As a mom of two young children, sometimes it feels like we live at the pediatrician’s office. Our youngest is still in the stage of frequent well checks and vaccination appointments, and both kids bring home enough daycare germs to send us to the clinic for sick visits and COVID tests regularly. And after all the prenatal appointments and fertility appointments I had over the past few years, the thought of going to my own doctor’s appointments isn’t my idea of a fun time.
I’m very fortunate not to have current medical needs that require lots of doctor’s appointments, but what that means is that I rarely make time to go. I’m now getting to an age where that’s not going to fly anymore. So this winter, I made a point to catch up on all of the medical appointments I’ve been putting off. In the space of a few months, I had a physical with a new primary care provider, a skin check with a dermatologist, a dental cleaning, and a consult with a periodontist. When I made the appointments, I felt like I was ticking boxes, doing the things I was supposed to be doing. “Adulting.” But what I realized at these appointments was that following through with them felt like the most important kind of self-care.
Crying in the exam room
Somewhat embarrassingly, this realization didn’t hit me until I was sitting in my PCP’s exam room, and it made me tear up. It was the first time that I was alone with a provider whose sole concern was me: not me trying to have a baby, not the baby in my belly, and not one of my kids. Just me. My health, my well-being, my questions and concerns. It felt overwhelming that I had gone so long without taking simple steps to make sure I was managing my health. It also made me realize how low I was setting the bar for self-care. Sitting in a thin cloth gown on butcher paper in a cold doctor’s office shouldn’t feel like a mini-vacation, but it did.
It took some work to make it to these appointments. I either took time off work or had to arrange childcare, and I felt guilty about both. But you know what? It was all fine. There were no disasters at work and the kids loved the extra time with their grandparents. I already have my next routine dental visit booked in just a few months. And I’m blocking out time for some enjoyable self-care activities too. Mom’s night out, anyone?