Recently I had to have some very unexpected emergency surgery. Not only did this throw my own plans and routines out the window but each member of my family was affected by a sudden decrease in my abilities and availability. It was a time, and still continues to be, of asking for and accepting help.
It took me right back to being freshly postpartum. Exhausted, sore, emotional and needing time to process what was happening and how my life had changed. I was letting go of who I thought I was and where I was headed. I had diminished physical capabilities, was caring for a surgical wound and attempting to retrain my brain to move in new ways to protect my healing body. I was also adjusting to an abrupt change in my roles as a business owner, a physically active aerial arts enthusiast, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife and a mother. All of those parts of me are important and provide me with a sense of value, purpose and accomplishment. I work hard to try to strike a balance between them all.
When this fragile balance was wildly overthrown and I had to step back from being physically present in many areas of my life, I was very distressed and, overwhelmingly, I felt like a burden on those caring for me and my children. It was hard to focus on my recovery and tune into my needs. It took me a while to acknowledge that I would be a happier and healthier person, who could then step back into my treasured roles stronger and with more joy, once I welcomed the kind and generous support being offered to me.
Now this probably sounds familiar to a lot of people, but it was particularly conflicting for me because I spend a huge amount of my time telling expectant parents to ask for and accept help, yet when the tables were turned, I found it so difficult!
It was a very uncomfortable experience even though I thought I had gotten quite good at expressing my needs and gratefully accepting when others pitched in. While I can honestly say that I have indeed come a long way in that area since becoming a parent, it did become increasingly clear to me that it is still something I struggle with. I had to consciously put a lot of thought and effort into letting others into our home and daily family life.
Safe to say that during this time I reflected for many hours on what it means to ask for and accept help, and what can truly support someone during a time of upheaval or transition.
I came up with three points I’d like to share with you today in the hopes that it helps you feel more at ease with that task, whether you are the recipient or the provider. They all focus on the idea that choosing meaningful presence over material presents can be invaluable at times of need, that humans genuinely seek to be helpful and it is an honour to be involved in someone’s care.
I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people offering their time and assistance to help make this period in my family’s life easier. I was also given some beautiful, generous presents and by no means do I wish to diminish the uplifting gift that a little parcel of thoughtfully picked treasures is. I felt held and seen by friends far away whenever I opened a package. I could also recognise these friends were saying “I know you’re going through a lot and whilst I can’t be there in person here is a symbol of my support and love.” They themselves likely wished they could physically be with me, because we all know deep down that human connection and meaningful presence is a powerful and prized gift.
We all seek it, we all love to bestow it and we all benefit from it.
Written by Jacinda Saunders, Perinatal Support Consultant.
We work and live on Wadawarrung land. We acknowledge Elders, past present and emerging.
Together with Brigid Moloney, we have put together a team of health professionals with expert knowledge to care for women at every stage of life. Welcome to the Ballarat Women's Clinic.