How motherhood started my self-care journey...
How was your Mother's Day weekend?
That's a loaded question for some of us. It'll be four years this June since my mom passed. Over the past 3 years without her, I've come to realize that holidays can conjure up such a diverse range of emotions, especially Mother's Day. Like me, some of you have lost your moms. Some of us are estranged from our moms, others estranged from our children. Some of us are struggling with infertility. Some of us are going through adoption struggles. While others are dealing with the loss of a child or a miscarriage. And there are some women struggling with the big decision to have children or not and whether they even want to become a mother.
There is a multitude of reasons why Mother's Day may not be your favorite. If this was the case for you, dear one, so much love + sensitivity is coming your way.
My Mother's Day was very different this year, in a beautiful way. What was so different about it was how I celebrated myself, how I cared for myself and how I allowed myself to feel the inevitable waves of grief that wash over me unexpectedly, out of nowhere, without warning. Luckily, my kids, husband, and in-laws were wonderful distractions. Through the discomfort, I was still able to feel loved, appreciated and supported.
The biggest shift for me this year was in the self-care department. I've always struggled with self-care. It's always been easier to care for others, put them first, make sure everyone around me is happy and content, no matter the personal expense. What I discovered from a lifetime of this practice is that it's exhausting and it's impossible. You can't please everyone. It's detrimental to hold yourself responsible for the happiness of others.
This was the recipe for disaster that led me to chronic illness and most recently thyroid cancer.
Starting at a young age I ignored my intuition, the universal signs, my body's screams for help, and my soul's desires. I was distracted as so many of us are. My parents divorced when I was about 8 and their focus quickly became finding a new partner and family to land in. I always felt so out of place and longed for the time I'd become a mom and have a family of my own. Many years and many hours were spent daydreaming and what I now understand to be manifesting my present reality.
I'm beyond grateful to be where I am today:
*Married to my best friend, sharing a meaningful life of love and good intention.
*Living in a home and town that overflows with nourishing energy.
*Aware and conscious of my highly sensitive empathic self and bringing light to others like me.
*Learning to honor me and my sensitivities with various self-care practices.
*The mom of two highly sensitive empathic children that understand just how special they are.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mom. I always had this strong "knowing" that one day this dream would become my reality. I truly felt it was part of my destiny to become a mother. I'd be so understanding and never shame my kids for being too sensitive. I'd allow them space to just be who they are. I would let them cry, be angry, get annoyed. There would be no shame in highly sensitive emotions and I would never tell them how to feel.
By the time I was ready to become a mom, I still had no idea I was a highly sensitive empath or that others existed. Even worse, I had no self-care systems set up and unfortunately for my highly sensitive soul, this also meant no boundaries. Like, none. I was kind of a doormat, a yes girl. I wasn't even aware or conscious of any of this. In my mind, I was just "going with the flow".
In that "flow" so many wonderful things happened too. I married the love of my life. And on July 27th, 2007 we welcomed our first child into the world.
William Jay Dressel granted me the ultimate wish.
He made me a mother.
This was truly one of the most amazing days of my life. I was a mom and my journey was just beginning. So many magical moments, the family and friends that came to visit that day…I'll cherish those precious memories forever. The days and years that have followed have been such a precious gift. My gratitude for this child reaches deeper than the deepest ocean and farther than the furthest galaxy.
Not only did he make me a mother, but he also played a role in kicking off my self-care journey. I fell head over heels for this sweet little munchkin and lost myself in the process. His darling sister came only 2 ½ years later. That's when I hit rock bottom. My husband was traveling and working long hours, two kids under 3, baby reflux, night terrors, ear infections, sleepless nights, no self-care structure and minimal boundaries. I totally lost myself in the darkness of overwhelm, anxiety and depression. I was so anxious and micro-focused on being the perfect mom- and the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect friend…
I was exhausted and spiraling downward into what would become the beginning of my healing journey. At the time I was doing absolutely nothing for myself. It wasn't until our pediatrician told me that I had to take care of myself if I was ever going to have a chance to heal our daughter.
It all clicked for me.
I had to heal myself.
I could heal myself.
What a gift.
Would I have ever been aware I could heal, that I wasn't permanently broken, if not for my children? Back then I had no idea what a big impact that comment would make or just how much self-healing I would set in motion. Talk therapy, medication, positive affirmations, meditation, acupuncture and finally an integrative doctor would really support my healing and growth.
This is where I did some really tough inner work. I needed to re-parent myself. As I parented my children I was parenting myself. I still am. I'm nurturing them and trying to simultaneously nurture myself. These incredible little beings that were created from pure love, shined a light for me to see just how terribly I was neglecting myself. They helped me see that being nasty to myself was awful and harsh. This was no way to treat someone I loved. If I was going to truly love them, I had to truly love myself. And so my self-care journey began. In a dark barren place that I came to know as rock bottom. The best part about rock bottom…the only place to go is up dear one.
Sometimes it breaks my heart that my mom isn't physically here to witness all the beauty in my children, myself and our tremendous amount of growth. But I'm eternally grateful that she was here to witness their births and first few years of life. She'd be proud.
As mom's, we do the best we can. My mom was no different. She loved me with her entire being and cared for me the best way she knew how. I learned from her the importance of love, to be compassionate, family came first, to be caring and unfortunately to ignore my own self-care in the process. She just didn't know what she didn't know. As mom’s we're brainwashed to think self-care is selfish. My hope is that together we can break this cycle for the generations of moms to come.
Becoming a mom and losing mine has taught me so many things. One of the most important lessons that really hit home for me this Mother's Day:
Self-care is essential in order to truly care for others.
I'm incredibly honored to share my experiences with you. I know for me as a highly sensitive empath, aside from self-care, social interaction also slips away in times of overwhelm. Sometimes that can be lonely. We crave connection but we also want to crawl into our shell or at least under the covers.
The struggle is real.
Please know that you're not alone, sister. If you're not already part of our Facebook community I invite you to join us in this private safe container of Divinely Sensitive Sisters. It's a beautiful space to find understanding, love, support, and resources along your sensitive journey. We're going to be diving into all things self-care and we'd be honored to have you to join us! Click the link above for an invitation.
I'd love to hear about your relationship with self-care! Did it change when you had kids? If you don't have kids, did another big life event change your relationship with self-care?
Maybe this has sparked a story about your own mother or being a mother, we'd love to hear your story. Sharing is caring. We learn from each other. I'll be honored to learn from you. Please share your stories in the comments.
With love + sensitivity,