This post took two weeks to write, maybe it’s harder to write about your own faults, or something like that? There’s no real excuse. Anyway, hopefully it makes sense still – in the interest of transparency, and refraining from over-editing and the quest for perfection, I’m just posting it as is.
Baby A has been a bit more challenging for the last 3 weeks or so, which led to me feeling pretty overwhelmed by the end of last week, resulting in a bit of an outburst on the weekend.
It seems like Baby A is at an age where he has started to develop his own preferences and wants, rather than just his basic needs. Which is actually really exciting, because I am starting to really see his personality emerging, and it’s something I’ve really looked forward to.
In order to communicate these new preferences he doesn’t cry, he has a new sound that he makes which is probably best described as a whining, moaning sort of sound. So I gather this is pretty common, and it can be kind of frustrating if you are having trouble figuring it what he is trying to ask for – because he will just keep making that sound until you either figure what he wants or successfully distract him with something else.
Throw in the fact that he has also changed from a flexible easy napper to a baby who has strictly two naps a day at very specific times – and BTW if you miss that time then too bad you’re in trouble with a cranky overtired baby for the rest of the day! 😕 It took me a few weeks to figure this all out, and ofcourse I heard alot of ‘that sound’ in the process.
It’s funny because I never really felt overwhelmed by his crying, even though sometimes it was especially intense, but something about ‘that sound’ just sets me off. I sometimes have to put him down somewhere and go do something else for a few minutes to calm down a bit. I kept thinking ‘it’s pretty frustrating not being able to help him’ but that didn’t seem to fully explain the feeling. It’s not even like I was frustrated with him, more like this intense internal anger and frustration got set off. In the back of my mind I kept wondering why it was affecting me so much.
When the weekend arrived, my husband took Baby A out for a few hours to run some errands, and I had a slow breakfast and shower and thought I might sit and read until he got back. Since being in hospital I have drawn to Eckhart Tolle’s books, I think because it puts some substance behind practising ‘mindfulness’ which resonates with me. I have been reading a book called “Parenting with Presence” written by Susan Stiffelman, which draws on alot of Tolles ideas. I just happened to be reading part of the book that talked about becoming reactive to certain aspects of your childs behaviour. It had some examples where the author asked her clients to reflect on why that particular behaviour struck a nerve, and specifically if there was something about their own upbringing or within themselves that came up. I stopped and thought about Baby A – it only took me a few minutes before I had that ‘aha’ moment. I already know that I’ve had issues with my mother, and that that is some of the reason behind why I was in such a bad place a few months ago. I think in a previous post I mentioned that this is something that came up when I was in hospital, but said that I didn’t find it helpful to dwell on it. I think maybe that judgement was a bit hasty.
I had already realised that Baby A is becoming his own little person and communicating his needs and wants to me in I guess a more forthright way. During my childhood, and still even now, I was taught by my mother not to bother voicing needs and wants, because she wasn’t listening. She never wanted children and it is her firm belief that children are a burden, and that her becoming a mother was a waste of her time. For such a long time I thought that it was totally normal and healthy for my mother to express that to me, and because we never lacked basic needs like food, clothes, health care etc. that that was all you need from your mother and I should be grateful – particularly because I was never wanted in the first place, and how lucky was I to be afforded all of this. The first time I realised something wasn’t right was when I got engaged and she was especially awful to me in a number of ways and I really thought it was my fault that I didn’t have a better relationship with her. But my dear husband spoke up and assured me that noone deserves to be treated that way, or be told incessantly that they were an unwanted child. Of course, this all came up more clearly when I was in hospital, and I learnt just how important all the bonding and emotional security was for baby. I have zero recollection of having interacted with my mother in any of the ways we learnt about, she never did or does delight in any of my achievements, she has never been there to comfort or protect, I’ve felt ignored and like a burden on her my whole life.
Baby A making his needs and preferences known, loud and proud, was bringing up a frustration within me that I never had that opportunity growing up. What a relief to make that connection! In the example in the book the author has her client do some mindfulness of the emotion in order to help ‘process’ it. I remember learning this in hospital, but really didn’t appreciate it at the time – when I was having a panic attack the last thing I thought I wanted to do was focus on that emotion and the feelings I was having! But it made sense to me in this situation, so instead of trying to push the feeling away when it came, I held on to it. Baby A would be especially demanding just before sleeping, so while he napped I found I could take some time to sit with the feeling. I found that behind the anger and frustration, I also felt quite sad about it. I guess that’s not that surprising, but there I had been, thinking that the past didn’t worry me anymore.
Long story short, dealing with my reaction to Baby As sound in this way worked amazingly well. It didn’t take long before more often than not I was not reacting to it the same way that I had been. ‘Problem solved!’, or so I thought.
Meanwhile I had been developing some resentment towards my husband, because I still was feeling pretty overwhelmed, and all the while he seemed to be able to get in some down time while still working and getting chores done. But where was my down time?? Usually with feelings like that I let them sit awhile to see if they are ‘real’ – sometimes if I’m feeling a bit crappy in general I think I find it easy to get frustrated or annoyed with someone or something until I am in a better mood and then it doesn’t seem important anymore.
But this didn’t go away, and I ended up picking a fight with my husband. Because of the situation what I was trying to say came across as criticism, and of course my dear husband became defensive and threw back a few criticisms himself. I don’t like arguing like this, but I like that I can trust us both to see through the crap and understand where each other are coming from. The next day we spoke about what happened and I explained I want trying to criticise or make him feel guilty for having time to himself, I was just trying to say that I saw feeling very overwhelmed and felt like I hadn’t had a proper break. Which of course he already knew. He said that he needed me to tell him when I needed extra help, or a break from Baby A after a bad day. He said that he noticed that I don’t ever really ask for help, which is good for my loved ones because they don’t ever have to go out of their way for me, but it’s not necessarily good for me. 😞
How true. It’s funny how it takes someone else pointing something out for you to realise something really obvious about yourself. The whole argument wouldn’t have happened if in one or two of the bad days I had just asked for help. And the silly thing is that this ties in with the Baby A noise thing as well, and I missed it. I still don’t feel like I can ask for help, and that is a big problem I need to deal with.
I had also complained that I felt like I can’t get anything done, particularly if Baby A doesn’t sleep much during the day. He said that he thought that I actually could, but I chose not to. Which I took great offence to of course, and interpreted as meaning I didn’t have good time management skills and that he didn’t think I did enough. I cried, and just kept saying “I can’t help it, Baby A is my priority”.
What my husband was trying to say is that Baby A doesn’t actually need my undivided attention all the time. It’s ok for me to do something else, it’s just that I don’t allow myself to. After all, I know better than anything that Baby A will tell me if he needs my attention! And that he is clearly confident that he is going to get it!
Again, I am terrified of Baby A feeling ignored, or learning that he can’t ask for help or express wants and needs, because that’s how I felt. And I’m overdoing it with the attention to my own detriment. Whilst it’s my job to teach Baby A how important his needs and wants are, I know I need to show him the other side of that, which is that other people have their own needs and wants, and sometimes you need to prioritise your own needs and wants. And that starts with treating myself right too!
So, Baby As growing independence and wilfulness struck a nerve, and there are a few things I am now working on:
– learning to clearly ask for help and for what I need before I get overwhelmed
– Baby A doesn’t need my undivided attention all the time. Learning to do other tasks in his company without feeling guilty
I’ll revisit these in subsequent posts when I’ve made progress, but for now it feels good having gotten this far!