Self Care, Labor, and Life Tips
Hey mamas-so it’s been a minute! Forgive me, we’ve had several sickies going around our home, add Thanksgiving into the mix and just “life” and here I am 3+ weeks since my last post! But this space is for grace so I’ll extend myself some ;)
This week I had planned on talking about self-care, thinking to myself, “I have this stuff down!” Then I tried to sit down to write it. And realized I am so much more in process than I realized. As someone who’s all about the process, you’d think I’d be more ok with being smack in the middle of it. Nope.
Process is messy, confusing, and sometimes feels downright cruel.
Birth is one of the most intense processes in life for anyone, and the changing of any seasons is no different. The birth of every season in life has stages leading up to it that often feel much longer (or shorter) than we think they should, and almost always don’t go according to our plan for how they should look.
In birth, we have the early stages of labor, designed for resting in between work. I call it the “do life as normal stage” because that’s exactly what you need to do! And yet, what is the first instinct of so many mothers when they feel the beginning of labor approaching?
They start walking miles, climbing flights of stairs, spending hours bouncing on a birth ball, eating pounds of pineapple, anything to speed up the process.
While these are all beneficial activities, they are only helpful when in intervals of rest and activity. While their goal had been to move things along, most women end up exhausted, frustrated, and probably dehydrated; only stalling the labor process until their body gets the rest it needs to move on to the second stage. Or, they do move things along, only to become completely depleted later in labor rather than having a storehouse of rest, hydration, and nutrients.
The inner question motivating mamas often is: What if I don’t progress? Do I have what it takes? Is my body enough or is it broken?
Prodromal labor, to me, is one of the most mentally and physically frustrating things that exists (not to mention exhausting). You’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. You feel like it’s the “real thing”, because it has an exact pattern of a normal labor. Then suddenly, it stops. I remember with my second son’s birth, sitting at 34 weeks in prodromal labor, feeling anxious to make it stop because he needed more cooking time while simultaneously impatiently waiting for it to begin. Prodromal labor often feels pointless, but in reality it’s your body giving lots of extra resting periods.
I think process in life often feels this way. We ask ourselves, “but what if I don’t progress?” We can try to rush the process along, then end up depleted without the tools we need later on to make it for the long haul. Or, we just end up exhausted and frustrated, blaming ourselves for why we can’t just “make it happen.”
What if “making it happen” isn’t a thing? What if rest is the key to process happening?
Active labor, the second stage, is when you enter into “labor land.” You’re working along. You might find a rhythm, you might have good breaks in between contractions to catch your breath, smile with your partner, gather your headspace, walk to the potty, or change positions. Or you might not. They might be one on top of the other, you might feel lost and stuck. It might feel like it’s going on forever, and you might even have medical staff telling you it’s been too long, that if you don’t progress (there’s that word again) they’ll need to give you something to make it happen. And you’re just asking yourself, “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just progress? If I could just relax enough, breathe enough, let go enough…” All the while blaming yourself for falling short. You are not doing birth right.
Sometimes we need help, and help is totally valid. But never is it because you are not enough.
Same with life. Why is this season lasting so long?
Breathe mama. Inhale peace, exhale fear. Inhale love, exhale anxiety.
You’ve got this.
I’ve been saying this to myself a lot lately. My boys are 2 and 3 (Yup. The best 13 months apart surprises ever), and often this season feels pretty darn endless. While thankful as I am, waking up to flour all over my kitchen, battling through a restaurant meal, and the constant questions can be pretty darn exhausting. This too shall pass, but I won’t pretend I don’t feel pretty darn depleted sometimes and need some help.
Help can look like a lot of things and completely depend on the resources available to you. But what resources are available to you? Do you have the financial ability to hire a maid, a personal assistant, or a mother’s helper? Can you get a gym membership with incredible childcare that you can go to 6 hours a week? What programs does your local library have? Maybe it just looks like letting yourself off the hook and letting your kid have some screen time or leaving the dishes until tomorrow.
Then the third stage. Transition. What a beast.
This stage is so often where women think they just can’t do it anymore. Some women even have an instinctive thought that they’re dying. But it’s all leading to surrender. To surrendering to your body, knowing that what is happening is not stronger than you because it is coming from you. It will not be forever, and it will be over soon.
Transition in life is crazy because so often it is introduced by the two first stages. You’ve come out of two intense stages feeling like you’re moving forward but it just gets harder. In birth, during the challenge, your body provides the hormones you need to push through. You get huge dumps of dopamine, oxytocin, and relaxin; all rushing into your body giving you the tools you need to push through the seemingly giant wall of transition. Transition can last for anywhere from minutes to hours, and all are in the realm of normal. Sometimes it almost feels like you skipped right over it, but other times it may be your longest stage, outlasting the first two.
In birthing seasons and new things in life, transition feels so many feels because while you’re often anxious to get out of the season you’re in, it can be really painful to leave it behind. You want to move on, but you know there’s a wall in front of you you’re going to have to climb. In birth, there’s a baby on the other side of it. In life, there’s a brand new season, full of glorious unknowns, growth, and challenges to conquer.
In every season, you’ve got this. And the key to getting through, is how you handle the early stages. Resting, letting go, and letting the process occur while being gently aware of what is happening. For me, it’s so easy to obsess over every sign and little thing, waiting for the “next thing.” I so badly want to make the “right” decision in order to have my life progress “correctly.”
Sorry babe, ain’t no such thing (totes talking to myself here). We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and the best we can do is only as much as what we have. I’m still learning how to listen to my heart, forgive often, and give myself and others loads of patience. It’s all towards thriving, and being the best version of myself. The best version of myself is kind beyond measure, and values herself so greatly so that she can value others.
Again, still learning and practicing, but that’s what process is, right?
Thanks for sticking with me in my journey, glad to be on this road together.