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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rage against the (Mummy) Machine

Tuesday 23rd October 2007

I don’t know where these roars come from but I know that when they finally escape me, when I let them – just for a moment – take me over, I experience both the relief and release of expression and the mortification that swiftly follows, that I am capable of producing such sounds. Such wounded, angry sounds.

Yesterday, in a moment of frustration and anger due to innumerable little upsets that all collided in a moment of stress, a roar sprang forth with such ferocity that I felt that an entire years worth of rage had spewed out with it. All of these struggles I have had with mothering, with coping, with being a loving and intelligent parent, came rushing to the surface in that one, single scream. It was as if I had been buried alive, suffocating in the dark and suddenly there was a glimmer of light. My rage rushed towards that light and exploded out of me. There was both tremendous release and shame. Thankfully I was alone.

Today I was not alone. I guess there was still a crack of light and my frustration elbowed its way towards it like a bogan in the January sales. My daughter, who was tired and frustrated with me, was engaging in the usual pushing, elbowing, whinging, crying struggle that inevitably ensues before she falls asleep in my arms and she kept on pushing her hands against my throat and hitting me in the throat as her arms flailed around. Now I was tired too – having spent all day with her, swimming and then trying to get her to sleep in her pram while I went for a walk and a talk with a friend. By the time I got home (via some grocery shopping) I was absolutely knackered and had to feed us both, bath her and get her to bed. Anyway, there she was overtired and crying and struggling and there I was trying to breathe deeply and not give in to the rising tide of anger and frustration that was building in me. Suddenly, she leaned up (elbow in my throat) and then half pushed up using my boob as leverage, which bloody hurt. I shouted at her and knocked her arm away from my boob and she, understandably, burst into tears. I tried to soothe her and cuddled her into my body but more struggling ensued and more elbowing and thrashing and slapping and banging of my body with bits of hers and suddenly I could stand no more. I ROARED like a wounded animal and consequently frightened her – just for a moment. She started wailing and I immediately felt hideous. I picked her up and cuddled her and told her I was sorry. I kissed her little head and apologised again and again.

As I was comforting her and feeling horribly ashamed of yet another outburst, I said to her, “It’s alright Lily, you are safe with mummy. Mummy would never, ever hurt you.” And promptly burst into tears. And I mean I wailed. That sentence generated more tears in that 20 or so minutes than I have cried in the last few years. Every time I said it to her, “You are safe with Mummy,” more tears came and more tears came. Something inside of me gave and there it was, this exposed nerve which was being washed clean with a torrent of tears. I allowed myself to cry and Lily cried with me. She watched me crying with compassion and some confusion. She put her hand on my face as if to try to understand why her mummy looked like that. It’s something she would have never seen before. I’ve cried before but never like that. Never wailed like a child in front of my own child. I hope to God I haven’t traumatised her for life. Eventually, I calmed down enough to put her on the booby and help her to sleep – all the while these tears silently rained down on her little head. Once she was asleep, I got back into bed and lay breathing deeply and trying not to think but to feel. I placed my hand on my heart and another on my belly and breathed deeply and slowly and allowed memories and thoughts to rise as they would. When I got off track and thought about dinner and the hubble and any number of other things, I gently refocused my mind and allowed myself to drop into my body.

I don’t really understand exactly what happened and I suspect that the point is not to analyse it and label it but to just let the experience live in me. To get out of the way long enough to let it do its job. To let it heal and cleanse that dark corner of my psyche and move on. So many things rose to the surface but only briefly and without any order. I realised that that sentence, “You are safe with mummy.” Was the trigger and I wondered why. It was connected to my childhood without a doubt and I thought that it was something that my mother had probably never said to me or ever shown me during my first four difficult years of childhood. I have never felt safe. Not ever. Hypervigilance does not leave room for peace. It seeks out dangers in the dark – real and imagined – and tries to prepare for the inevitable blows that will come. That’s the way it’s been for my whole life. I have, even unconsciously, had my radar honed in on any danger and been working continuously to avoid it or transmute it. No wonder I feel tired all the time. That’s a full time job for my nervous system. A recipe for an anxious and neurotic person, which is what I fear I am becoming. Particularly in my mothering.

