Survival Mode

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dear readers, I am taking a short Maternity Leave so I invited a few friends to write as guests. Please enjoy this Guest Post by Lauren of Lauren W. Lutz Blog. Take care, Cintia.

My first child was a week old.  For the first time since her birth, we were headed out of the house to somewhere other than the doctor’s office.  I was having a difficult recovery, so getting out of the house was challenging, but very necessary for my sanity.  I don’t think I realized at the time that I was walking on the edge of a mental breakdown. 

We arrived at my parents’ house, and they fixed us their traditional weekend company meal. Don’t you find so much comfort in family food traditions?  Later, my dad pulled out his trusty 35mm camera (because we just like to fight the current of modernity, apparently) and snapped at least 2 rolls of his precious, new, perfect grandchild.  I think my husband, Jason, and I might have made it into a few pictures, too.  I recall nursing, because it was an every-2-hours kind of thing at that point, and most of the rest of the evening was a blur except for a movie.  I distinctly remember that movie.  I don’t expect I’ll ever forget it.

When Fifty First Dates ended, I walked into my mom’s kitchen and cried big, hot tears that spouted from the pit of my stomach.  I mean, what if I was her?!  How horrible would that be to wake up every day and not know who you were?!  That was the worst movie I’ve ever I’ve ever I’ve I’ve ever SEEN! Who thinks of scary stuff like that? They should quit making movies, because that was [now read in your most guttural voice] awwfullllll.  Jason listened to me rant with his arms around me, and I’m pretty sure he had a somebody-help-me-please look on his face.  They probably made me go outside and breathe some fresh air, and my parents probably giggled a little bit when I left.  I have no clue, because I was wiped out.

I don’t know why I waited until after my daughter was born to decide I needed as much information from "experts" as possible about sleeping schedules.  I don’t know why I thought I had to read it all in the first 3 or 4 days of her life.  I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep if she was awake – even if someone completely capable and trustworthy was attending to her every need. I do know, looking back, that I was setting myself up for a meltdown complete with Ugly Cry Face.  The child was seriously colicky, I could barely walk, and for some reason, I was putting myself through the paces of a new parent boot camp.  Not exactly being gracious toward myself, eh?

When our third child came along last August, I was much more mentally prepared.  Who hasn’t heard about older sibs being jealous (it happened, but way later than I expected) and possibly regressing?  I used those conversations with friends in the weeks preceding the birth to verbally process my expectations for myself and my growing family.  “We’re just going to be keeping it really simple, and I’m okay with that.”  “You’d like to come get the kids and take them to the park?!  Awesome.”  “Hm.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to attend right now.  We’ll just be deciding hour-by-hour at that point.  I hope you’ll understand.”  I call it Survival Mode.  All of your ecologically concerned friends will give you a pass this week if you buy paper plates.

I think this mindset can be applied beyond the bringing home baby stage.  If you’re going through an illness, if you struggle with cycles of depression, or if an unexpected hardship comes your way, you might consider these tips:

• Recognize that these days present unique circumstances and necessitate more attention to the basics.  Life won’t always be like this, so it’s okay to change your expectations for a bit.
• Don’t demand more of yourself than is absolutely necessary.  The health of others is somewhat dependent on your health.  Take care of yourself.
• Listen to those around you for cues on when it’s time to take a break and when it’s time to press through the difficult parts.  When you can’t see through the fog (or your Ugly Cry Face tears) your loved ones are often holding your compass for you.