Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mom-To-Be Freak Out Moments

I wonder if every new mom-to-be experiences moments of panic before her baby is born.  “Can I do this?”  “What was I thinking?”  “I don’t want to be a mature adult!”  “What if I can’t handle being a mom?”  Even thinking about the word “mom” freaks me out.  My mom is a mom.  My sister is mom.  I am NOT a mom.

I’ve got about a 4 week countdown to my due date.  However, I feel like I could use another several months to mentally prepare.

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of anxiety and a lot of down days.  I’ve been frustrated with myself for not coping with it well.  Considering my life is about to change forever, I should cut myself some slack.

I am good at dealing with the everyday anxiety and depression that has been a part of my life for the past several years.  I have good routines, good coping skills, and good, healthy habits…for the most part.

But, now, I’m not able to overcome my fear of the future.  I have absolutely no idea how I am going to handle life with a newborn baby.  I realize that I’m not always going to be able to deal with my anxiety and depression in the same ways I have been.  I can’t just go for a walk whenever I want to.  I can’t just take a shower whenever I feel like it.  I can’t just sleep whenever I need to.  The fear of not being able to cope with all the changes scares me so much.

I’ve always been afraid of things that I don’t have control over.  The future holds a lot of changes, probably the most I’ve ever had to experience, and that terrifies me.

There are so many “what ifs” running through my head during the day (and night).  I’m afraid of forgetting to do something or get something important before the baby comes.  It’s like I’m afraid I’m suddenly going to forget how to think like a rational adult.

I am also afraid of things not being “perfect”.  I want to be perfectly prepared, I want to have the perfect labor and delivery, I want to be the perfect post-partum mom, I want to have the perfect nursing experience, I want to perfectly lose all the baby weight, and I want to perfectly take care of this new child.  Not to mention, I want to be able to handle every situation perfectly and take care of myself perfectly.
 
I know in my head that this perfectionism is recipe for disaster, but I can’t help but think this way.  It's more difficult to overcome because I'm not just thinking about myself anymore...there is another human being involved.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to start back at square one after I have the baby – learning how to deal with stress, anxiety, fear, perfectionism, and depression all over again.  Just the thought of putting all that work into recovering again is exhausting.

I don’t want to fall apart, but I’m falling apart because I’m afraid I’m going to fall apart…

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No-Internet-Fridays Challenge!

My husband showed me a cool video the other day and it got me thinking.  You might have seen it…it’s the “If this video doesn’t convince you to put down your phone, nothing probably will” video.  Click here if you want to watch it.

I started to think about society and the humans who are a part of it… And I really think that, if we knew what we were doing, we’d act different.  How many times have you looked back on your own life and thought, “Gee, I wish I could have changed that or not done that”.  One of my favorite jokes is “If only I had some hindsight”.

In spite of the modern conveniences of technology and the Internet literally at our fingertips (like the video says), we are losing touch with the real world.  Unfortunately, most people might look back on their lives and wish they’d lived more in the moment and less in their phones.

One of my biggest concerns is the “instant gratification”.  Deep down in our hearts we might know that having it all – instantly – is not always a good thing.  But we justify it because there are a few good things that come from having the Internet constantly at your side… i.e., directions if you’re lost, pictures of your nephews and nieces, recipes for a quick dinner…

I believe that on the whole, however, our Internet lifestyle is not helping us become better people, but instead threatening to take over our lives.

Are you in control of the Internet, or is the Internet in control of you?

Could you live without it for one day?  Do you have enough will-power to live without it for one day?

Here are some reasons to try (for more, see the above video rap):

Smart phones and social media, in particular, are teaching us to be less present.  Stats say that, on average, you’ll miss 4 years of your life because you’re looking down at your phone or at a computer screen.  That blows my mind.  4 years!

The Internet is teaching us to be bad listeners.  It is constantly flowing with information, videos, pictures, etc.  There is always something to look at, always something to be entertained by.  Since the outbreak of the smart phones, an average adult’s attention span is less than a goldfish’s.

Instead of more connection, it’s teaching us to more isolated.  With social media, texting, skyping, you might ask, “Who needs real life, actual, face to face conversations?”  Well, everyone needs real, physical human encounters.  We are social beings – meaning, we are made to live in community.  Isolation leads to depression, despair, and potentially, worst-case-scenario, suicide.

Instant Internet makes people more selfish.  iPhones, iPads, iPods…it’s all about what “I” want.  Our smart phones don’t help us serve others – they only help us serve ourselves.  And, in turn, they help us get used to being selfish.  It is obvious to me that our society has become in the habit of “being served” instead of putting others before themselves.  Just look at the lack of corporal works of mercy.  Look at the divorce rate.  Look at abortion stats…

My husband and I recently got Internet in our home.  We had been utilizing the library ever since we’ve been married – more for saving money purposes, but a little for helping our relationship as well.  I wanted us to start creating family traditions and habits of spending time together without the intrusion of the Internet.  However, since we’ve done well with our budget (Thanks Dave Ramsey!) and with the baby coming soon, we decided it could be a good kind of change to get the Internet.

Nonetheless, I want to make sure that the Internet works for us and DOES NOT start to take over our lives.  We are in control and not going to become controlled by it.

So, one way I am planning to achieve this is by putting limits in place.  I want to be able to “say no” when I want to say no.

How else can I do this if I don’t practice on a regular basis?

So, I am posing a challenge to myself and to all those who want to have a more nourishing life.  It’s about creating good habits or changing bad habits.  Like Matthew Kelly says, “our lives change when our habits change”.