I have so few memories of the first few years of my life but the one’s I do have are pretty ghastly. They are pretty much all memories of my father’s brutality and the dreadful tension we lived with constantly, waiting for him to explode. They each glared for a moment in my conscious mind while I breathed and allowed them to be there. I thought over and over again about what that sentence meant to me. My mother is a wonderful mother to the point of martyrdom. Once free of that awful situation, she gave me wonderful mothering with the exception of her tendency to smother and try to control me or push me to ‘achieve’. However, overall I have nothing but good memories of my mum and I knew I was loved. Yet here it was – this feeling that she had never made me feel safe. Never once told me that it would be alright, that she would never let anything happen to me. Consequently, I soldiered through my childhood believing that I was in danger. And on some level, that danger came not just from my father or from the outside world, it also came from her. Her inability to protect all of us during our childhood has left scars in us all. Some of those scars are worse than others but we each bear them. I never once felt safe as I was growing up. I still don’t and I guess what I needed more than anything, what any child needs more than anything, is a sense of safety with its parents. That never came for me. My parents were the biggest danger in my life. They were a danger to themselves, to each other and by default they were a danger to us. To me.

So where do I go from here? How do I start to undo these knots of anger, fear and, on the odd occasion, pure rage? How do I start to find safety for myself and for my child? Where do I look? Presumably the same place you look for every answer. Inside of me. It is humbling how much work there is still do on myself before I can even begin to approach the kind of parent I want to become. I hate that Lily, who is without doubt a trigger for some of these revelations, has to witness my anger and my rage no matter how rarely it happens. I hate that for her to facilitate my healing she has to be the conduit through which I reach the understanding. She is my little guru and I want more than anything to protect and nurture her. Above all, I want her to know that she is safe. With me. With her daddy and, most importantly, in the world. Never has that seemed more important than it does right now. Perhaps in helping Lily to feel that safety, I will be working towards healing those issues in myself. I just hope that I can do it more gently in the future.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bad Mother Rising

27th August 2007

I don’t know whether it’s the Full Moon tomorrow or whether it’s the whole Venus Retrograde thing happening but I am losing it big time and Lily seems to be coming along for the ride.

I’m just so angry at the moment. Angry at my life. Angry at my (seeming) lack of a life. I’m angry with all the things I have to do and angry with all the things I cannot seem to find time to do. I’m angry with myself for being a shit mummy to Lily and angry with myself for being angry with myself for being as shit mummy to Lily. I’m angry that just when I seem to be getting on top of this whole mountain that is mummyhood thing, I seem to slip all the way back down to the sodding bottom and I’m angry that no matter how hard I try, I seem to continue to get everything wrong.

The most common words out of my mouth these days are:
‘No!’, ‘Stop it!’ and my personal favourite, ‘Shut Up!’
I promised myself that I would not be one of those mothers who yells ‘Shut Up!’ at their child in supermarkets. That was before I became a mother and was therefore acquainted with the reasons why a mother yells ‘Shut UP!’ at her child in supermarkets. Before I understood what several weeks of all day whinging will do to a mother’s capacity to be patient, understanding and reasonable. Before I lived, daily, the reality of a mother’s life and a mother’s role. I still hate that I do it but at least I understand why and can therefore have some modicum of compassion for myself. However, that does not mean that I side-step the enormous guilt brought about as a result of these actions nor do I bypass the concern about the possible psychological scarring that may come from this.

