by Rhonda McMahon, mother to Dylan and preemie Bryan
Having a baby in the NICU takes so much from us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Making those daily visits to the hospital not knowing what awaits when you walk through the NICU doors each time. All while juggling work and home responsibilities, not to mention pumping milk around the clock for those moms who are able to do so. It can be an exhausting journey and one where we often feel helpless or out of control.
You might find yourself asking, “What can I do to restore my sense of well-being and keep up with all that is expected of me”? One of the best and most effective ways you can help your baby is to take care of yourself. Think about what a flight attendant instructs parents to do in the event of a midair emergency when traveling with children. “Remember to put an oxygen mask on yourself first before placing one on your child.” It’s the ultimate metaphor for all parents on the importance of practicing self-care.
And speaking of oxygen, one of the easiest forms of self-care is to notice and become more aware of your breathing. Most of us go about our day taking shallow breaths through our mouth, rarely expanding our lungs to full capacity. Those who practice yoga know the restorative qualities of breath work. One easy way is to breathe in deeply through your nose with your mouth closed filling your lungs completely while feeling your diaphragm and belly expand, hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale through your nose. Repeat this for a few minutes several times each day and you can’t help but feel more relaxed and centered.
In the next issue, I will cover the four areas of self-care—physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Until then, be gentle with yourself, notice your breathing and find more ways to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” You and your baby will be glad you did.
Rhonda McMahon is the mother of two sons—Bryan, 9, who was born with Down syndrome at 31 weeks and spent two months in the NICU; she went into preterm labor with Dylan, 6, at 28 weeks, spent four days in the hospital to stop contractions followed by two months of complete bedrest at home; and Dylan was born full-term. Rhonda facilitates Personal Renewal Groups (PRG) for mothers of children with special needs based on Renée Trudeau’s award-winning book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life.