Self-Care

Self-care is one of those buzzwords that has become super popular lately. Everyone seems to be talking about it and what it means to them.

Recently I read an article that lamented this need for self-care. It talked about living a life that was full of purpose, one that didn’t need you to take a break from it. You took care of yourself at the get-go so that you didn’t feel the need to schedule bubble baths and other self-indulgent things.

But self-care is so much more than that. And while the concept is a great idea, unfortunately it doesn’t happen for some people. Most of the people that struggle with this are moms. And I’m one of them.

Self-care can seem impossible as a mother, especially a new one. I have recently come to realise how important it is to take care of yourself and honestly wish I had more time to do it.

As a mother, you are constantly giving: your time and energy. As my mom loves to say, you can’t be good for others if you’re not good for yourself. And I never really understood this concept until becoming a mother. Another saying that helps explain this is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. And it’s so true.

Being a mom is a 24/7 job. There are no days off, no vacation days, no sick days. If you feel like crap, you still get up at 2AM for the fifth time that night to take care of a crying baby. And then you go about the rest of your day like nothing happened. And it’s exhausting. It can become impossible to keep caring for baby if your energy levels are running on low and you haven’t slept properly in weeks or even months. It can lead to frustration, anxiety, depression, and so many other things.

I’m seven months post-partum, but some days I still feel like my daughter was just born yesterday. How is this still not any easier? Why am I still so tired? Why do I feel so depressed all the time?

I constantly tell myself that right now I only have the one kid. I have no idea how women with multiple children do it. I am in constant awe of women who work and run their households and take care of multiple kids. Or women who also choose not to work but also handle everything so seamlessly. How do they do it? How come I can’t?

Before becoming a mother, I had no concept of self-care. I woke up when I wanted, went to sleep when I wanted. If I was craving something to eat, I ordered out. If I wanted to bake my little heart out, I did it at 9AM or 9PM. It didn’t matter. If I felt like watching a movie in the middle of the day, I did just that. It was all me, me, me. Now? Not so much.

It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it doesn’t get any easier. But I’m realising that I have to start taking care of myself. If I don’t, I will lose my sanity. Some days, I feel like I’m close to it…

Some days it just doesn’t happen. There are a million and one things to get through the day. My daughter’s short, 20 to 30 minute naps don’t leave me with much time to do much for myself, other than maybe take a shower and eat. Take this blog post for example. I wrote a similar to it almost one month ago. I never finished writing it and it continued to gather dust until I realised some of the things I had written were no longer relevant. I planned on doing some writing on Monday and today is Wednesday when I finally have the time to sit down to write this. I’ve already been interrupted once and will probably not finish posting this until later tonight or maybe even tomorrow. That’s just how it is.

So what does self-care look like for me? For starters, I’ve started reading again. There was a period of time where I was too tired to want to read before bed or any other time. I would browse on my phone for a few minutes before sleep finally claimed me. But lately, I’ve been been reading more and it’s something to look forward to at the end of a crazy day. I’ve missed getting lost in a good book and excitement that comes with wanting to know what happens next. I was currently reading through old favourites but have started on some of the unread books that I have had on my bookshelf for ages. Sometimes it’s only a few pages, and sometimes it’s more. But it’s my treat for getting through the day.

I’ve also picked up my markers to do brush lettering again. I wasn’t very good when I abandoned it last year, but it’s something I loved learning to do. It’s something that I find so therapeutic since I can actually switch off my brain and just doodle on the page and try to create something beautiful. It’s so relaxing to be able to work with my hands again. I miss being creative so much, and this is such a non-stressful way for me to get back to it. When my daughter falls asleep for the night, I love to sit with my markers for a few minutes and just doodle some words on the blank page, the thick and thin lines erasing the stress from the day.

I’ve also baking again for myself. I’ve gone back to some old recipes and made the ones that I loved. I’ve made the ones that I know my husband hasn’t tried but will love. It’s something I have to plan for a little more than I ever did, but it’s so worth it when that smell of butter and sugar fills the kitchen.

I’m going to be honest. I find it hard to relax and let go. I always have. But now it’s more harmful than good. I have this concept of guilt that takes over my brain when I do anything for myself, even if I sit for five minutes. In my mind, I could be doing something productive, like cleaning up or organizing. It’s something my mom instilled in me and it’s become so ingrained in me that I have a hard time letting go of it. I feel guilty for relaxing and for taking a break. But at the same time, I complain constantly about being exhausted and of running around all day. I know it’s my fault and I’m the first to admit that I’m a hypocrite. I complain about being tired but refuse to rest or relax when I have the chance.