Most days, I hate being a mommy. There. I’ve said it. Now I can just sit back and wait for all the finger pointing to begin. I’m not saying that I hate my daughter. Far from it. Who could hate someone so beautiful, funny and so illumined from within, like Lily is? I just can’t seem to find my feet in this new role and I know that it’s because I am still clinging ferociously to the last shreds of my old life like a terrier with a bone. I struggle daily with this new person I’m slowly evolving into. Most day’s I can get through without too much damage to either myself or Lily. Today though, today sucked arse through a straw. Today started with the waking of my child 3 times between 7pm and midnight last night. Then continued when my husband took her out of our room at 6am to give her breakfast – bought her back an hour later and said, ‘She’s been like this all morning,’ As he put her down and she immediately began to shout and whine. When the day starts like that it’s got nowhere to go really but down. And down we went. I could go on ad nauseum about the actual day and what happened. Suffice to say that when she was finally too tired to eat and knocked the spoon full of food I was enticing her with out of my hand and onto the floor. I finally had it. I shouted ‘That’s naughty!’ and smacked her little hand. Yes, I actually smacked her. Not hard and not enough to actually hurt her but it was enough to make her cry (though she cried from shock and tiredness – I honestly didn’t hit her).

Then we went to bed for the inevitable 45-minute struggle before sleep. I breastfeed her, she kicks, climbs my body, squirms, pulls on and off and gets hot and sweaty. Then I take her off the boob, cuddle her up close and hold her until she goes to sleep. Usually after we play a little game or two in the dark. Tonight, as she whined at me and wrestled and tried to pull at her eyelids – I broke down before she did. I cried because I was sorry that I had smacked her hand, that I had shouted at her for what seemed like the whole day. I cried because I don’t want her to grow up thinking that ‘No!’ is the only word she will hear from me. And it isn’t, we all know that my repertoire stretches to Stop It and Shut Up! I cried because I felt so fucking overwhelmed with how different my life is and how alien it can be. I cried for my loss of selfhood, my loss of autonomy, my loss of freedom. I cried because it takes hours to complete even the smallest tasks when you have a small person who needs every ounce of your attention every minute of every day. I cried because I pictured my office – every surface covered in papers I can’t read, parenting magazines I haven’t had a chance to even look at and from whose over photo-shopped depths smiling cherubic babies glare at me. And amongst it all, my most creative ideas lie festering. And that hurts the most I think. I have so many ideas and I am overwhelmed with the slow dawning understanding that most of them will probably never come to life. Not in the next 5 years or so anyway. I have a thriving small business in two cities that I am barely keeping on top of and I can’t afford to hire any help. I’m not even paying myself a bloody wage yet, so paying someone else seems ludicrous. So then I cried some more and apologised to Lily for being a shit mom and explained that the only reason the ‘No!’ word is said more often than any other word is because most of the things she’s exploring are dangerous and could harm her in some way. I told her that it won’t always be like this. It won’t will it? I told her that I was trying very hard to be a better mommy and that I would do better tomorrow. She fell asleep listening to me sob softly into her silky hair.

I love my daughter more honestly, more completely than I would ever have thought possible. That doesn’t mean that being a mother comes easily to me. I suspect that more women than not go through this same horrible awakening. (And I know it doesn’t have to be horrible, it just is for most of us). I guess what I’m searching for is a way to make it more bearable. It’s not that I hate being a mother per se. It’s just that the unravelling of who we were into what we are becoming can be so uncomfortable and so unbearably challenging at a time when everything else is such bloody hard work already. We resist the unknown almost automatically in our society. We have never been brought up to embrace change. Look at the way we treat aging - there are more creams, lotions and potions to keep aging at bay than there are women to use them. We are taught to see ourselves as youthful and the fight to remain tight skinned and plump lipped even under this pathetic ozone layer is vicious. Now, if this is how we treat aging in general how hard do you think we find motherhood which seems to make you middle-aged overnight? The lack of sleep, the feeding, the endless crying, the struggle to get to grips with being alone with a tiny needy old man, the soreness, the overflowing bosoms, the blues, the greens and the reds. Let’s face it - Motherhood makes you feel, and worse makes you look, like the inside of a bus driver’s glove. How then is it possible to undergo this transformation from woman to mother without a few hiccups, hang-ups and throw-ups? Well, it’s not. But it’s not common knowledge that it’s not. Hence the crying in the dark that many mother’s do when they’ve had the kind of day I’ve had today.

