Updated: Apr 11, 2021
Self-care is a buzzword we've heard circulating for some time now. We're encouraged to take time out of our busy day to focus on ourselves when possible. This may not be as feasible when you have a baby in the NICU or once you bring your baby home with you. Most of your energy will be concentrated on your little one, with very little time to think of your own needs, let alone wants. What I’ve come to realize is that rest is essential to maintaining our physical and mental health. You must prioritize time for yourself if you want to be present for your loved ones, including that precious baby that God has gifted you with.
It’s important to be intentional about scheduling time for things you enjoy. Leaving free time to chance is the easiest way to find yourself wondering how so much of your day got away from you. Bedtime will be upon you and you’ll find yourself exhausted and upset that you didn’t make time for fun. Set a reminder so you won’t forget and make it something to look forward to at the end of a long day. It’s your reward for being the wonderful mother you are along with all the additional challenges that accompany being a mother of a premature infant.
Keep it simple. You don't have to plan a trip or block out hours. You can set aside as little as 15 minutes for yourself, away from others. If you have a significant other, enlist them with the responsibility of watching your baby while you rest. Set clear boundaries and let them know that you will be unavailable during this time and that they should handle all things related to the baby and the household.
Eliminate all distractions that may keep you from fully resting and feeling cared for. Most of us will agree that our biggest distractions are our phones and any other electronic devices. They have a definite benefit and purpose, but may also zap you of focus and the needed time to check in with your thoughts and emotions. Leave the phone out of sight so that you won't be tempted to reach for it instead of focusing on yourself. Your devices will be there for you later. For now, just keep your mind on recharging and resetting.
Now, the question you’re probably asking is “what do I do during this time of self-care?” This is actually where you can use some creativity to devise a plan that will work for you. I’m an avid reader so one of my favorite ways to practice self-care is to take time to dig into a good book. I’m transported to another world, away from the chaos and stress of my surroundings. I become one with the characters and feel as if a burden is lifted when I put my book away. I don’t need a lot of time or preparation to make it a part of my day. You can do the same thing in determining an activity that beckons you. Do you enjoy journaling or crafting? Start there and build upon your interests.
Self-care can also include focusing on what you need at that particular time. Do you need more sleep? Maybe you should plan to go to bed 30 minutes earlier for your personal time. You can engage in activities that you know your body needs, like drinking more water or taking time for exercise. Don’t make it too daunting or you will talk yourself out of it.
You matter and your well-being is essential in taking care of your baby. You can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re constantly tired and worn out. Of course, it’s natural to feel fatigued with a new baby. Taking time for yourself is the best way to get to a place of peace and stability during an otherwise uncertain time. Give yourself and your baby the best gift ever. Love yourself.