Getting through a pregnancy, having a baby in the NICU, and caring for a baby with special needs at home can take a physical and emotional toll on a woman’s health. This month is a good time to remember to take care of yourself, so that you are in top form to take care of your family. Not only is November Prematurity Awareness Month, it is also National Caregivers Month.
By nature, moms tend to be wired to care for their babies. The daily routine (which goes well into the night) seems to blend into the next day and week. The 24/7 job of being a mom can often feel like a blur. Have you ever asked yourself what day it was only to be surprised when you learned that it was only Tuesday? Weekends, in the sense that most people think of them – free time, sleeping late, etc. – don’t exist. In fact, a Saturday feels much like a Tuesday in the new-mom world. It consists of the same routine: feedings, diaper changes, and caring for the special needs of your preemie.
It is not surprising then, that many moms experience exhaustion and burnout. Who wouldn’t? Every human being needs rest. Constant stress coupled with loss of sleep is a recipe for a downward spiral.
Just as moms care for others, they must learn to care for themselves. Unless you were really good at doing this before your baby was born, it may take a bit of practice. Carving out bits of time to care for yourself should be top on your list. I like to call it using “snippets of time.” Here are some examples:
- Got five minutes? Give your best friend a call. Just hearing her voice for a few minutes will give you a lift.
- Ten minutes may not seem like a long time to you, but that is how long it takes to take a shower and feel refreshed. You don’t need to plan a long chunk of time to do that – seize it whenever you have someone you trust watching your baby.
- Got 30 minutes alone? A walk or yoga video will help to create the energy you didn’t know you had. (Yes, exercise creates energy.)
- Too tired to walk? Try a quick nap (best done when your baby is also sleeping). Even 15 minutes will feel like you have been turbo charged.
- Schedule time with your spouse. Somehow, if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t as likely to happen. If it is on the calendar, it is much more apt to become a reality. After all, if you went through the trouble to make sure someone you trust is watching your baby, then you will probably be sure you spend time together. But, again, it doesn’t have to be for hours. Even one hour out together will help to break up the 24/7 routine and give you a fresh perspective.
Somehow, your preemie caretaking will not seem so overwhelming when you get little breaks. Here are a few more ideas to help you.
How do you take care of yourself? Please share your tips.
Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.