Unfortunately, because we are habitual creatures, we don’t change easily.  And even if we want to change, we often fail because our habits run deep.  If we really want to change the fact that the Internet is our master, than we have to be intentional about how we use it.

My challenge is this:

Give up the Internet every Friday.

Since Friday is already a day of penance, there’s no better time to do it.  Giving up the Internet, even if it’s just for one 24 hour period, will be difficult.  I can guarantee that.  It’s going to take some real guts and some real strength to accept this challenge.  However, you’ll get extreme amounts of graces if you unite your sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

This challenge will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.  But I tell you that you are worth it.  I can promise you that your life will change for the better because of it.

If you can’t do it, if you can’t say “no” to the Internet, then you are the Slave and the Internet is your Master.  The Lord said, “I am the Lord your God...You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)  Jesus said, “A man cannot serve two masters.” (Luke 17:13).

If you deny yourself just one day a week – if you say no to the Internet every Friday – you will strengthen your will-power to make good decisions in the future.  Not only concerning your Internet behaviors but this practice will help you in all other weaknesses in your life.  You will start to be “in control” of worldly things instead of being controlled by the Internet or other material possessions.

On the practical side, when Friday comes along, shut down your computer.  Replace your “Internet time” with spiritual reading or prayer or any other good habit.  If your phone is the problem, block the data for the day or just until you remember not to browse on Fridays.  Post a sign on your fridge or at work or somewhere visible that can remind you of your commitment to make your life better: “Remember NO INTERNET on Fridays!”  Heck, create a calendar event on your phone that says “Get off the Internet”, and repeat it every Friday several times a day.  Pray to your guardian angel to help you remember your promise to sacrifice.

If you want to give up the Internet on Fridays but work a job that requires your involvement on the web or email, just keep it to work-related tasks.  You can still strengthen your “saying no” power in this way.  It might be a little trickier considering it is right in front of you, but it’s not impossible.

If you give in or forget, don’t get discouraged.  Just try again.

Pass this message along to friends.  I’m convinced that great things will happen if we stand together and sacrifice the Internet every Friday.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for starving children, for those being persecuted for their religion, for the end of abortion, for stronger marriages, or for any other cause.  Sometimes, it’s easier to do something for someone else than it is to do something for yourself.

But I know you can do it!  I believe in you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Finding Permission to Rest


Rembrandt, 1654
I have a difficult time letting myself rest.  I know I am growing another human being inside of me, but I feel guilty for sleeping as much as I do.
It’s like I need someone to tell me that I have permission to rest every day.  I can’t give myself permission because it makes me feel super selfish.

One of my biggest fears is that my husband thinks I’m lazy.  I also fear that my friends think I’m defective or needy because of how much I struggle with anxiety and depression.

Ever since I quit my job (and before that, I guess), I’ve struggled with giving myself realistic expectations.  Even though I believe what I’m doing is right and I’ve made the decision to stay home, I feel guilty for not working a job.  Because of this guilt, I feel like I have to compensate by accomplishing things at home.

Last time, I talked about my crazy to-do lists.  I have these expectations of myself to “get things done” during the day.  But most of the time, I don’t get much done because I’m tired all the time and I sleep A LOT more than I used to.

When I don’t get “enough” done…well, let’s just say I am really hard on myself.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect” and so when I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, I get down.  I feel unworthy, undeserving, and inferior compared to all my other female peers.

I’ve been reading this book, “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood: God’s Plan for You and Your Baby”, by Sheila M. Kippley.  It’s a great book – I highly recommend it.  It talks a lot about the importance of staying home with your children, not to mention the benefits of breastfeeding.  Recently, I read a passage that helped me with my guilt:
 
Only a woman can conceive a human being, give birth to her child, and nurture her child at the breast.  Because the spiritual is based on the natural, this indicates the heart of femininity as life-bearer and nurturer.  Only the Holy Spirit can guide us to understand and develop this rightly.
 
Even with these initial insights into true [masculinity and] femininity, it obviously takes courage to be ourselves. Leadership requires sacrifice and the willingness to be rejected.  It takes courage to lead.  In an abortifacient, contraceptive culture, how courageous women are to conceive, birth, and nurture human life?  Take courage and be yourself.

Our culture has definitely influenced me to believe that I must be productive for society in order to feel worthy.  That if I choose not to work outside the home and instead stay home and raise my children, I am looked down upon and thought inferior.  I know I struggle with this standard because of my guilt.

Yet at the same time, it is ingrained in the heart of woman to desire to nurture and receive life, and so by staying home and raise the children God gives us, we can fulfill the deepest desires of our heart.  However, if we’re not vigilant, that ultimate calling can be stifled by the current culture’s demands on women or the ever present “need” for status or material things.

Contrary to society’s beliefs, our Catholic faith teaches that mothers are doing irreplaceable and important work by staying home and raising children.  You are giving your children the best gift you can give them – yourself – when you choose to raise them yourself.

Of course, like with lots of other Catholic ways, being a good mother requires going against the grain, opposite the flow, and all those other analogies.  In a certain sense, being a stay-at-home mom is a silent way to be a witness for the Faith.  Perhaps I am experiencing this tension because this is precisely the objective of the enemy – he wants to “devalue” my life and make me feel unworthy of my calling.

When I have a lot of anxiety about if what I am doing is the right thing, I remember that staying home is what God wants of me.  Growing a baby inside of me is good enough in His eyes – I don’t have to do anything more.

It’s OK if I sleep a lot.  I need to listen to my body and then I will know what I need.  I don’t have to do great things or accomplish lots of tasks, however miniscule they are.  The most important thing I can do right now is to take care of myself and, in turn, take care of the baby inside of me.  Everything else can be put into God’s hands.