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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stressful "Stress-Free" Life

Hey, long time no blogging…again.

I’ve been so busy lately.  But it’s not really because I have a lot to do, per se.

My first problem is that I have this big old to-do list…some things are important, other things are just “why in the world do you want to do that” or “why is that on the list” type of things.  I’m chalking it up to “nesting”.  However, because of my outlandish, unrealistic, daily-to-do-lists, I feel like I need to start the day bright and early and keep super busy 99% of the time.

In order to help with pregnancy, and the impending delivery, most of the things on my “list” are things that I am trying to do routinely to keep my body and mind healthy.  Every day, I want to walk, do those pregnancy stretches (to help my poor hips), sit on the stability ball (to help my core and back muscles), listen to relaxing music, practice “Hypno-Therapy”, visual imagery and breathing techniques, read, knit, pray, clean, shower…

Tangent: Does anyone else find that showers are NOT relaxing when you’re pregnant?  They are becoming more and more like work the bigger I get.  It seems more of a chore to wash my hair and shave my legs.  By the time I’m done, I’m out of breath and irritated.  And let’s not even talk about toe nails.  What did they do in the olden days?  Did they just let them grow and cut them after the baby is born?

Anyway…back to my stressful, stress-free life.

I have to take a step back and remember that I wanted to incorporate all of those things to help me keep a state of calm and peace.  Recently, I’ve been stressing about fitting all those things in everyday.  I’ve fallen into the old perfectionism trap of trying to “relax perfectly”.  However, I don’t feel more relaxed, on the contrary, I feel very anxious.

There are legit things on my to-do list, like buy diapers, get a mattress for the cradle…you know, things that actually need to get done before the baby comes.  Checking those things off the list would ease my anxiety more than any of my “relaxing” techniques.

I’m not saying that relaxing isn’t important.  I am just realizing that it has to be, as with everything else, done in moderation and at the right time and place.  I think all my relaxation techniques will be very helpful in the long run – I just don’t have to do everything every single day.  That mentality feeds more into my OCD tendencies than a peaceful, stress-free mind.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three months to go – Am I getting too big?

Some weight fears are accompanying my daily thoughts.  Am I getting too big?  Will I get too big?  Have I gained too much weight?  Will I gain too much weight?  What if the doctors and nurses tell me I’ve gain enough weight already?

Unfortunately, I did happen to find out what my current weight is.  Every appointment, I try hard to not look when they weigh me at the doctor’s office.  But when I was leaving, I was handed a paper with all my “stats”......including my weight.  Now I can’t get that number out of my head.  It haunts me.  My weight gain is nearing the “appropriate pregnancy weight gain” amount.  And that truly scares me.

Well, what really scares me is the doctors and the nurses.  Just the thought of possibly being confronted about my weight makes me want to dramatically change my eating habits.  Recently, I’ve found myself questioning if I should be eating this or that or if I should be exercising more.  I’ve been getting more and more anxious around food.

At my last pre-natal visit, I “measured a little big”.  Now, it’s impossible for me to get that fact out of my mind.  I’m bigger than I should be.  My irrational eating disordered brain translates that to mean that I am ugly, undesirable, and inferior.

Random strangers have made stupid comments like “You’re about ready to pop, huh?” and “Not much longer now?” and "Any day now..."  Um, no, I still have a ways to go – I have three more months, but thanks for making me feel like crap.  In my head, I want to tell them off, but I smile and nod.  The charitable thing to do would be to pray for them, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.

I know people mean well.  Even saying things like “You look good!” is intended as a compliment, but I see it as an ultimatum.  Obviously, that person is talking about how I look, but the only thing I hear is that they are noticing how I look.  Now, I feel pressured to always look good.

Some people are under the assumption that first-time moms don’t get as big.  I’m a tall person, I wasn’t ever small to begin with. This comparing is another reason to get down on myself.

Slowly, these appearance/weight comments along with my fear of doctors telling me not to gain anymore weight are chipping away at my self-worth.  It’s getting more and more difficult to fight eating disorder temptations.

I am trying to embrace the weight gain and realize that it is necessary for the development of my unborn child.  I want to nourish this child and take care of his or her needs.  I want to relax and not feel like I have to hold it in or hide it.  I want to let there be room in my belly for the baby to move around and eventually turn head down.

But I’m fighting an uphill battle.  And because of my past body image issues, I can be easily shaken.

In my home, I am safe.  I can listen to soothing music and engage in relaxing activities.  I surround myself with body-positive phrases and beliefs.  I don’t have internet or TV to infiltrate my positive-sanctuary.  But, when I leave my home, I’m susceptible to people making stupid comments or comparing and contrasting.  I have to witness other people body-bash themselves or people they know.  People talk about weight-loss and “eating healthy” and looking a certain way.  There are ads and commercials and a bombardment of straight-up negativity in the world.

It makes me want to just stay at home all the time.  So, if you notice me becoming a hermit, it’s because I can’t take it anymore.  Until, I have a more stable body image, I cannot live in this culture.......

I know, I know…becoming agoraphobic is not a good solution to my problems.  I just don't know what to do yet.