On High Standards and Hating Myself

A couple of years ago I wrote a post for Just.Be.Enough with this title.  It sounds sensational, but it pretty much summed up much of my experience with PPD.

Motherhood is hard enough without the movie-perfect baby and the Mommy Wars, but when we add those things in and still believe we should be able — effortlessly, flawlessly, and with a smile — to live up to our own high standards for motherhood, we’re pretty much doomed from the start. I was anyway.

In any case, I reflected on that in my post, which I’m thrilled to have had published on Mamalode. Come and reflect with me, won’t you?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Disappointment is a shitty feeling. It means you wanted something and didn’t get it, that you let yourself hope and that hope wasn’t fulfilled, that you opened yourself up to possibility and got shut down.

I am disappointed today and it feels petty and first-world-problem-ish.

It started with gratitude for a chance to sleep in and a small boy who put his heart (and hands) on paper. My boys said, “This day is for you” and I felt special and loved. All I had was one simple wish: to have a nice day with my family.

I did my part. I played along when the small boy wanted to lead me downstairs with my eyes closed. I let him make my breakfast even though it took longer and I was afraid he was going to pour milk all over the floor. I listened and responded and hugged and did all the things good mothers are supposed to do. But for the majority of the day he was—to be frank—quite beastly, and I stopped being able to do those things.

Banff-Springs-HotelOur outing got rained on, which made it not worth what we had paid for it. We had dinner in a place that should have been lovely but was instead simply a spot to get some food in our tummies, taking bites in between admonishments to hold the cup with hands not teeth and to keep feet off the table, before getting back in the car and driving home well after bedtime.

Maybe the small boy was beastly because he was bored or excited or simply because he’s four. There is no way to force him to stop doing the things we ask him not to do, and we can’t duct tape him to the roof of the car.

In any case, I didn’t get my simple wish, and that’s disappointing.

And then there are two pieces I was hoping would be published and (so far) have not been. And a dear friend was left out of something and my heart hurts for her, especially because she gives so much to others.

I want to invite possibility and joy and wonder. I appreciate that beauty when it’s gifted to me, and I’ve had a lot of perfect days lately with sun, friends, food and family. Today just wasn’t one of those days.

But there are bigger problems in the world. I got what was important today – time and love and acknowledgement.

You can’t always get what you want, especially when you have a four-year-old. But I’m trying to remember that I’ve got what I need.

Say What You Need to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot about resentment lately. I suppose that’s normal when your entry into motherhood is a crying-filled, sleepless smackdown and you subsequently have a second baby who offers you the sort of experience you expected to have when you became a mom. At least it’s normal for me.

“This isn’t the experience with motherhood I wanted you to have,” I remember my mom saying to me one day while I cried on the phone to her when Connor was a baby.

It wasn’t the experience I wanted to have either. It’s not that I thought having a baby should be lullaby perfect, but I didn’t want it to be filled with quite so much despair.

The moment my mom said that to me is a milestone in my motherhood journey. From where I stand now I see that moment like a marker stabbed into the sand on my path, noting what came before and what would follow after. This is how the beginning will always be for you, says the sign next to it. You can’t relive those earlier months and your motherhood picture will always be shaped by this experience. You don’t get to do it again and have it be easier, more fulfilling, more fun.

No, I don’t.

But do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

***bench-and-blue-sky

I danced with Ethan this morning.

He was full of smiles when I went to get him out of bed to start the day. I fed him and then he played happily in his high chair while I had breakfast. He splashed in the bath, experimenting with what happens when he kicks his feet.

We’ve been working on sleep lately and this morning, not for the first time, he had a nice, long nap. He woke up, pink-cheeked and laughing. I fed him and then thought he might like some play time on the floor, but he didn’t. So we danced.

“Say what you need to say,” sang John Mayer, as I held Ethan around the waist and placed my hand in his small chubby one. He put his nose in the crook of my neck and leaned his cheek against mine. He let me sing and he stuck to me as I swayed, breathing him in.

***

If Ethan had been my first baby, I wouldn’t have spent so much time bouncing a screaming baby. I wouldn’t have logged hours in his room trying to get him to sleep and wondering at what point my sanity would actually break. I wouldn’t have been anxious about doing errands or shopping for groceries in case he had a colossal meltdown in public.

I would have been able to go to play dates without dreading having to go home and deal with him by myself. I would have had more hot meals. I would have had more meals, period. I would have cherished the time and his laugh and those slobbery, open-mouthed kisses without wondering why the lovely baby stuff had to be overshadowed by so very much hard stuff.

That sign in the sand is right. I don’t get a motherhood do-over, though my experience with Ethan has given me a glimpse of what might have been.

With a different baby, my early days of motherhood might have been more peaceful. They might have been more fun. They might even have been diaper-commercial sweet. With a second, very different baby, I can see it now.