I’m trying to get better at it, but it’s a constant battle I have within myself. Today I was faced with the choice of napping when my daughter napped or doing chores. I chose the former and it felt amazing.

I think self-care, for me, just means being kinder to myself. It means letting things go and being okay with it. It means taking a break and not feeling guilty. It means knowing that I’m not a bad mother if I take some time for myself.

How do you tackle self-care? Do you think it’s important?

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The Mom Bod

This is going to be a difficult post to write. But one that has been 3 months in the making, maybe even more.

There are so many changes that happen to your body during the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Despite all the tabloid images of celebrities slimming down merely weeks after producing another human, the general consensus is that childbirth should be celebrated. Your body is a beautiful thing, we are told, to have housed another human being.

But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see beautiful. I see a monster.

Let me back up a bit: I have always struggled with low self-esteem when it comes to my body. I have struggled with my weight my whole life and when I became pregnant I was afraid of going down a path I wouldn’t be able to return from.

Growing up I was always chubby. I loved dessert as a kid and the pounds packed on throughout my preteen and teen years. Given my height (or lack thereof), my weight gain is always apparent. It can’t hide anywhere on all 5 feet and 1 inch of me. I eat a cookie and I’ve gained a pound.

A few years ago, I got sick of always being the fat girl, of always not knowing what to wear and of feeling so ugly. My self esteem was intrinsically tied to my weight and I wanted to feel good again.

So I embarked on a crazy diet. I hated exercise and so decided that dieting was the way to go. I cut out all sugar and carbs from my diet and I lost almost 30 pounds in a year. I gained about 5 back after that but I more or less maintained it over the years after losing it. I could go into a store to buy clothes and come out with my self-confidence intact. I almost felt beautiful.

After marriage, I gained some more weight. I’ve always been an emotional eater and the stress and drastic changes in my life made me double up on the cookies and cupcakes and cake. If there was dessert, I wanted it.

When I became pregnant, I knew I had to be careful. Because I gain weight quickly and lose it slowly, I knew that the pounds would pack on pretty quickly. And they did.

But I kept hearing how breastfeeding would help me to slim down quickly and that I would drop several pounds right away, once the baby was out.

But as my body would have it, I barely lost 20 pounds. Even after my daughter was born and I was 6 weeks post-partum, the scale still read that hateful number it had read the day I came home from the hospital. Even though I was breastfeeding around the clock, every two hours, sometimes even every hour. Even though there were days where I felt so hungry I was dizzy. Even though I felt like my energy was so low from all the running around I did. Even though there were days I barely ate more than 2 meals, that number did not budge.

As a breastfeeding mom, I get HUNGRY. Hungry in a way I wasn’t during pregnancy. Hungry enough that when I have a chance to sit and eat, I can go on for a long time. So hungry that I will eat anything and everything my hand finds.

I know I should eat healthier. But I find easy comfort in chocolate on the days that are extra hard. There are moments where I hate myself as I gorge on chips and cookies and chocolate in the small twenty minute nap my daughter takes. I hate myself even more when I see myself in fitting room mirrors, with a pile of clothes that don’t fit on the floor. But I still don’t stop.

I know I should exercise, and trust me I tried. But after a night of barely sleeping and hours where I feel like all I do is feed and put the baby to sleep, the last thing I feel like doing is moving. I want to sleep and not get up for a long time.

I know all of these probably sound like excuses for not being able to lose the weight. And that’s because some of them are. I promised myself that I would work hard after giving birth, that I wouldn’t stay this way, that I would lose the weight. But I didn’t know how hard it was going to be.

It’s hard to feel beautiful when your wedding rings are too tight to even make it down your finger. It’s hard when all that fits are still your maternity clothes, 3 months later. It’s hard when your feet still look swollen and have grown an extra size. It’s hard when the largest size in your favourite store no longer fits.

I have friends that tell me to be proud of my body and all that it has achieved. And to be honest, I am proud. When I look at my daughter and her growing tummy and legs, I feel amazed that she is growing because of food that she gets from my body. She is surviving and thriving because of what I am able to provide for her and that is a miracle in itself. But it still doesn’t stop me from feeling like a failure.