We are all trying to be better mother’s than our own mother’s. We are all trying not to make the same mistakes that our parents made with us. We are all trying to raise happy, healthy, psychologically sound kids who are confident and sure-footed in this every changing world. Yet it seems to be the hardest thing in the world to achieve. And that’s what I’m angriest about. That I’m failing every day to live up to my own bloody standards. Admittedly they are high. Very, very high actually but still, there is nothing I have not been able to achieve if I put my mind to it. Except this. and the reason is because I have to mother with my heart not my mind. Mothering requires us to sacrifice our intellect for our instinct. To give up the notion that if we can figure it all our in our heads, it will be alright. It won’t. Stepping into Motherhood can often mean being prepared to let go of who you were in order to become the mother that is inside of you. We are fooled into thinking that we can have it all. Fooled by celebrities who’s bodies ‘bounce back’ six weeks after having a baby and who appear always to be radiant and full of life. We have fallen for the idea of the yummy mummy and strive to combine looking fabulous with a person who believes that helping mummy look good means smearing pumpkin in her hair minutes before she leaves the house. This kind of mothering achieves only one thing – tired, anxious, over-whelmed mothers.

The women that we see on television have an entourage of cooks, nannies, hair-stylists, manicurist, make-up artists and fashion consultants hanging off their elbow. I suspect that if these women were every left alone with their child for a full day they would probably have a melt-down of seismic proportions as the reality of child-rearing hits them square in the jaw. We don’t have access to their wealth or their help and yet we still struggle to fit into their shoes. Why? Because we think that we have to. Because we think that we can have it all and still look wonderful. Maybe there are a few gifted individuals out there who can but I’m not one of them. I look in the mirror and see the effect of 10 months without a decent night’s sleep and not enough exercise. I don’t have afterglow, I have after shock. My boobs look like they are full of cottage cheese and never mind the pencil test, you could shove a bloody pencil case under there and it would still be there come Christmas. And don’t even get me started on my arse. It’s too depressing to even contemplate. So it’s no wonder with constant external pressure to get it absolutely right and look perfect and with our own stupidly high bars for parenting that women like me spend nights wondering what the fuck happened to their life. We are not really bad mothers, we are simply human and fallible and this whole new baby thing is massively overwhelming.

My husband wants us to have another baby soon and I’m absolutely terrified. Not of the pregnancy itself, though I am trying to regain some semblance of my previous shape before I expand again, but of the enormous responsibility which will be placed on my shoulders when I have two little beings to take care of. Two children who don’t sleep or who sleep at massively different times. I am terrified of the pressure to cope when I’m even more sleep-deprived and overwhelmed than I am now. I think that men see the gorgeous newborn bub whereas women remember the tiredness of pregnancy, the pain of labour, the sleepless nights. Men see a sibling for their firstborn – women think ‘how the hell am I going to cope with two when I feel like I can’t cope with the one I have?’ Men say things like, ‘Well, it’s not going to get any easier – the baby years always going to be difficult.’ Women think ‘How the hell would you know? You’re at work all day interacting with other adults, living the exact same life you lived before the baby and continuing to enjoy your hobbies. I’m here up to my eyebrows in screeching, whining and baby crap all day trying to find 10 minutes to pee by myself!’ And while all of this is going on, I’m still caring for our firstborn and still learning about myself as a mother and still trying to find time to clean the house, make nutritious food for me and bubsy. And I don’t even have super-powers.

Ultimately, we can only be in the moment every day. We can only try to be present to our feelings, our patterns and our children because every day is different and this is both the beauty and the terror of having a child. Our other lives, the one’s we enjoyed pre-baby, were full of routines that worked for us and peppered with free time to do as we choose. This life is full of schedules that don’t work, babies that don’t sleep, don’t eat or don’t stop crying. And I think that’s because we are trying to fit our babies into our old lives rather than allowing our babies to shape our new life. They were never meant to be slotted into our lives like a neatly labelled file. Babies are entirely selfish, they want what they want when they want it and they want it now – it’s always now! No amount of reasoning with them will change that. Believe me, I’ve tried. Even on days like today, I realise where I’ve gone wrong and it is ALWAYS that I have tried to have a normal life with a 10-month old in tow. It just doesn’t work.

