Self-care can take many forms, but for me, it basically used to be nonexistent. With a toddler at home, a Sunday night face mask or 30-minute reflexology once a month was the most I could do. It never felt like enough, but it was what I could squeeze into my schedule. That all changed after I lost my second pregnancy in a six-month period.
I had gotten far enough along in each pregnancy to feel that "this is really happening" feeling - and both losses shook me physically and emotionally. I saw how easy it would be to sink into my feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger, and I let myself go there for about a week after each loss. But after my second miscarriage, I decided that I couldn't just sit in my feelings. I needed to take control of the things that I actually could change - my physical and mental health being paramount. In the two months since my last miscarriage, I've embraced self-care when I needed it most.
A lot of women write or tell stories about their miscarriages once they're on the other side of it. I'm not on the other side yet. I'm in the thick of it right now. And one of the most helpful things for me has been to hear from other women who have dealt (or are dealing) with loss or fertility issues and to really talk about it. Case in point: Health writer Alison Prato's piece about how SoulCycle helped her deal with a string of miscarriages hangs on the wall at my local SoulCycle studio, and I read it every time I'm there. It continues to inspire me, after both of my losses, to take more control of my life and to do some things I enjoy. So while this piece isn't about SoulCycle, I hope that one of the eight self-care practices on my list will help someone the way Prato's words have helped me:
I Committed to Working Out
With one kid at home, it's hard to make time for exercise and easy to make excuses. My husband and I started scheduling out our week together every Sunday and making sure each of us has the time to exercise. By prioritizing it for each other and changing our schedules around so we both can get to the gym, we've been forced to commit. And like Elle Woods famously said, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy."
I Did Whole30
The Whole30 diet isn't for everyone, but it was so helpful for me to have this structure. My second lost pregnancy was really tough on my body (I think my body was trying to miscarry for about a month before I lost the pregnancy), and I gained some weight. Taking care of my body and being mindful of what goes in it has been such a great reset for me and makes me feel like I'm in control of something.
I Learned How to Say "No"
Not only have I said "no," but I've said "no" without excuses or justifications - and removed all feelings of guilt and FOMO in the process. After wavering for months about whether or not to fly across the country for my college reunion, I officially decided not to go. While I knew it would be a fun weekend, I also knew I'd leave exhausted and feeling pretty unhealthy. I'm not completely shutting down my social life, but learning how to say "no" to certain things has given me time to make space for other self-care practices.
I Picked Up a New Hobby
I had wanted to learn how to make jam for a long time but was too intimidated to try. After my second miscarriage, I decided to give it a shot. I was hosting an event the following month, so making jam as the party favors was the perfect opportunity. It was therapeutic to spend a couple hours prepping everything, following directions, and then seeing the results - and the whole process gave me a little space to get out of my own mind. It may not be the type of thing I'll do a lot, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment, and I know I'll do it again.
I Confided in Friends
This has been a huge help for me after each loss. Not only has it been helpful to open up about what's really going on in my life, but almost every single person I've talked to has had similar experiences. It's made me question the statistic that only one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage and has strengthened my bond with so many incredible women in my life.
I Started Going to Therapy
I think therapy is good for everyone. I had seen a therapist for some of high school, and since then, it was one of those things that was always on my to-do list. My second miscarriage was the kick in the butt I needed to finally go back. Going to therapy is a chance to have a conversation with someone who doesn't have a horse in my fertility race and is only looking out for my best interest. Plus, it's a full hour where I can focus solely on working out my own feelings and learn strategies to cope with and to combat some of the negative feelings I tend to fall back on.
I Started "Meditating"
I've tried meditating before, but it's just not for me. I want to like it, but I have been incapable of making it a habit. My acupuncturist (yes, I do that too!) suggested that instead of meditating, I drink my morning cup of coffee in silence. No phone, no computer, no magazine, no distractions. It's just 10 minutes alone drinking coffee. This has been a great way to squeeze in some thoughtful quiet time without technically meditating. While I don't necessarily spend that time processing my feelings, it helps me start the day with a clearer head and gives me some peaceful time before the chaos of the day begins.
I Wrote About It
There are some days when my feelings about the past year have gotten really overwhelming. I've never been a journaler, so instead, I've written my thoughts out in email drafts. I've ultimately decided to share them only with my therapist and my husband, but it's cathartic to let everything out at once. It's also been helpful to go back and read them later and see the progress I've made and the feelings I'm still grappling with.
When I started therapy, my therapist asked me when I'd feel better. I said, "When I'm pregnant again." While I still think that's true to a degree, I am a whole lot happier now, and I owe much of that to the intentional changes I've made in my life. I don't know when I'll get pregnant again or if it will work out the next time, and I have zero control over the matter. In the meantime, the ways that I take care of myself are completely in my control. I still have moments or entire days where I am overcome by the weight of this past year, but I'm grateful to have learned how to practice self-care with intention every single day in the process.