It’s even harder when my Instagram feed and Facebook is filled with friends who bounced back weeks after giving birth. Girls who didn’t breastfeed and lost the weight. Girls who breastfed and lost the weight. Girls who exercised accordingly and lost the weight quickly. Girls who aren’t celebrities, but real girls who slimmed down and who look amazing. So all I can think of when I see them is my own failures. If they can do it, why can’t I? Why is this so hard for me?

I should applaud and appreciate this body that has done so much and continues to do so much. But I don’t. Because all I see in the mirror are lumps and bumps and bruises.

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Drift Away

You and I, we survived
The tides of heartbreak and heartache
Of growing up

We had so much in common, that we never stopped talking
Even when there were ripples of discord
Between us

We moved across continents and countries
But still remained like two rivers flowing parallel
Boundless

There was no tsunami or seismic shift
That altered our relationship
Or broke it

It was a sprinkle, not a stream
Of small changes that littered our lives
So drastically

So when the waves of life pulled us under and apart
The silences were mangled and and massive
And misunderstood

Our memories of the good times became frozen
As our lives pooled in dramatically different directions
And the bond broke

You and I, we didn’t survive
The torments and torrents
Of life

 

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Motherhood

Hey guys!

So I never really thought I’d be doing monthly check-ins but that’s what it looks like is happening! I can’t believe my baby girl is 2 months (and a bit) already! The days are definitely long, but time is still passing.

It’s been 2 months since I gave birth. At times, it feels like it was just yesterday. But then at other times, that one day is already becoming a distant memory when compared to the challenges I’m faced with daily.

I’m going to be honest with you: motherhood is HARD. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I feel like laughing when I think of my struggles during high school, university, the process of getting married, and pregnancy. I still remember thinking pregnancy was difficult. I feel like someone should have shook me and told me to enjoy myself, since life wouldn’t be the same after giving birth. I remember being so annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t sleep on my back, at the end of my pregnancy; I was so uncomfortable with my belly that I couldn’t wait to sleep PROPERLY after the baby. HA! One thing I’m not doing these days: sleeping properly.

Motherhood is difficult in a way that nothing else is. It’s a job that demands you to be there 24/7. There are no days off, no off-times. There are days when I’m dying to crawl into bed, especially as the sun goes down and the day comes to an end, but I know that my day isn’t necessarily finishing. There’s still work to be done at night. The lack of sleep drives me crazy; all I want to do is sleep. Sleep uninterrupted. There are days when I stuff anything I can get my hands on in my mouth in the few minutes I have to spare. Dieting and trying to lose any of the baby weight are a dream I can’t even be bothered with right now. There are days when going to the bathroom is a luxury. Those few minutes I get to myself in the bathroom are the only break I get. There are days when I feel like crying as much as baby, from utter exhaustion and frustration. There are days when I finally reach my bed, wondering how I’m going to get up again in the morning. But somehow I do it all again the next day. 

The quote “The only thing constant in life is change” describes motherhood perfectly. Each day is different. Even when I think baby and I have a routine, or some sort of schedule, something changes and I’m back to trying to figure out what happened. The first year of a baby’s life is filled with changes, so I know that the way baby girl is now is bound to change in a few weeks. There are many milestones coming up: teething, rolling over, holding her head, eating solids, crawling, talking, walking, and more! So even when I think “Ok, I’ve got this” I know I have to be realistic because things will change.

Even though I had 9 months to prepare to become a mother, I still feel so lost sometimes. I wish my husband and I had spent more time together, before baby girl arrived. I wish I had used my time during pregnancy better to do the things that my hands itch to do these days. I wish I had accomplished more in my life. It’s hard to say this, but I’m going to be honest: I miss my old life.

This is not to say that I don’t love my daughter and don’t realise what a big blessing I have. I am thankful and grateful for my little princess every day. But it’s still a transition. And a difficult one at that. I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember and have always pictured myself having a big family. But I still find myself trying to stay afloat most days.

I look at other mothers and they make it look so effortless that I can’t help but thinking that there’s something wrong with me or my baby. Are we doing something wrong? How can I be better, more efficient, and get more done? I see many mothers who are working, running businesses, taking care of the house, raising other kids, volunteering, exercising, and much more. I feel like I barely get anything done. All I do is take care of baby but I wish I could do more. I know motherhood is not a competition but it’s so hard not to compare my life to the lives of other moms who make it all look so easy on social media.