The days when I go to bed without regret are the days where I move to her rhythms, when I let her dictate the speed and the direction of our day together. And yes, it does mean that you don’t get much done. But then why do we expect to? What really needs to be done except the raising of our children at this time in our lives? If you really didn’t want a baby to change your life, then why did you have one in the first place? Do we really think that everything will stay the same when you have the equivalent of a very old, very confused maiden aunt coming to live with you?

And I’m really only angry because I forget this. The resentment and the unbelievable frustration comes when I try to have my old life AND be a good mum to Lily. It hasn’t ever worked and yet there are days when I still try. I wanted to be a MILF whose business kept running without hiccups and whose baby radiated peace and love to all around us. Instead, I haven’t had a haircut in 16 months and I’ve turned into a woman who orders skin care products from infomercials.

Anyway, here is where I come to let off steam - to the secret pages of The Mummy Diaries where I can howl and cry and moan and grind my teeth out of earshot of my precious newbie and pretend that I know what the fuck I’m doing. None of us do really and if we just stand back and accept that fact, that we are all the blind leading the blind here, then we’d all be a lot happier. I have to keep repeating the mantra,’No-one knows my child like I do. No-one knows my child like I do.’ So I really have to stop looking outside of myself for answers really don’t I? Anger is a teacher just like everything else. Anger simply shows me where I’m going wrong and tries to get me to right my compass and my attitude and sail into the wind of a new day with Lily as my captain. And for that I am extremely grateful.

Lily already knows all this. My daughter is proving to be my greatest teacher in this life it’s just that I’m just having a hard time coming to grips with it. I thought I’d be teaching her stuff! But as Ron Bergundy would say, ‘You’re so wise. You’re like a little miniature Buddha covered in hair.’ And on that note, I think I’ll go outside and watch the lunar eclipse.

The Unravelling

26th July 2007

This evening finds me sitting before my keyboard chanting the mantra ‘I must not let me get myself down (unless I’m getting down with my bad self!)’ as I struggle once more with the concept of self and motherhood which sometimes seem to be mutually exclusive.

When you have a baby you have to let go of the person you were before – no bones about it. You have to let go of any sense of yourself as a separate person and just allow this little being to take over, at least for a while. No longer is anything outside of this being more important. No job. No relationship. Nothing. It’s not that you stop caring about these things or that you love other people less, it’s just that there is nothing more important right now than raising this child you’ve brought into the world. And God do I hate it sometimes. Not the raising of the child part. It’s more the letting go of who I was before I started this that I struggle with.

Every day in subtle and tiny ways I realise I am still resisting losing myself in mummy-hood. I resist moving into this new role that’s sometimes about as exciting as watching The Wiggles. I resist giving all of myself to this beautiful creature that needs and wants and needs some more. And why wouldn’t we. Let’s face it – most women have had successful careers or at least job’s that they enjoyed doing, that gave their life meaning, that gave them somewhere to be in the morning and that needed their skills, their input, their special and unique talents. These days those special and unique talents are put to use trying to prise dried rice cereal of plastic high chairs, or finding new and innovative ways to remove poo from corduroy or vomit from clothing. And that’s not all. I think that the way in which most women fit anything into an average day with a child to be almost miraculous. Cooking – when? Cleaning – yeah right! Having an uninterrupted pee or a phone-call – not likely. So it’s no surprise that I find myself wanting to shut myself in my office for five minutes of uninterrupted peace, while Lily whinges outside. And sometimes I do.

There is no room for selfishness in the mother-child relationship. It’s no longer about ‘you’. In fact, it’s all about them, all the time and that’s very tiring. And God don’t I wish I could be selfish for just half and hour. Just half an hour to do nothing more than lie in bed and stare out of the window at the trees. Or lie in bed and read a chapter of a book without worrying if my little kamikaze pilot is falling over something, into something, pulling something over on top of her or eating something that she shouldn’t, like cat litter. Alas, those days of tranquility are gone. The days when I felt like a fully paid up and useful member of society are but a beautiful memory. Now the nearest I get to feeling useful is if I manage to look after Lily all day without some catastrophe occurring. If I can do that and bath her, put her to bed and still have some energy left over to make dinner for my poor beleaguered husband, then I’ve done exceptionally well.