***

Do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

I don’t resent him, neither the baby he was nor the boy he is now. But do I resent my introduction to motherhood and wish it had been different?

Sometimes. A little bit. I do.

Say what you need to say.

 

Thoughts on Birth Plans

You probably know that the whole birth experience thing is kind of one of my passions, right? I spent four years being righteously pissed off about ending up with a scheduled C-section with Connor and the whole of this last pregnancy hoping for a different outcome. And I did get the med-free VBAC I was hoping for. (Yay!)

Last night I told Rich I kinda sorta wanted to have another birth just to know what it would be like. He looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t actually want another baby, and the thought of going through all that after-the-fact pain again freaks me right out, but I’m still curious about how it would go.

One thing I totally know — after my experiences and hearing others’ stories — is that you just never know how a birth is going to go. I knew that before I had a baby, and I really, really knew that once my first was born. And so I went into the experience with Ethan’s birth hoping and planning a little bit but trying not to get stuck on one particular outcome. [Read more...]

Doritos and Do Overs

Have you seen that TV commercial with three moms at a playdate? It’s for something like Doritos, and they’re sitting around eating whatever it is the commercial is about while their babies sleep peacefully in their bucket seats.

I used to hate that commercial.

It was on a few years ago, around (or shortly after) the time Connor was a baby. I can think of ONE time he slept peacefully in his bucket seat. He was a few weeks old and I had come home from somewhere and he had fallen asleep in the car. And he slept for at least two hours after I got home, which I thought was just dandy. Except he never did it again.

Play dates saved my sanity that first year (inasmuch as my sanity was saved), but they were not play dates where we sat around eating chips while our babies slept in their car seats. They were mostly breastfeeding fests, and while that was great — it was nice to sit on someone else’s couch and nurse a baby instead of sitting by myself on my own couch nursing a baby — I was very aware that my baby was the fussy one.

It didn’t take a play date with other (relatively calm) babies for me to notice that. No, that was my reality day in and day out for months. And everyone else was aware of it too (though very accepting, I must say). One day I went to a baby group at the nearby public health clinic. Connor was doing his fussy Connor thing as we came down the hall, and a friend of mine yelled out, “Here comes Connor!” It was impossible to go anywhere without people knowing we were coming.

If I sound bitter then you’ll understand why I hated that commercial. Because that was not my reality. It was the reality I felt I had been promised – babies sleep a lot, right? So, sure, I’ll be able to sit around eating chips with my friends while my baby snores nearby.

Now, you should understand that I’m not quite that deluded. (But my level of delusion about what having a baby would be like really needs to be a post unto itself.) I just didn’t expect it to be SO DAMN HARD. And that stupid commercial just reminded me of how hard it was.

little-brother-sootherWe’re now two months in with baby #2. And so far this is much more what I thought having a baby would be like. He goes to sleep all on his own sometimes. And he likes cuddles and sometimes needs to be bounced but not ALL THE DAMN TIME. My quads are worse for it but my mind is better.

I know this time that babies sometimes need help to go to sleep. (Seriously, I should write a post about my delusion.) And I know how to tell when they need to go to sleep. With Ethan there’s the usual (glassy eyes, yawning) but the tell-tale sign with him is that his eyebrows go red. We have a tough time getting him to nap in the morning but when we manage to hit that sweet spot (a very short window, though Connor’s was shorter) everything works a treat. The whole day generally goes well, in fact. He goes to sleep (by himself! Not on me!). He wakes up. He eats. He plays. He gets sleepy-eyed and red-eyebrowed and he goes back to sleep. Repeat.

I’m doing a mom and baby yoga class with Ethan and I’ve only ever had to pause during class once in five weeks to feed him. I would never have even taken Connor to a mom and baby yoga class because it would have seriously zapped everyone else’s zen. But Ethan is different. I can take him to a grocery store without having to leave a cart full of groceries and flee home so I can cry about my crying baby. I can even go for lunch with a co-worker and not have to stand there bouncing a baby in between frantic bites of sandwich.

Ethan’s not perfect, though. Don’t get me wrong. (No, perfect is the wrong word. No baby is perfect. “Perfect” babies — if they didn’t ever cry or fuss or refuse to go to sleep at the requisite time — would be boring. They wouldn’t grow up to contribute anything to the world (and Connor is going to be a force to be reckoned with, you can be sure). Instead let’s say this: Ethan is not without challenges.) On the days when he doesn’t sleep very well I get flashbacks (Post Traumatic Connor Disorder, we call it). At the moment I despair of ever again sleeping more than three hours at a time. And if he’s hungry and you don’t feed him right away, you had better be wearing ear plugs because, damn, that kid has a set of lungs.

But still. This time around is much closer to my own unedited version of a Doritos commercial and I’m grateful for it.

Two months in, and I think I’ve decided that it’s going to be all right.