When a Mother is Sick
When a mother is sick, the world keeps turning. There is no calling in. No substitutes. Your children's needs don't stop and wait for you to feel better.
This past week I experienced a painful case of mastitis, a chaotic blend of inflammation and infection within the body caused by a clogged milk duct within the breast. If you've not had the pleasure of knowing what this feels like, allow me to explain to the best of my ability.
Imagine that instead of a punching bag, a kickboxing class used your left boob instead. Then, as you awake in the early morning hours, you realize you aren't just cold because your five year old crawled into bed and stole the covers... you have a high fever. Upon understanding what is going on with your body and searching reliable sources on the interwebs for what you should do about it, you recognize the actual insanity of the first two recommended home remedies.
One, keep baby nursing as frequently as possible. That's right, you know that location of immense pain with a topical nipple wound and a feeling of deep bruising throughout the tissue? You're going to want to have that little creature who now has teeth latch directly onto it and suckle. Mind you... at nine months, there is no tender and peaceful nursing. He's doing full-blown acrobatics while latched, complete with attempted somersaults and a twist that would leave Simone Biles impressed
Two, rest. No really... you're supposed to simply let your body rest.
(Pausing for eruption of laughter at the practicality of this remedy.)
Get yourself together. It's true! Resting your body is the best way to combat illness of any kind, for we need rest in order for our bodies to heal. This means letting the laundry and dishes pile up, napping when the baby naps, going to bed early, reducing your amount of activity, and taking care of yourself as gently as you would a sick child. Lots of fluids, epsom salt baths, anti-inflammatory foods... and REST. Putting your phone down and stopping the scroll in order to actually REST. Let your partner or a friend bring you some hot soup (thanks babe) and REST.
There's a reason this feels like a nearly unattainable task. We're not used to it. Mothers don't clock in and out, we're on call around the clock. If little one wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, they don't pause to remember that mommy is sick and decide not to wake her. Diapers don't just magically change themselves. And though I'd tried, I couldn't seem to whistle the right tune to attract those fairytale woodland creatures to appear and help me clean.
This is one of many reasons why mothers need a village and my heart swelled with gratitude for mine. Like Elizabeth, who adjusted her schedule last minute to accommodate some extra unplanned nannying hours. Or Jenny, who stopped by with a Starbucks "Medicine Ball" tea that warmed my heart and soothed my body. Or Christy, who had our daughter over to play for a few hours enabling me to rest. Or Hannah, who checked in regularly and sent home remedy ideas with her homeopathic kit ready to bring should I say the word. Or Clara, who took our daughter on a lunch date, giving her a much needed adventure so I could rest and having a thoughtful heart-to-heart with her about mama's need for quiet and rest. Or my own mother, who was prepared to bring us all across the state to my home of younger years in order to care for me and told me a tale of being so sick once that she had to crawl up the stairs to feed my sister through the slats of her crib.
These kind souls (and the thought of many others who'd come to my aid if I'd only reached out) reminded me of a much needed lesson. Often as mothers and empaths, we're so used to taking care of everyone else that we forget what it feels like to allow ourselves to be on the receiving end. Though you may have allowed yourself to believe the illusion from time to time, you are not alone. We all have people in your life who love you, support you, and are ready to lend a helping hand. But in surrendering to receiving, we have to admit to ourselves that we can't do it all one hundred percent of the time.
We have to recognize that our value isn't defined by how productive we are, nor our ability to pour out to others until we are completely depleted.
Our worth isn't diminished because we need support and care... those same things we give freely on a daily basis. It just means that in a society that places unrealistic, superhero level demands on mothers, we are but human.
Now go rest that beautiful human body of yours!
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Love & Healing,