It all started with a phone call to my midwife. I needed to ask how many I.U.s of Vitamin D I was supposed to be taking. She answered my question, but the thing is, my midwife has this way of seeing things, feeling things, that you don’t even realize are pressing issues. She could feel my wearing down. She could feel my need for a time out. The questions came, “What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?” “Who is helping you take time away from your duties so you can care for yourself?” “Who is around you that can take your kids for an afternoon so you can do something for you?” The answer, of course, for me, “Uh….. what? Um, no one. That just isn’t going to happen. It’s not possible.” The thing is, I am with my kids 24/7. We cosleep, we homeschool, I attend Lovey’s violin lessons, there just isn’t a time when we aren’t together. Occasionally, once a month or so, I go to dinner with my best friend, but it is usually after an extremely trying week and it feels more like an escape than a treat. I’ve always had the idea that my family is my sole responsibility and any time away from them could be traumatizing. I’ve had friends offer to let my kids play for an afternoon without me, but the feelings of “what if they aren’t comfortable there?” “what if they need me?” “what if they get scared” “what if they don’t get along with the other kids” “what if they eat something they are allergic to” start coming and I just can’t do it. No one knows my kids like I do. When they are so little, it is so hard for me to leave them. Will the toddler be ok with someone else changing his diaper? Will they understand his words? Do they know that “booch” means juice, and “ca-ca” means tractor? Do they know what to look for when Lovey’s blood sugar is getting low? It just seems too much to ask someone else to be responsible for. It feels overwhelming and the handful of people that I’m comfortable with my children spending time with, without me, either work and are unavailable during the day, or have young children and I feel that I don’t want to burden them with more little people. I also know that I do get very worn down. Sometimes it is all too much. Sometimes I want a time out. I know I can’t do it all, all the time. My midwife could see something coming that I couldn’t though. A breaking point. As we spoke, and she was telling me “You can’t keep going like this. You have to take care of you. You are entering into another phase of a tiny person needing you for everything. You have to take care of yourself so that you can care for your family. They know you love them, and they will be ok spending time with someone other than you. You need to let people help you. Now.” I knew it was true but I just couldn’t see it happening. Then, as if by prophesy, I got sick. Really sick. My body had worn down. I no longer had a choice. My midwife recommended I stay in bed and just sleep until I was well. I didn’t fight anymore. I couldn’t. I called friends and asked for favors. A friend sat with my kids while my husband took me to the Dr. and then brought the best homemade chicken noodle soup I’ve ever eaten for dinner. Another friend took my kids for an afternoon while I slept. My husband was off for two days, so I stayed in bed. Another friend turned her living room into a ball pit and let my kids go nuts while I went to my weekly appointment with my midwife. By the weekend, I had managed to stay in bed most of the day, every day. I still wasn’t better. Then, my sweet little Nature Baby got sick. With the flu. It felt like a death sentence. If I get the flu, how am I going to deal. I can’t get the flu. I’m 38 weeks pregnant! I have to have a baby in just 2 to 3 weeks! I can’t get the flu! Hubby had to stay home. There was no other way. He had to take care of Nature Baby, so that I could quarantine myself. Two days later, hubby got the flu. Oh man! It was bad. We were all so sick and trying to take care of each other. I was checking temperatures and dosing out ibuprophen then slinking back to bed. My mother in law text that weekend to see what we were up to. When I told her we were all sick, she told me she’d bring soup for dinner. I’m pretty sure she arrived that evening with angel wings on her back. She brought dinner, fed the kids, went to the grocery store, bathed the kids, got them ready for bed, took care of Hubby and I until we went to bed. Then she came back the next morning, cooked, got Lovey dressed, took her to church, came back with lunch for the kids, went to the grocery store to get the kids favorite snacks. And popsicles! Never in my life have I felt so cared for. She knew what needed to be done and she just did it. It was exactly what I needed. I never would have asked. The thing is, I’m ready now. I didn’t have a choice. As everything escalated, I just couldn’t hold on to my “what ifs” anymore. I needed help. And I needed it now. I know that there are people I can count on. There are people who genuinely want to help. They don’t mind turning their living room into a ball pit. They enjoy cooking dinner and bringing it over. They think my kids are fun and enjoy them. They aren’t afraid of the flu. They don’t mind if I cry. Or sob uncontrollably. They are here.
I learned so many lessons. I learned that I can’t do everything all the time, and be ok. I learned that people care. I learned that my kids can benefit from other people’s care. I learned that spending time away from me might be actually good for them. I learned that it is ok to ask. I learned that there are people who can be counted on. I learned that others want to bless me. I learned that letting go is easier than I thought. I learned that when your guard is stripped away, it feels more like a blessing than a wound.
As I enter this phase of newborndom again, I realize I will need help. I’m ready to receive it. I’m ready to say, “Yes, the kids would love to spend the afternoon with you.” “Yes, we would love a meal.” “Yes, I’d like to take a nap.” “Yes, the kids would love to go to the park with you this week.” “Yes, please hold my baby.” “Thank you!” I’m ready.