I think the frustration I feel is probably more noticeable because I do have to at least appear to have everything under control. I run a business that requires me to be compos mentis and that’s something I never feel these days. It’s like my brain turned to mash during pregnancy and has not had a chance to recover because the closest I come to a real conversation most days is talking to the market research people on the telephone. Alas, even they make a swift exit when they realise I don’t own my own house.

Nothing is as frustrating as wanting to achieve something with your day and not being able to. There are so many things that need doing with my business, in the house and with our plans and nothing ever gets done. I never have any time to myself and when I do, I’m so sodding tired all I want to do is hide under the duvet and pray that Lily doesn’t wake up for at least 2 hours. I find myself silently screaming inside because I can’t externalise this feeling of resentment that creeps up on me sometimes. The truth is I don’t want to spend every waking moment of my life looking after Lily. Does that make me a bad mother or a bad person? Surely other people must feel like this. It’s so damn hard, this mothering business.

And yet this is all part of the unraveling we must go through. Slowly our outer layers are peeled (or in some cases, torn) away revealing the newer, rawer flesh of mummyhood beneath. And each day means another lesson, another mistake, another frustration to negotiate. There are tears because there must be tears. Tears are a cleansing. An important way of diffusing, de-stressing and re-stabilizing before we face the next challenge and the next and the next. This unraveling serves another, more important, purpose. The purpose of revealing the mother we are to become. And not just the mother but the woman. Underneath all these outer layers of sophistication and complexity that we wear like a mask, lies something primal and simple. Our true nature as ‘the mother’.

The unraveling is never comfortable at least not for us modern women. In older times I’m sure that the unraveling was not even noticed – we flowed seamlessly from maiden to mother to crone with never a worry in our dirty heads. We certainly weren’t caught up in trying to retain aspects of our maiden-hood whilst moving into our motherhood nor were we obsessed with remaining in the full blush of youth when moving into our crone aspects. And this is, I’m sure, the problem. We have so defined ourselves by what we do and how other people perceive us that we are almost paralyzed by the changes that motherhood can bring on. We don’t know how to cope with the seemingly diminished roles in society or with the way our society looks down on women who stay at home to mother their children. We no longer have ‘a village’ to help us raise our children. We are in this alone and, more to the point, are supposed to look good and maintain a clean and tidy home whilst doing it. No wonder we are frustrated by staying at home to take care of our babies when the world seems to be pointing the finger and asking ‘when are you coming back to the real world? Don’t you want to be useful again?’ And I buy into it again and again and then wonder why I feel resentful and frustrated and why I fight the very essence of the mothering role. I wanted this more than anything else and yet now that I have it, it seems to be about as comfortable as a cheap suit made of horsehair.

I know that we put pressure on ourselves to achieve every day because somehow we have received that message. That just looking after our darling children is not enough. Is not worthy of our full self or our full attention because we should also be doing this and this and this. The truth is motherhood is enough of a steep learning curve to keep even the astro-physicists busy for a while. I’d love to see these fabulous minds engaged in the raising of a little bubby for a week and see which end of the universe they stagger out of afterwards.

It’s hard to shake off our ‘other’ roles. It’s hard to understand that this is all there is. It’s harder still to accept it. Yet we are an elite of sorts. We are the women who are helping to shape the future of the planet. We are the educators of the people of tomorrow. Isn’t that a worthy enough goal? A wide enough job description? Responsibility enough for even those of us who held down positions of high office before pregnancy? Isn’t it enough to know that what we do today and all the today’s after this, affects the future, our future and, more importantly, their future? When I look at child-rearing this way, it’s amazing that I expect anything else of myself. Why should I feel bad that I am not ‘out there’ when the changes I am seeking start ‘in here’. In my heart, in my words and in my loving arms. If my daughter can look into my eyes and know that she is a part of the Great Work the mother’s are doing, then I will have done something right despite all my protestations at this endless unraveling. If I can raise a selfless, compassionate, kind and loving being then what other accolades do I really want. Will the results of being the big bad businesswoman and super-achiever I sometimes yearn to be, be as wonderful and inspiring as watching my beautiful, curious, willful little girl grown into a beautiful, curious and willful woman?

