As moms, we will always jump to defend our kids, our husbands, our friends, our parents and our siblings. I actually think that the definition of “becoming a mom” means defending others.
The thing is, we are all so quick to defend and advocate for everyone around us, but so many times, we are slow to defend and advocate for ourselves.
It’s no secret to family and close friends that the last two years have been hard in the Murray family. Sweet Ben was born December 4, 2013 and promptly didn’t sleep a stretch longer than two hours until mid June and screamed during most of his awake time. After we finally got a handle on Ben and his not-sleeping, I thought everything was going to be golden. I got to finally enjoy my 2 year old again and have actual conversations with my husband. But one thing persisted from around the time Ben was born: I wasn’t sleeping. I know, I know, everyone says that moms are not supposed to sleep. And that is true, to an extent. But I would lay awake for hours in bed; getting 4 hours of sleep a night (in 30 minute spurts) was considered a success. I talked to my OB who reassured me that moms with young kids just don’t sleep, and I needed to rally. (Side note: I love my OB for everything baby. She is simply the best. But in hindsight, she gave terrible advice in this situation).
A year after Ben was born, my endometriosis and ovarian cysts came back with a vengeance, almost like they were making up for lost time. I spent 4 days every two weeks curled up in a ball on the couch in pain, while my kids played at my feet. Friends and family helped out when they could, but I honestly don’t know how we survived the next 8 months.
Finally in August, I had surgery for my endometriosis and cysts and was pain free for the first time since December. It was glorious!
But my poor sleep persisted and started getting worse. My OB prescribed Ambien so I could sleep and heal after the surgery, and while it helped me sleep, I was still waking multiple times a night. I was getting so stressed that my hair was falling out. I was grumpy, always tired, had no appetite and teetering on the edge of full on depression and anxiety.
I finally made an appointment to see an endocrinologist. Of all my symptoms, the one she was most concerned about was my lack of sleep. I honestly thought she was crazy, and kept telling her over and over how bad everything else was. She stuck to her ground and ordered a sleep study asap. The sleep study showed exactly what I suspected: I was waking 20 times a night, reaching REM maybe once a night and getting insufficient sleep for a healthy adult. Well no wonder I was so tired.
The sleep doctor turned out to be a real jerk, and wasn’t willing to treat my underlying issues but rather wanted to treat my symptoms (which of course meant more money for him). After hours of research, I finally bought a $19.99 mouth guard from Target, and you know what? I slept 10 hours that night. And I have slept 8-11 hours every night since then.
My hair has stopped falling out. My energy levels are back. I am back from the edge of depression and anxiety (I know that for many people, more sleep is simply not the solution for depression and anxiety. However mine was not due to a chemical imbalance, but rather manifestations of lack of sleep). I can stay awake to talk to my husband at night. I want to play with and enjoy interacting with my kids.
Everything changed in one single, simple, incident.
I am so mad that it took me so long to fight for myself, to put my needs first, so that I can be the best mom and wife I possible can be. But the anger won’t get my anywhere, so instead I am simply so grateful for doctors, friends, family and neighbors who were willing to stand in the gap when life really sucked and stood by me while I fought my way back to normal.
If you are struggling with just making life work and needing to advocate for yourself, here is my list of ultimately what helped me:
- Go to Counseling. I needed someone to lend a listening ear and offer a professional opinion of the chaos that was ruling in my life. Her professional opinion allowed me the freedom to say that I was not okay and that I needed help, and lots of it. Counselors are all over Dallas, but I have loved mine at Sparrow House Counseling.
- Get a Second Opinion. I should have seen a second doctor much sooner. My OB is not a sleep doctor or overall health doctor. I should have realized that earlier on and asked for referrals.
- Stop Watching TV. Any chance I got the last two years, I was watching TV. It was my escape. And while all moms need an escape, it was unhealthy for me. I was escaping and finding ways to avoid time with my husband and kids, because I was so miserable.
- Admit that you are not okay. When I finally opened my mouth to tell close friends that I was not okay, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My sweet friends surrounded me with support, suggestions, food and prayers. It was huge to know that other people were just as concerned as I was, and willing to help me find a solution.
- Work out. Granted during my season of no sleep, I lost zero weight because my body simply would not release those extra pounds due to stress. But the simple act of going to the gym, helped significantly. My kids were cared for in child care and I had an hour to lift weights, do the elliptical, and read a book. This simple act helped to remind me that my needs were just as important as my kids needs.
I hope that no one else will walk through a season as dark as mine, but if you do, I hope you reach out and advocate for yourself much quicker than I did!