Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week 21: Managing Fatigue

The more babies I have, the more I understand my mother, and this includes beginning to understand why she always seemed so tired. Practically the only crime in my family was waking up someone else who was sleeping, and that someone often happened to be my mother. She was an ER doctor, and her shifts would keep her awake at times when most people would sleep, so she needed quiet time to rest at home. When we went on family hikes, it seemed like we were always waiting for her to catch up with the rest of us. I have a distinct memory, as a teenager, of being kind of annoyed with her for walking so slowly when we got stuck on an unexpectedly long trail in the mountains of Argentina. When we visited my grandparents for Christmas vacation, it baffled me that no one else wanted to spend 20 minutes putting their snow clothes on to work up a sweat moving snow around in the yard before coming back inside, spending another 20 minutes removing said clothing to hang and dry. How could the adults just sit around playing bridge and reading all day long?

But of course, as is so often the case, I totally get it now that I have my own kids. And I totally understand why my own children have no idea what I am going through and why I seem so crazy tired all the time. I actually had the experience of hiking with my husband a few weeks ago, and I was almost appalled at how slow I was. I immediately recognized what my mother went through more than 15 years ago when we dragged her through the mountains of Argentina for nearly 10 miles. (I also felt an appropriate amount of shame for assuming my mother was...what? Lazy? How could I ever have thought an ER doctor with four children was lazy?).

I have found, this pregnancy, that I am more fatigued than during others. Taking care of the kids takes it out of me, so that's one part, but by no means unique to this pregnancy. Eating less takes it out of me too, but that is also not unique to this pregnancy. The summer heat takes it out of me, so maybe that's it. Or perhaps I'm just getting a little worn-out at the ripe age of 32.

Unfortunately, in addition to being tired a lot this time around, I am not very good at resting. When I do manage to sit down, the incessant call of chores, the nagging anxiety of things left undone, my husband's high expectations, and the never-ending needs and desires of my children don't truly let me rest. When I was pregnant with my very first son, my OB had to tell me to tell my boss that I was starting my maternity leave "early"...when I was 41 weeks pregnant. I tried to resume a regimen of walking for exercise, to train for a half marathon!, when I was 3 weeks postpartum. As a result, my postpartum bleeding went on far longer than it should have (9-10 weeks), because I refused to rest.

This has also been a persistent theme that has come up in counseling in at least half the sessions I've been to. It came up the night my first son was born, when I knew that I physically couldn't lift myself out of bed and needed to rest but felt so guilty for asking someone else to help. When I recalled this memory in a counseling session, my counselor asked me if I could perceive where Our Lord might have been with us on that night. At first I scoffed, and said, no, that was just the problem. He wasn't there. No one was there to to help. Wasn't that obvious? But then she asked me to sit with the memory for just a little while longer, and suddenly, he was there. And do you know where he showed up? He was speaking to the baby, whispering words of comfort to my son. (When I told my seven-year-old about this later, he said, excitedly, "Yeah, and maybe my crying was the only way I had of talking back to him!" That made me cry all over again for a very different reason.) Then my counselor asked me, "And what is he telling you there in your hospital room?" I don't know, he's not talking to me. I just told you, he's talking to the baby. Then, with almost a dismissive brush of his hand..."To rest. He's telling me to lie down and rest."

So I'm working to find appropriate ways and times to rest. Leaving the kids to fend for themselves a bit more is part of it. Simply telling the children that I'm too tired (and letting them live with that fact, even if they don't understand it yet!) is another part of it. Giving the kids verbal instructions more than physical help is another part of it. Often it's not running toward the crying and screaming right away, but waiting to see how the boys handle it on their own (usually pretty well!). When the kids ask to do something special or out of the ordinary, I try to get them involved in thinking through the problems of the new activity. As Christians, we reserve Sunday for rest, and my husband has always been particularly good about finding ways to keep the Sabbath in the modern world. And sometimes it's just a matter of saying a prayer, going to my bedroom and shutting the door for 15-20 minutes...

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