Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh, Good, I'm Anemic!

Dear Friends,

Once again I'm typing with one hand, while a little toddler nurses and sleeps on me, and a big toddler stands one foot away from the tv screen fascinated by the adventures of the Rescue Heroes. Having a tv is just one of the many areas I've compromised my initial (and as it turns out, unrealistic) ideals I thought I would adhere to prior to becoming a parent. Incidentally, I've not only accepted having a tv (honestly, it's a lifesaver now that there are two children to care for), but I'm actually quite sold on its benefits for introducing parts of "the world" to, well, frankly, the entire family! But, more on the appealing aspects of television viewing some other time...

No, instead, today I'm writing to share my good news: I am anemic! After recent blood work, my doctor informed me that my hemoglobin levels are slightly low, and recommended I begin supplementing with Floradix Iron + Herbs. A trip to Whole Foods, and a commitment to drinking the ill-flavored elixir twice daily ensued.

Now, many of you know I have a penchant for irony, or at opportune times, even sarcasm. But this time, I assure you I am not being ironic. I am genuinely thrilled to learn of my diagnosis of anemia. Because, you see, it explains sooooo much.

Going back for a moment to some of my pre-parenting ideals: I had expected I could keep up with my kids 100 percent of the time. I thought I could play every game, soothe every hurt, wipe every tear, tandem nurse on cue every time, and anticipate and meet every need of my family. Now, I admit defeat. I can't do it all.

But that's okay! In fact, it's great! What a wonderful accomplishment to try so hard and to apply myself so wholly, and to ultimately discover and honor my limits. And, to model self-care to the children, now that I am starting to get the hang of that, too!

Naturally, there is co-mingled a feeling of disappointment for falling short of one's ideals in the face of reality. Okay, I can grieve that loss and move on. The trouble, however, is that I was feeling really guilty for not doing everything for everybody, not jumping up and running and playing as hard as my kids need to, not cooking every meal from scratch, etc. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I couldn't keep up because I wasn't trying hard enough. I just need to do more; I must push myself harder, I told myself.

Well, there is just too darn much to do and there are too many demands for us stay-at-home moms to attempt to do it all ourselves, even under the best of circumstances and with the most hands-on husbands. I am still learning to ask for help (just ask my similarly independent-minded mother, right Mom?). I'm not superwoman, and I get that.

So, I've eased up on my ideals. We watch tv, eat grab-and-go snacks or--gasp! sometimes even meals, and clear paths through toys and art supplies to find a seat on the couch. I've started accepting offers of assistance. I hired a mother's helper (albeit briefly, as unfortunately that was one of the first sanity-saving expenses to go when my husband became unemployed one month ago). I've been taking steps to relax, recuperate and rest from all the hub-bubbity-bub-bub of daily child-rearing and homemaking.

That's all well and good and noteworthy progress. However, I still found myself unbelievably exhausted every day. And bearing intrusive headaches every day. And intensely nauseous every day. What was going on? Was I just "regular tired" from mothering two toddlers? Was I merely not eating frequently enough, or not drinking enough water with all of the whirlwind activity of Daily Life With Toddlers?

It turns out my new acquaintance, anemia, bears responsibility for many of these recent ailments. It's not that I wasn't trying hard enough, it's that my body couldn't do more because it wasn't processing oxygen efficiently. Aha! No need to feel guilty anymore (of course, there never was a good reason for that in the first place)!

A quick review of the symptoms of anemia from ehealthMD:

A person with anemia will feel tired and weak because the body's tissues are being starved of oxygen. In fact, fatigue is the main symptom of most types of anemia. The severity of symptoms is in part related to the severity of anemia. Mild anemia can occur without symptoms and may be detected only during a medical exam that includes a blood test.

Symptoms of anemia include:

Heart palpitations (rapid or irregular beating)
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Difficulty sleeping
Difficulty concentrating

Common signs include:

Pale complexion
The normally red lining of the mouth and eyelids fades in color
Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
Abnormal menstruation (either absence of periods or increased bleeding)

What a huge relief for me to finally understand why I'd be wiped out for the day if I hurried around the kitchen tackling a big pile of dishes. I'd end up breathless, with a headache, and have to sit down for the next hour. No wonder I literally could not move from a chair after bending and swooping to clear up toys for half an hour. No wonder I couldn't play endless games of chase up and down the stairs, without my heart pounding in my ears for long afterward.

After I read the common signs and symptoms of anemia, I thought, Hallelujah! I finally get it! And, no more feeling guilty. Or pushing myself beyond my limits. And even better, now I have hope that I will continue to feel better, as anemia is entirely treatable.

Relief. Hope. Peace. Acceptance. Flow. Love.

For myself, my family, my doctor, my access to the internet, my letting go, and yes, even my anemia.


  1. Oh my dear are SO RIGHT! It is very difficult to ask for help! But, now that you KNOW about the big A-word, you can rest assured (pun definitely intended) that those of us around you are eager and happy to help! Please take advantage of us! We need that! We love that! We love you!

  2. I'm glad you got a diagnosis! Yay! I was supposed to take iron supplements at one time, but they made me incredibly sick to my stomach, even after food. Anemia and thyroid disorders mess up a lot of women, and go undiagnosed for too long. I hope you feel more vigorous very soon.

  3. You'll get used to the taste of Floradix after a while. It's not so bad....

  4. Mom, Thank you for your continued support! It's wonderful to know I can count on you for moral support and more!

    Julie, The Floradix isn't awful, thankfully, just bitter. Ah, to feel vigorous again, I am looking forward to that! Thank you!

    Janet, Apparently you've been in the same boat! Let me know anytime you'd like to commiserate!