There is nothing so precious, nothing so important, nothing as fascinating as this mothering business. Every day as I climb this steep learning curve I seem to pull away another layer in order to see more clearly and feel more deeply. Every day I contact something so real and so wild that it makes me want to cry, to laugh, to scream, to throw everything out of the window, to dance and to shout, to sing and to dream. It’s truly a crazy journey I am on and yet as each of those layers disappears I am more myself than I think I have ever been. I fight against this and I will no doubt continue to fight against this in many ways over the months and years to come but I do not doubt that at the end of this journey (if there ever really is an end) I will have learned more by being a mother than any amount of workshops or self help books could ever have taught me because I am being taught by the greatest of all bodhisattva’s, my child. And I should be bloody grateful.

Resistance is Futile

Friday 6th July 2007

And yet still I do it. Every single day. Something in me resists this new role, these new responsibilities, this lack of freedom. The stupid thing is I know it’s futile. I know that all I get from the resistance is more frustration, more irritation, more anger. But here I am again. Up to my neck in tension. Literally.

The trouble is though I know WHAT I’m resisting, I don’t know why. My beautiful, curious daughter becomes the recipient of the sharp end of my blunt tongue. She smiles at me in good natured bewilderment as I yet again slip into that place where old patterns outweigh good intentions. Why do I do this to her? To myself? What possible positive outcome can there be from wearing this same rut into the carpet of my psyche? There’s a saying isn’t there – that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different outcome. Well then I must be mad.

Today my bubby was great. She didn’t complain. She slept reasonably well. She was full of energy and curiosity (mostly for what the books on our bookshelf tasted like) and laughed readily. Yet I resisted playing with her. Even though I kept on telling myself that I should be playing with her. I should be putting her first. I should be interested in her development and her delightful exploration. Yes. I should. But wasn’t.

I’m going to come right out and say it. Play time is boring for me. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person or as a parent but I’m laying it on the line anyway because it’s the truth. I can’t find much to interest me or to get excited about as I pry her little grabby hands off the corner of the coffee table for the 50th time in half an hour in order to stop her taking a backwards head-dive onto our hard wood floors. I can’t muster enthusiasm to put all the toys back in the toy chest so that she can pull them out again. And yes – on other days I’m happy to do just that because that it itself is a learning thing. I don’t enjoy reading to her much right now, partly because she tries to snatch all the books off me and gnaw at them with her 8 puppy teeth and partly because, let’s be honest, there’s not much excitement in reading books that consist of different textures and one sentence per page. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. Can’t get enough of it myself. You wait until she’s old enough to read Harry Potter – that’s when I’ll come into my own. I do voices and everything. Still, today I sat there and watched her amuse herself (as I seem to do all too often for my guilty conscience) and I just didn’t want to join in. The thought of playing with her made me feel tired.

What I wanted was to go to bed and lie down. Or watch a movie. Or paint. Or write. Something that feeds my soul and gives it space to breathe. Instead I was sitting in the living room with my beautiful daughter watching the walls of my mummy prison closing in around me. Feeling the pressure of the inescapable responsibilities I now have. Maybe today was just a bad day. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was. For reasons that were not to do with my daughter herself, today was a shitty day. I resisted playing with her. I resisted reading to her. I resisted being present with her in all but the most superficial way. Then the guilt kicked in. I reproached myself for being such a lousy mother. For not teaching her anything. For not wanting to spend time with her and for not delighting in every waking moment that I have her. Because some people are not lucky enough to have children, let alone ones that can melt your heart with a smile and a pair of peony blue eyes. So, why then do I resist? Especially as what we resist persists. Why do I not know how to stop myself in this well worn track before I make another circuit? Why can I not take a deep breath, step back and surrender?

