I admit it. I thought it would never happen to me. I’d never let myself feel guilty for doing things for myself just because I was a mom. Before having my daughter, I couldn’t understand why my friends with kids would say they felt bad going to the gym after work or they’d rather just stay in on a Friday night than take advantage of a free babysitter. But as life got busy with work, my husband’s travel schedule, family commitments and when my daughter became more aware of her surroundings (and the fact mom and dad weren’t always there as much as she’d like), the dreaded “mom guilt” started to set in. But like every good Scandinavian, I decided to push my emotions aside and keep moving forward.
It’s normal right? I don’t need that much time for myself anyway. The gym, that night out or the blog I wanted to start can wait. Then, I got pregnant with my second child. And BAM!! The hormones hit hard and my “mom guilt” quadrupled. By the second trimester it became almost paralyzing – causing me to wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, lose focus at work and frequently lash out at my hubby.
I went to my OB to seek help and she recommended more sleep and time for relaxation (ummm…okay?). She did say that if it became “unbearable” there were anti-anxiety medications that I could take while pregnant but there were also some risks. Before I went down that road, I wanted to explore what else I could do to fight what I’m calling “mom guilt” but what had really turned into severe anxiety. I reached out to the other wonderful moms in my life and they came with lots of solutions. Yoga. Tried it. Can’t turn my brain off. Massage. Awesome but no lasting effects.
Then, one of my friends suggested acupuncture. I knew she had seen an acupuncturist in the past but I thought it was purely for her chronic headaches. She explained that acupuncture can actually treat a lot of other things including hormone imbalance, anxiety and depression. Who knew? I was interested but still skeptical. Then, a few days later I met an acupuncturist and holistic health coach that wanted to appear on the daytime talk show that I work on. Two acupuncture conversations in one week! I took that as a sign that the universe wanted me to give acupuncture a try.
The first two appointments with this particular acupuncturist are each two hours long. I know, where do you find the time? But I was feeling so wound up and anxiety-ridden, I knew I couldn’t live like this for the remainder of my pregnancy. Before the first appointment I was nervous and still a bit skeptical. However, as soon as I arrived at the beautifully decorated clinic (it really feels more like a spa) and started sipping some awesome herbal tea, I was quickly at ease. First, she had me fill out an extensive questionnaire that asked about everything from my sex life to how many times I use the bathroom every day. I mean, this questionnaire gets pretty personal. But it’s important to be as honest as possible because it helps give your acupuncturist a full scope of how your body is functioning.
Then I met with my acupuncturist for about an hour to discuss my questionnaire. We talked food, family and everything in between. It felt like a mix between the best therapy session of your life and having coffee with an old friend. Finally, it was time for some teeny-tiny needles. She had me lay on a warm massage table with quiet music and low lighting. She talked to me the entire time and quickly placed the needles in my head, hands, arms, legs and feet. At one point, I asked, “When do you start putting in the needles?” and she said that I already had most of them in. I laid there for a few minutes. Then I started to feel my blood begin to pump harder, and literally, the tightness in my chest started to break up. The sensation was so intense it made feel a little light headed. My acupuncturist started to massage my feet and legs which helped calm things down. She explained that the feeling I was having was my qi (pronounced “chee”) moving. She said it had been stuck in the top half of my body and that it was now moving throughout my body as it should. She had me lay with the needles in for about 20 minutes in the dark room with a call button if I started to feel uncomfortable or anxious. This is commonly referred to as an “acupuncture nap” or the best darn nap you’ll ever have in your life.
When it was time to get up, I instantly felt lighter and like my head was clearer. I went home that night and slept nearly through the night (minus getting up to pee once, I was six months pregnant after all) for the first time in probably a year. My anxiety wasn’t completely gone but it felt more manageable.
The next week, I went back for my second two-hour follow-up appointment. At that appointment, my acupuncturist presented me with a folder with a personalized diagnose of my mental and physical health. She said I have a lot of “fire” inside that needs to be cooled to help calm me down. She recommended foods to eat and foods to avoid along with herbs and other natural techniques to calm my body. She also recommended coming in a few more times over the next month for acupuncture to really get my anxiety under control.
The follow-up acupuncture appointments are now only about an hour (and about half of that is your “nap time”). The food changes she gave me weren’t drastic but they have really helped (especially in times when I’m feeling really stressed). I recently went back for acupuncture before a big meeting at work that had been weighing heavy on my mind. Even being 8 ½ months pregnant and functioning on little sleep, acupuncture helped me clear my mind and perform at my best. I plan to go back at least one more time before the birth of my second child to keep my anxiety at bay so I can fully enjoy the new addition to my family.
I’m not saying acupuncture is the cure all for everything or everyone but it has been a useful and empowering tool for me in dealing my mental health issues during a time when I need my body to function at its best.