"When I swim laps, I wonder, 'am i holding my breath too long?'" I tell Jon, lying on the couch in our camp bedroom at AJU's Brandeis Bardein. "When I exercise, eat, take medicine, I'm always checking myself--muffin's health is constantly on my mind." Jon smiles sympathetically. "You'll know how this feels soon enough" I warn him, and watch nervous delight wash over his face.
For the past few weeks, the stress self-monitoring has increased in intensity as I've become concerned with my blood sugar levels (no need for concern, I am working closely with and OB and my midwives on this). With my already complex dietary issues, eating has become very involved and emotionally laden. During a particularly difficult night last week, I became overwhelmed with guilt for not preparing my body properly for this endeavor. Maybe if I had tried harder to figure out my stomach issues, maybe if I paid more attention to my sugar intake, maybe if I exercised more, etc., this would be easier. I lay awake in bed and chastised myself for my laziness in being healthy. 'Now you're paying the price', I told myself, 'and maybe muffin will too'.
The next morning, I divulged these feelings to a sympathetic ear (Jon was away on the week-long Or HaLev meditation). Tears fell as I named my faults around my current challenges and suffering. But even as I spoke, I knew I was being unfair to myself. I am doing everything that I know how to do to be healthy and take care of muffin. I am eating well and getting advice from family and professionals. It's just the feeling that it's not enough, the weight of responsibility for an unborn life, exists beyond reason. The guilt around self-care I am no stranger to--but the level of consequence is quite new.
Yesterday I ate well, exercised twice, did beautiful self-care, and still felt like it wasn't enough. "This is ridiculous!" I thought to myself, so I sat down and I made this sign:
If I've learned anything about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood, it is that physical well-being must be accompanied by emotional well being. Feeling confident and positive about your pregnancy and birth will create a more positive experience during pregnancy and birth. The evidence that a mother's mindset about her body's ability and her faith in herself impacts the outcome of birth is overwhelming. I know that just as I must care for my body, I must be proactive about caring for my mind.
One day I hope to actually hear muffin say these words to me. Until then, I will feel the little kicks inside as high-fives of encouragement, and this sign will have to do.