Just before week 37 of pregnancy, I fell. I was going to get ready for bed and noticed a light was still on in the basement. I descended the (freshly carpeted, post flood) stairs and just as I was almost to the landing, my feet slid out from under me. I fell backwards, landing on my lower left back and bum. The Green Bay Packers Tervis tumbler I was carrying was still full and my cellphone still in hand. My head started to hurt. My husband was at my side within seconds. I was OK.
It’s my opinion that when we injure ourselves, the universe is trying to send us a message. I previously authored a column about this very concept, in my side hustle as a columnist at MsCareerGirl. #tbt So what was the message from my non-serious stair slip?
One of the obvious messages was “you’re exhausted.” Another one, which my husband gently reminded me, was “ask for help or leave it for me to take care of.” He obviously would have turned out lights before he went to bed a couple of hours later, too. But what about the thing that drove me to feel the need to check turning off basement lights off the list? Is this a compulsion? Is this a symptom of perfectionism?
A co-worker recently shared an inspiring reflection from Brené Brown’s, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Especially right now amidst a global pandemic, we need to remember:
We are all doing the best we can
When we are kind to ourselves, authentic compassion spreads
Take a moment for self-compassion
Stop chasing perfectionism: “There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen
This reflection hit me harder than the landing at the bottom of the basement stairs. If I am really being introspective, I realize, with somewhat horror, that I have been chasing the idea of being “perfect at being pregnant.”
I’ve read too many pregnancy books, listened to several birth-related podcasts, and perused several mom-to-be apps. At the encouragement of a trusted Mom friend, I recently allowed myself to indulge in one last book: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In the book, the author shares over three years of research and insights from observing both French and American parenting. As I listened to the audiobook version on my commutes to/from work (major bonus here is that the reader uses accents) I learn of the author’s seemingly neurotic tendencies to try and “get everything right” when it comes to preparing for her first baby, treating preparing to raise a child like some extensive research project. Wait, French women don’t do that? We ALL are not supposed to do that? Whoops.
I think back to the day I had leading up to the slipping on the stairs incident. I woke up at 5:45, walked the dog, drove to work, and led a three-hour workshop with both in-person and virtual stakeholders. Exhausted, I felt dangerously drowsy on my commute home, gulping ice water and Gatorade to remain alert. I probably should have taken a quick power nap when I got home, but instead I remained awake until the bedtime stairs incident.
It jolted me, mentally.
In order to stop chasing perfection I need to accept that when it comes to pregnancy and raising a child, I will not be perfect! Instead, I will be my authentic self, give it my best (knowing my best will change from day to day) and appreciate each experience as an opportunity to grow and move forward as a better version of myself.