Whenever I ask people if it gets easier, they tell me it gets harder. And I can’t imagine it being any harder than it already is. They say “The days are long but the years are short.” I haven’t gotten to the years yet, but the days are endless and exhausting. 

I don’t know if I’m a good mother. Patience is a virtue I’m sorely lacking. I find myself feeling frustrated often. Many days I’m left feeling drained and I try to think about what I got done in the day. It doesn’t feel like much: the laundry didn’t get folded, I wasn’t able to help out with the cooking, and I didn’t get around to asking my husband how his day was. All I did was feed and change my baby, and try to figure out why she’s crying.

But then I start to remember the smile baby girl gave me first thing in the morning, a smile so sweet and pure it made my heart so full of love it felt like it would burst. I remember the way her eyes widen with wonder at the world around her and the way they are filled with so much love when they meet my own. I remember the way her finger grasps mine when she’s drinking her milk, and the funny and cute faces she makes afterward. I remember the yummy way she smells, my favourite smell in the whole world and one I will never forget. I remember the sweetness in her manner when she giggles, music to my ears. I remember the way her body curls into mine when she’s sleeping, as if all is right in her world as long as we are together. And it somehow makes it all okay.

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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5 Weeks Old

Hey everyone! Remember me? I’m  writing this as 5 weeks postpartum and as the mom as a 5 week old!

Baby girl is currently sleeping so I’m writing this while hoping she doesn’t wake up soon. The last time I posted was when I was 39 weeks pregnant and so ready to pop! Little did I know that I would go into labour only a week later…

I was so scared of going over my due date and having to be induced that I stressed about it 2 weeks before my due date. As soon as I passed 38 weeks I was like let’s go, et’s get this show started! But baby girl was going to come when she wanted to.

I actually ended up going into labour the day I was due! Labour and delivery were NOT FUN. Try every synonym for excruciatingly painful (and this was with pain medication). I have no idea what it’s like all-natural! But I survived. My beautiful baby girl, Emaan, was was born the next day at 10:04 in the morning on Monday April 24th.

The past 5 weeks have been such a blur! I love to be prepared but becoming a mother is something I don’t think anyone can ever be prepared for. The emotions you feel, the fullness you feel in your heart, the attachment to this tiny human being that you would do anything for, the exhaustion and stress of it all. It’s been a huge learning curve, and of course it’s not over.

Every time I think “Ok, I got this mothering thing, I know what to do,” baby girl throws me a curve ball! Everyday is literally completely different. No two days are alike and it’s been challenging to keep up.

I think the first 3 weeks I was in such a haze. I’m a girl who has never been able to survive on less than 8 hours of sleep (I used to be in bed by 9:30 or 10, all throughout high school and even in university) and so the lack of sleep totally got to me! Now I know why people drink coffee and tea to get through the day (although I haven’t succumbed yet). Every time Emaan was asleep, I would try and sneak in a nap as well, even if it was just for 30 mins. And luckily I had the support of my family to be able to do, alhamdulilah.

But now I feel like I’m getting used to the lack of sleep a little better. I still try to nap at least once in the afternoon, but there’s a lot to get done in the day before I allow myself to do that. There’s laundry, cleaning up, restocking of diapers and wipes, taking the time to eat and shower, and a million other mundane things that take up my day. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post for a week now but there’s always something to do during the naps.

The first few weeks were a bit of a haze for her too. But now she’s able to track me with her eyes, and gives me the cutest gummy smile and has even started giggling now. I have no clue what she finds so funny; usually it’s like she’s just laughing at an inside joke only she knows, but it’s the best sound in the world. She smiles at her dad when he comes from work and has started grabbing things (and not letting go). She’s already growing up so fast and it’s only been a month!

Even though it’s already been 5 weeks, it still feels like yesterday that I first held Emaan in my hands. When I’m feeding her and her tiny finger tightly grasps mine, I still can’t believe that she was inside me for 9 months and that I gave birth to her. It honestly feels like a dream.

I still can’t believe she’s all mine. <3 She’s definitely the most precious gift I’ve ever received. 🙂

I thought pregnancy was life-changing, but it was just the beginning. The real adventure is motherhood and it’s just beginning!

Anyways, I’m going to wrap this up before baby girl wakes up! Ramadan Mubarak to all those observing. Hope your Ramadan is going well!

As always, thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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