By Guest Blogger Ashley Quinn Kibby
While I was pregnant with my twins, I read many books and articles written for mothers of multiples. Some good, some horrible, many functional, mostly instructional, with contents covering sleeping, napping, nursing, wrapping, weaning, feeding, and folding. But nothing I read prepared me for feeling. Many taught me how to care for my babies, but few taught me how to care for myself.
Sure, selfcare is something any grown ass woman should know how to do. We most certainly know how to hashtag it. But everything I knew was out the window the moment those two helpless beings came into the light. Everything I learned prepared me for meeting the needs of these bodies who could not meet their own, and for putting myself last in a long list of essential and non-essential functions. What to eat and when to sleep were about the closest pieces of advice I collected to care for myself. And sure, these biological functions are imperative, but there’s much, much more to being human.
Before I had my twins, I had a daily yoga practice. I had an exciting social scene. I had a favorite hike in the woods where my dogs ran free off their leashes and my thoughts ran free with nature. I had a science-fiction writing group and a spiritual center. Between community, creativity, and spirituality, I almost had it all. But as I began to prepare for the one thing I wanted most, a family, I slowly witnessed my yoga practice, social outings and creative writing fall to the wayside. My one saving grace was a consistent hiking effort with the dogs, but by my third trimester, I was humongous and sciatic. Hiking, let alone walking, was no longer a core competency.
Becoming a mother to my twin daughters was the most magical and wonderful experience of my life. I was so excited to finally have a family that I poured every iota of my time and energy into it, naively believing it was all I needed to be complete. But with the spiritual anchors of nature, movement and expression removed from my experience, I was less equipped to deal with the many changes that come with a new marriage and pregnancy, not to mention the arrival of our two infants, a move, and my changing career.
As my emotional landscape became more unpredictable, I began to look for fast, safe, and trustworthy hits of dopamine. After the babies came, I ate when I was bored, tense, and especially when I was tired. Usually, all three at once. Now, the one thing the maternity books had taught me, about eating balanced meals and getting proper sleep, was out the window. When the effects of imbalance caught up with me in the forms of burnout and anxiety, I looked to support these biological functions first. But even after a 30-day cleanse to help regulate my hormones and restore my health, I realized I needed more than proper fitness and nutrition to feel better.
I found out the hard way that after becoming a mother, I still needed all of those things that filled me up before I had children. My wellness wasn’t just about eating whole foods, drinking less coffee, and getting more sleep. Yes, I had to take care of my body — but I also had to feed my soul. As my twins approached their first birthday and our state was issued stay-at-home orders in response to the global pandemic, I finally emerged from the isolation, confusion and disruption that was new motherhood.
Through gardening, I reclaimed my relationship with nature and through Zoom, I reconnected with old friends. In the morning, I took five minutes to stretch and at night I cleared all the baby toys out of my bathtub so I could soak, and rest. I also began to write again, but instead of sci-fi, I wrote to process my feelings about motherhood and marriage. As my hands typed thoughts onto pages and folded dirt over seeds, I learned what may have been obvious to many, but not to some. My little family could never fill my cup in all the complex ways I’d learned to give meaning to my life. This, I had to do for myself, so that I could give them the best of me.
Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to TMoM’s free weekly newsletters here.