“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”
Ever flown a plane? If so, then you have definitely heard the words above from flight attendants all over the world. It’s a concept that we have heard so many times and may even have become mundane but what is the importance? Very simply, you can’t help someone else with their breathing if you aren’t breathing yourself.
Through the years people have taken these important instructions and used them as metaphors for life. In general, we are to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Why the reminder? Well, I never quite understood the concept as much until I became a mother. When I became a mother 11 years ago, my role shifted to caretaker. I no longer lived for just myself. I lived for my children giving physical and emotional care and support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Last week I received news that challenged me in this area. My Sjögren’s syndrome (autoimmune disease) is causing an inflammation flare in my body. During my visit, my doctor decided that it was time to put me on some stronger medicine. After hearing her discuss the facts and symptoms of the medicine, I reminded her about my breastfeeding which she replied that I cannot do the both at the same time….. immediately tears began to flow. My goal was to breastfeed for at least one year. MJ just turned 8 months. It’s not time. Thoughts of sadness began to creep in.
Breastfeeding is an indescribable bond between mother and child. Research shows many benefits of breastfeeding for not only the child but the mother as well. For babies, breast milk is highly nutritious, it helps fights off infections, it may reduce disease risk, it promotes healthy weight. For mother’s it helps loose weight through calorie burning, increase of oxytocin which encourages relaxation, caregiving and bonding. And finally, it may present menstruation. Sounds wonderful? For me, it has been.
With my other children I wasn’t able to breastfeed for long. For my first, I made it about 6 months. For my 2nd , 3 months. So here I am with my third and excited and determined to make it to at least 1 year.
When I heard the doctor’s message, I knew immediately in my heart what I needed to do. My mind on the other hand, had plans of its own.
My heart knew the necessity of my need to put my oxygen mask on first. My mind questioned it.
My heart knew that 8 months is a substantial time to breastfeed. My mind wanted to complete the task of checking off the one year box.
My heart knew that the best way to love MJ is being my best self as healthy as I can be. My mind wanted to be the best through our breastfeeding bond.
My heart knew that MJ has received everything he needs thus far and will continue to get what he needs. My mind wants to feel like I didn’t do enough. It doesn’t want to give up.
For the last five days, my heart and mind have been going back and forth. One minute I’m ready for my oxygen mask, the next minute I’m telling myself I’ll be alright. Maybe I can wait four months. And even as I write this, there is a tug of war going on. The heart is pulling and gaining momentum and then the mind gets stronger and pulls harder. ‘Do I have to take this medicine?’ My mind says. ‘Yes you do!” Says my heart.
As much as I’d like to keep the picture of making it to a year in mind, I know what’s more important.
As much as I’d like to keep our bond when he gets fussy or sleepy, I know what I need to do.
So when I ask do I have to put the oxygen mask on first, I can confidently say “yes, I do ” and “yes, I will.”
I know for a fact, that if I am not good, no one in my family is good. This is a moment of self care and self love. I cannot and will not settle for less than I deserve. As much as I love my children and my husband, it starts with loving myself. I love myself enough to do what my body needs even if it means sacrificing another love. I love myself enough to forgive myself, protect myself and live joyfully at all times.
I had to come to a decision and that is to start taking the medicine and stop breastfeeding. I am giving myself one week for gradual weaning. I am giving myself the space to cry. I am giving myself permission to rejoice. This time with MJ has been great and will continue to be so.
This decision has not been easy but I asked myself one thing, “what in this moment can I be grateful for?’ And when they say gratitude will shift your altitude, it did. Instead on focusing on what I was going to miss, I focused on what I had. Glass half empty or half full? For me, my glass was just full. My cup runs over with God’s goodness and mercy. I am grateful for:
1- Regular doctor checkups and a doctor who is caring, thoughtful and kind.
2- Prevention- It could’ve gotten worse.
3- 8 months of breastfeeding. It’s my best record!
4- No more pain from MJ’s teeth . He has 6 teeth, need I say more!
5- God’s wisdom to listen to what I know and not what I feel.
And most of all…
My oxygen mask. 💕💕🦋🦋