have worked wonders. Whereas the shining constellation up high in her ceiling (for about 40 min. or so) at first stimulated her too much, it now soothes. And same with the Mobi, whom she calls her snowman and whom she keeps with her in bed all night through, glowing beneath her covers.

So early in the week, I told her she'd now get to sleep in her own bed at night too and not just for naps, and that she could have her turtle and snowman and then the night light in her room, which works perfectly well.

I was amazed that this was all it took. No fussing, no upsetness.

Weathering the emotional storm from our visit to my childhood home, Leighton and I have both been on edge, taking all comments the wrong way. The renewed intimacy we've received from sharing bed again has been so good for us. And no, it's not like we've turned into rabbits, but when I curl up in bed next to his sleeping body, having pushed in some late night hours to write, I see him in a different way. My body cold from fatigue, I find comfort in the warmth of his body.

Last night was our first rough night of sleep since this milestone transition; the result of Leighton putting a whimpering-for-mama Lilly to bed while I was out with my friend until late. Earlier this week, I was not happy when--after I told Leighton I was ready for this transition to happen--his response was: "so does this mean I will be tired too now?" But when Lilly joined us in the middle of the night and spent the rest of it between us, and waking early despite late asleep; we we're in it together, a team, forever. We've been kinder to each other, less impatient, more loving.

So taking care of myself, has been good for our relationship too.

Better me, better mom, better spouse. -- Self-care.


  1. Anne,

    I so needed this today.  As I said to Steven when he finished work this afternoon, I feel totally burned out.  Burned out from an infant who craves boob, snuggles, and attention.  Burned out from a toddler who has reached a defiant stage of life, choosing to ignore requests and play the opposite game, and also craves snuggles and attention.  Burned out from trying to balance the both of them while feeling like I'm letting both of them down.  And yes, burned out from way too little self-care and time with friends.  Thank you for the reminders to let the to-do lists go and just walk, and that friends are not just a nice part of life, but a needed one. 

    Here's to finding some of that time and restoration, starting this weekend.

  2. Yes; well put! More power to you, Catherine. Enjoy your time out!

  3. I take offense at the idea that the mother duck you observed was doing "attachment parenting," a term I find to be silly and overused. What that mother duck was doing is called "parenting." Plan and simple. The other option, besides not helping the little duckling onto the curb, was leaving it in the street. Which would be duckling abuse and abandonment. And I can't imagine a good parent, bird or human, that would have left their offspring in the street and waddled off. It's called parenting! And birds and humans have been doing it for millennia. Since long before Dr. Sears coined his catchy phrase.



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