I am beyond excited to welcome my friend Jodie to Whimsicle today in this guest post!! I’ve known Jodie for over 10 years now. She is beautiful person and a wonderful, strong mother. Read on to see how she’s coping with a back injury while caring for her two-year-old daughter. – JoAnn
Taking care of kids—especially toddlers—is a very physically demanding job. You might not even realize how much you bend, sit, lift, crouch, crawl, and climb until you are physically unable to do so. What do you do when you are on bed rest while caring for a toddler?
I am a stay-at-home-mom living in a big city—Mexico City—and I pride myself on taking my two-year-old daughter out of the apartment at least twice a day. In a place where there aren’t too many expanses of green grass or parks, we visit the big 19th century church, watch skaters at the skate park, and walk along the ever-changing photo exhibits of museum row. I scoop her into the backpack, and we are unstoppable! That is, until I suffered a back injury about a month ago. With pain that rivaled labor, I was hospitalized for almost two weeks and came home without a prognosis and a prescription of limited mobility.
Without being able to lift my baby, let alone take her places, what was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to play with her, comfort her, take care of her? I could barely walk, barely stand, and I was feeling depressed. She was my job, my joy, and my daily paradigm had suddenly and significantly shifted.
So many of us go through this, whether it is from a C-section, surgery, injury, or existing disability. What do you do when you have a little one and you are rendered immobile? I’m still learning to find a routine amidst my new normal. In doing so, the following strategies have allowed me to cope with our new situation and to care for my toddler in new but meaningful ways:
1. Ask for help.
I am independent and have a hard time asking for help. I like to make fresh meals for my baby, take her to classes, and go to play dates on a whim. It has been so upsetting to give this up. More than anything, I didn’t want to disrupt her day-to-day routine.
However, putting aside qualms and seeking help from friends and loved ones can help maintain your toddler’s routine. Ask friends to bring groceries or meals to your house (just like after your baby was born!). People will be happy to do this for you, just as you would be happy to do this for them.
Ask someone to take your baby to regularly scheduled activities or to the park. Depending on your recovery, you may even be able to go along and just sit on the sidelines and watch and wave. You are present and participating— just in a different way.
2. Have honest and repetitive conversations with your toddler.
I am constantly amazed at what my daughter takes in and understands. Verbally and with sign language, I remind her that Mommy hurt her back and can’t play or pick her up. Sometimes she gets upset and forgets, but we keep talking about it. She may not be able to converse, but one sign that shows me she’s listening is that she takes my hand to help me up the stairs. My independent little lady would have NEVER done this before!
Remember: Try not to talk down to your toddler or “protect” them from what’s really going on. Incorrect information may cause confusion and affect their expectations of you.
3. Loosen up your rules.
I used to keep my daughter away from TV altogether. Now movie time with Mommy in the afternoon is quality time while we snuggle. I also used to be fiercely devoted to fresh-air time in the afternoon. While it drives me crazy, I have had to come to terms with doing a lot of indoor activities instead.
It can also be stressful to dictate exact instructions to other caregivers. If you are like me, it may be helpful to take a deep breath and accept that—as well-intentioned and qualified as they may be—others won’t be able to take care of your baby exactly like you do. This may mean more carbs and less veggies, or more iPhone time than usual. Remind yourself that it’s okay. As long as your baby is healthy and happy overall, letting go of small details can help lower stress levels, which can be very important in your own recovery.
4. Brainstorm creative activities.
I’m not exactly the make-it-yourself-create-an-activity-a-day-with-awesome-messy-stuff kind of mom (though I always aspire to be!), so I was pleasantly surprised at what kind of easy and fun activities you can invent while sitting or laying down!
5. Take care of yourself.
Give yourself permission to be inactive. Personally, once I am told I can’t do something is when I want to do it more (just like my toddler). Be sure to ask for meals in bed, physical support while walking or moving, help with chores, and even help with bathing. Think of how you can incorporate your feel-good rituals into your new routine (e.g. get a pedicure or haircut in your home, go to a movie theater with cushioned recliners, order in more often).
Remember: Being overly active can delay your recovery and set a negative example of self-care for your child. A better personal recovery means you can take even better care of your baby.
Physical trauma can be tough. I’m still in the midst of my recovery. When my daughter is frustrated about it, I might let her misbehave without consequence. When I feel frustrated, I look to her resilience for inspiration. What I realize is that the most important things—the way we crack each other up, the way she brushes my hair with her little hands, and how she still gets excited to see me when she gets home—haven’t really changed at all.