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03/04/2010

Risking limb and livelihood

Massage I took a lot of time for career and leisure and belated growing up before I had my son…. about 13 years’ worth. As a journalist/editor/web content-type person, I logged hundreds, sometimes thousands of words and myriad mouse-clicks on my computer for work, and sometimes as many for my online social life.

Because I’ve always preferred life as a freelancer to working for other people, I tried to be smart about taking care of myself. After my first few muscle kinks and dull aches, I learned to pay better attention to my body. I did a lot gentle yoga to make sure my spine stayed in line. I put lights and wrist-rests in the advised places to avoid eyestrain and carpal tunnel. I even slept with an ergonomic sleeve. And when I felt myself knotting up in spite of all of those precautions, I went in for some medical massage. My meticulousness drew more than one odd stare from coworkers, but my arms, shoulders and fingers were my livelihood.

Then came my boy. And my realization that we were both happiest being as close as we could be. There were years of wearing him in a sling or mei-tai. There was extended nursing, including plenty of typing with my arms arched around his hungry body, doing whatever I could to simultaneously nourish him and be clever about reviewing a Beyoncé concert on an overnight deadline. I knocked lots of assignments out in double-time as he napped or his dad took care of him, throwing break-time cautions out with the bathwater

He’s almost five now – big, strong, ever more coordinated. But how can I resist, when, my no-longer-a-baby, but thankfully still snuggly only child asks me to take him in my arms in the “rock-a-bye baby carry?” And I still sometimes end up slamming through deadlines while he’s at preschool or otherwise occupied; trying to catch some mental flow when there’s less of a chance of my attention being divided.

Recently, the pain became more than a nagging condition. I found out how upset my body was. I went to the doctor, who, after asking me to do a couple of strength tests and examining me, looked at me straight-on and said. “Wow, your right shoulder is so much lower than your left, I would have thought you have a curvature of the spine.”

As a result, I’ve spent several weeks in physical therapy, having deep muscles transformed from brick walls back into soft tissue with more pliable knots. I’ve started taking routine mini-breaks from the computer to do 90 seconds of stretching and working out muscles that the other muscles had gotten accustomed to overcompensating for. I’m using my laptop on my actual lap, spending time with a heating pad and troubling my son to snuggle with his head on my left shoulder more often. I was in a lot more pain than I realized.

I would never discourage parents from babywearing. I’m still an attachment parent at heart.  I feel strongly that my son’s easy confidence and kindness came into a broader, more vivid bloom with his ability to look out at the world or retreat into my heartbeat at will.

But I do wish I’d been more meticulous about self-care as I cared for him as a smaller person — more aware of favoring one side of my body over another, more accepting of other people’s willingness to be a warm, snuggly body for him. It’s important to both of us that I learn be more self-loving. It’s an investment that strengthens my ability to mother. 

Thanks to resistance bands, kind hands, gentle stretches and heating pads, I’m hoping that these shoulders will be better equipped to bear the weight of work and motherhood.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Tracy Zollinger Turner blogs regularly about the ups and downs of parenting a kind-hearted four-year-old astronomer at Tiny Mantras, and semi-regularly about the glamorous life of a work-at-home writer at Writearm.com.

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