Ok, mamas. I am interrupting your regularly scheduled posts about unconditional love and motherhood and documentary family portraits to bring you a PSA.
We Mamas are tired. We can wear this exhaustion like a badge- and yes, when you are in the trenches and are up multiple times a night this is to be expected.
But the kids get older. You eventually get to sleep through the night again. And the struggles change (I don’t think it actually gets easier, it just changes to different worries and issues).
I did not recover from this tired.
My youngest is 6 and I’m still wandering around in a haze. So I stopped staying up late and started doing yoga and the haze did not lift.
I passed it off as life with kids. Everyone is tired, right?
But then other minor but nagging symptoms started showing. I am turning 40 this year and passed it off as perimenopause (YES- this can start in your mid-30s! It can last a decade, it doesn’t mean your factory is totally shutting down- just misfiring constantly). My cycle is whacky. I’m gaining weight. I feel like I’m in a fog. I’m always cold. I’m always tired. My fingers tingle.
Despite running a 12 miler and two half marathons last year, despite running a 5 miler at my personal best time ever in December- running 3 miles became a chore. I felt like I was running through molasses. My pace tanked and I felt sick after each run. I brushed it off as letting myself get out of condition, but something still bugged me about that.
Eventually, I dragged myself to the doctor, convinced it was my thyroid. It turns out I’m extremely anemic!
I thought anemia was a lack of iron in your system. That’s only part of the issue. Anemia is actually a lack of red blood cells and often goes hand-in-hand with iron deficiency – you need iron to make new red blood cells. And red blood cells are pretty important as they carry oxygen through your entire body. But it can also be caused by a folate or B-12 deficiency, or along with other medical diagnoses.
It’s a slow roll to recovery, but every day is better than the day before. I’m on iron supplements. I have an appointment with a hematologist. I’m eating more red meat and citrus (pro-trip: consuming vitamin C WITH your iron increases your absorption) and I’ll probably buy a cast iron skillet for cooking instead of my stainless.
(and yes, this is why I’ve completely dropped my blog and social media entirely for the past 2 weeks, and probably why my posting has been spotty for the past year- I passed it off as exhaustion but anemia tends to not just jump out from nowhere unless you get stabbed and bleed out suddenly or some other
So Mamas- take care of yourself. Get your yearly physical. And if your RBC or iron count is low- even if it’s only a little low- don’t pass it off. It can make the difference between feeling run down all the time to feeling great again.
Symptoms of anemia (don’t ignore them!)
For me, it started out as feeling run down and eventually progressed to being unable to walk up the stairs without my vision greying out and needing to lay on the floor in the hallway. Here’s a full list of what it can feel like- not everyone experiences every item on the list, however.
- Easy fatigue and loss of energy (this is the big one- it can be as little as feeling run down all the time, or straight out needing to sleep all the time and not being able to stay awake. I felt fine if I was being still, like watching a movie- but as soon as I started walking around again I’d become exhausted)
- Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise. (it’s like feeling like your heart is pounding out of your chest, like you just completed a strenuous high-intensity set of exercises- except maybe you only walked up the stairs)
- Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise. (I found myself panting like I ran a marathon because I had to speed-walk the kids down the driveway to the bus stop when we were running late)
- Difficulty concentrating. (brain fog!)
- Dizziness. (particularly with minor exertion- for me if I carried in the groceries I’d get dizzy and lay down on the floor to recover)
- Pale skin. (I looked like a vampire!)
- Leg cramps. (Restless Leg Syndrome- so annoying- also many Charlie Horses)
- Insomnia. (I didn’t experience this- instead, I slept all the time)
- Feeling cold. (sweatshirts when it’s 75 out!)
- Chest pain.
- Brittle fingernails; dry and damaged skin and hair
- Dry mouth; sores/cracks in the corners in your mouth
- Feeling anxious
- Strange cravings (called Pica- a desire to chew ice, clay, dirt, paper, etc- thankfully I did not experience this!)