This topic isn’t a fun one, because to some degree many of us have faced a level of unhealthiness. Raise your hand if any of these are you:
- The temporary comfort of sweets and carbs makes you feel happy if even for just a second–and so you turn to them, frequently. And you don’t always know when to stop because the void is insatiable.
- You want to medicate heavily to numb the pain. Prescription use is at an all-time high. You try a higher dose, maybe a new mix, and any feeling of normalcy is wiped away with another pill. You refuse to deal with the grief, instead accepting a diagnosis. Of course, there are cases when medication is necessary, but grief needs to be normalized and fully experienced, not numbed.
- Though a depressant, something in alcohol gives you a companionship that sobriety never could in these days after loss and through a scary trying to conceive journey where you feel like your partner doesn’t even understand your visceral need to mother a living child after loss.
- You have a million things to do, but you are on Facebook for the 13th hour of the day chatting to other loss moms. Scrolling mindlessly. Wasting precious life. The day is beautiful. You want to walk. You want to swim. But instead, you’ll stay in bed as long as you can, and only get out to use the bathroom or eat.
Can anyone relate to this to any of this? I can. On more levels than one.
We find ourselves pregnant again with these horrible coping mechanisms we adapted. And, while most of us are able to cut out any known harmful things right away, not everyone is able to. And then there’s still the lack of motivation. Maybe you lost your child after some intense exercise and the thought of working out scares you to death. You might still be facing an internet addiction, a food addiction, or fighting substance abuse.
Your body has conceived again and your mental, physical, spiritual, and/or emotional health has taken the biggest hit of your life. How do we do better for ourselves, and our new babies?
This first step is accountability. If you are taking medications that are harmful to the baby or drinking alcohol during pregnancy after loss (PAL), get some help, and soon. Don’t be ashamed. The fact that you’ve found yourself in this state of addiction at conception doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a grieving mother who did her best to cope. Now it’s time to be that strong, courageous woman you are and reach out to a detox center or discuss your habits with your doctor. It’s never too late to do better.
I want to resound the voices of your doctors and say that that jog you took likely didn’t kill your child. But because I know personally that we don’t think rationally about this, nothing I say can change the fact that you feel exercise contributed to the death of your child. In which I will say, okay. Let’s commit to low impact safer options then if this is your fear. Walking and swimming are agreeably safe during pregnancy. Let’s warm up to the idea of considering one of those.
If you are addicted to putting unhealthy foods in your body, connect with other pregnant women who can walk this out with you. Share snack ideas. Weigh yourself regularly so you are no oblivious to how much weight you are gaining. Many moms have the luxury of gaining 40 pounds during pregnancy, but we probably don’t. We often just gave birth to a baby a year or two ago and had grief to deal with. Women who eat for comfort come to PAL with no permissible weight to gain according to the charts. So we need help tracking our intake. Download the MyFitnessPal app. If you have gestational diabetes (GD), work with your local clinic for meal plans. And even if you don’t, the GD menu is good for other women who don’t have GD too. I have found pleasure in precooked meals at the healthy grocery store. Also, look into local businesses that cook healthy food in bulk for a week at a time. I’m not yet to the point where I have the energy to shop and cook, so I try to solicit the services of people around me who are already in the business of doing so.
Maybe you’re on the other side. Maybe food repulses you and you barely get your calories for the day, yet alone extra calories for the baby. Eating is a chore, and you have a history of vomiting up your food or skipping meals all together. There too is help for these situations. Whether you are eating horribly, or barely anything, the babies inside of us have needs for a good amount of good nutrients. Many of us would not starve a newborn, or feed him/her Mc Donald’s every day, so we need to be mindful that the things we are doing to our bodies directly effect our babies. Support groups are for pregnant women too–they can be especially for pregnant women–because two lives are being effected. If bulimia or anorexia is haunting you, reach out to someone equipped to handle your hardship.
Social media addictions can seem the most harmless on the outside, but very numbing and damaging internally. And they certainly effect our relationships. You barely listen when your significant other talks because you’re lost in your mommy group. You haven’t talked to your family in a while because your grief sisters are your new family. You are limited in what activities you want to participate in because you are glued to your phone. Can anyone relate? It is cathartic to connect with other people who understand you in a world where not many people do. That is normal. The problem is when it becomes our whole lives. We neglect our responsibilities and the people in front of us, and it’s in part because we have a new reality, and also because our old reality is too hard to face without our baby. In these situations, it is best to set strict boundaries with yourself. Every once in a while you want to take a break from social media. A day. A week. A month. 12 hours. Whatever it is. You want to intentionally spend sometime away and be present in your physical reality. Another idea is to put away the phone for two hours when your partner comes home. Put connecting with your spouse over your internet buddies. Instead of focusing on the negative of “I can’t use my phone,” focus on strengthening your marriage for those two hours. If you having living children, you might say, I will play with my child for one hour of awake time, then the next 30 minutes I’ll allow myself some online time. Moderation. All things in moderation.
I am all about love ourselves. We are beautiful, but I’m not one to embrace being mindfully deceived. Unhealthy is unhealthy. If we are constantly going-going-going, or in a big funky cloud where we barely move, we are forfeiting the privilege to reflect, to breathe, to live, and to be thankful. We need our spirits healthy for PAL too. My hope is that whether you are freshly bereaved, pregnant, trying to conceive, or postpartum, and you see these unhealthy patterns in your life and you join me in being an unafraid women and challenge what’s comfortable.
At the end of the day, death is something that is promised to us all. Many of us have held our limp child in this unforgettable and devastating state. We can’t forget those moments and live as though we are indestructible. We engage in a moderate amount of guilty pleasures, but unhealthy lifestyles catch up to us as the least opportune times. We want to live the life our angels couldn’t. We want to enjoy our family that remains physically with us too. We want to lower our risk factors and be good stewards with the gift of life we have been entrusted. Let’s live. And let’s try to do it a little more mindfully.