As a middle child, people-pleaser and overachiever, saying no is very difficult for me. If you call me because you need help, I’ll be there. If you’re having a hard time, I’ll lighten the load. If there’s a shortage somewhere, I’m going to try to figure out a way to make ends meet.
For the majority of my pregnancy with Jackson, I was 24. Young, energetic and ready to conquer the world. During my pregnancy with Abby, I was 28 — still young. But after going through 15 months of cancer treatment with a toddler, I really felt like my mind, body and soul had aged 20 years.
I remember being newly pregnant with Abby and moving my sister from Chesapeake to their new home in Hampton. When we ran out of bags, I headed off to the store to get more. I was in a hurry trying to get what we needed and head back. A few steps from the car, I started getting cramps. I stopped, took a deep breath and then started walking again. The cramps came back. It took me twice as long as it should have to run that quick errand and get back. It was my first sign that the pregnancy was more delicate.
Still, I pushed through. It’s just how I’m programmed. I had terrible headaches and heartburn with Abby’s pregnancy, and also these weird chest/back attacks that I had to breathe through. When Ev and I tried to getaway for a night to Williamsburg for our July anniversary, we had to reschedule because I was dry heaving in the front yard. Still, I pushed. I worked, I cut the grass, I kept our schedule and appointments. When Jackson had birthday parties, sometimes two a day, and I would go, even though my body just wanted to rest. I just couldn’t make myself do it.
By Halloween, I could barely make it three houses down trick or treating with Jackson. My back hurt so bad. (It was my kidneys) My legs were so swollen. I felt like my blood was racing. (Blood pressure) I came back home and sat on the sofa and tried to rest, but it was too late. It was the beginning of my Preeclampsia. At 24 weeks.
I’m not saying that it’s my fault I ended up so sick and delivering early. The pregnancy just went bad. But it was my fault I didn’t put my needs before the needs of others.
Why as women, do we feel this intense pressure to please? It takes up much more space in my life than I would like. Why can’t I just say ‘No, I can’t do that’ and not immediately apologize for it? Then lose sleep that night because I’ve let people down?
My husband can just say…No, can’t do it. And that’s it. Done. Makes me so jealous!
When I found out I was pregnant this time, I told myself I’d have to do better. Not I should do better…I HAD to do better. It was not just for the baby, but for me, too. For instance:
- I was in the middle of starting the process of becoming a Sunday School teacher in March and I decided to put that on hold.
- I decided to back off on all night meetings, which includes my NICU Family Advisory Council and the hospital Parent Advisory Council. So bummed.
- There’s a Special Education Committee for the Department of Education I’d really love to join, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t start anything new that requires me to go to meetings.
- When we go out with the kids, I don’t go from errands to the park to play to out to dinner then home. We do one.
- If I don’t feel good, we don’t go. That’s been a really hard one for me, especially when the kids really wanted to go.
- If I don’t feel good, I rest. If that means half of the weekend, well, that’s what it means.
- Currently, one of our dogs needs to go to the vet for a checkup. I’m letting Everett do that appointment. Dogs and kids at the vet is a lot of work.
- I am changing my work schedule starting in June. More time from home and less in the office. I have amazing bosses.
- We’re not traveling more than a couple hours away this summer.
- I hired a cleaning lady. Seriously. She comes twice a month and it’s been life changing. Why didn’t I do this before?
These are all very conscious decisions for me. It goes against my natural spontaneity and need for adventure. Letting others down or requiring more flexibility from the people in my life makes me feel guilty. But…after November and a healthy, full-term baby (fingers crossed), you guys can have the old me back.
Or maybe not. It’s pretty liberating putting your needs first. Try it. Or at the very least, make space in your budget for a cleaning lady. Cut out Starbucks and Target if you must. That first clean is like a little slice of Heaven.