Because it’s not that sodding simple is it? If it was that easy to change patterns ingrained in us since childhood, I know we’d all be doing it. We’d all be grabbing those hulking great dark shadows that hang over us like vultures and we’d be giving them a good kicking. If we could be aware of all the patterns that saturate our psyche like the rings inside a tree, we’d do something about it. Wouldn’t we? Didn’t we all make the promise to ourselves in our pregnancies that we would never become our parents? Didn’t we swear that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes with our babies that they made with us? We wouldn’t perpetuate the same patterns or wound them in the same ways that we were wounded. And yet we do. Every day. Often unconsciously. But sometimes consciously out of anger or grief or frustration. Sometimes I honestly wonder if I have the capacity to physically hurt my little girl the way that I was hurt as a child. If I have the same rage within me that my father had. I wonder if I could bully or berate or terrify my baby the way that I was bullied, berated and terrified. The truly frightening part of it all is that that the answer is yes. That pattern is there. It may be the smallest ring in the tree but it is probably the deepest and therefore the most difficult to get to and excise.

My resistance has both unconscious and conscious patterns behind it. I know this. I just don’t quite know why certain behaviours in my daughter set me off on this track again. What do those behaviours bring up in my unconscious mind that has me reacting again and again in the same way? I know in my head that I need to take a deep breath and let go. Surrender. Move past it. Yet, I feel the frustration and the resentment that goes with this new mothering territory rise and I can’t help myself. My voice hardens. My nerves get exposed and my darling girl is yet again on the receiving end of a less than calm and patient mummy.

Then come the tears. Hot and guilty. They pour over my cheeks as my daughter sleeps in my arms, cuddled close to my chest. Mascara running in shadowy streaks onto her forehead like the grey ghosts of my childhood. I tell her how much I love her, over and over again. And I ask her for her forgiveness. I tell her I’m sorry. Sorry that I yelled. Sorry that I lost my patience with her. Sorry that I had to keep telling her ‘NO’ and roughly manhandling her back into a sitting position in her bath. Sorry that all the little dangers of the house and day have to get in the way of her exploration. Sorry that I’m not doing a better job of being a mummy. And then I promise her I’ll do better.

And I will. We all will. We all make the same mistakes and the same promises and we all cry the same hot, guilty tears when our mistakes pile up on us like so much dirty washing. I know that the guilt and the fear and the anger and the resentment are all pointing to one thing. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of being a mother. I’m afraid of doing a terrible job and raising another wounded human being to carry these old scars forward to her children. Afraid that I really will fuck up my child. Children don’t come into the world with an instruction manual (and if they did I’m afraid it would just have a drawing of a baby with an arrow pointing at the head saying ‘This Way Up’). We have to find our way through the maze of motherhood with its seemingly endless days of washing, playing, caring, raising, educating, nurturing, cuddling, protecting and sleeping (or not) with no-one and nothing to guide us except our experiences. That’s why I’m here. I’m not proud of my behaviour. I hate that I have so much fear and anger inside of me. I will say quite categorically that I would NEVER hurt my baby but the knowledge that the potential is there is enough to send me seeking a therapist.

They say that raising a child will test and challenge you in many ways. But in no way will being a mother test you more than when the shining spirits of our children ask us to look bare-faced into our own souls and acknowledge all that lies within. Good and bad.

So, resistance is futile yes. But it is also a guide. A flare in the maze. A marker in the dark. My resistance shows me that I have work to do. That there are wounded places within me that prevent me from giving my best to my daughter and my resistance challenges me to find the reasons for it and let them go. It’s a challenge and I don’t often win but then who does? I’d like to meet this person and encourage them to write a child rearing manual.

Today was a bad day in many ways but, much like the French underground in World War II, resistance has its purpose.

I wish you a peaceful night.

The Great Mother


That’s what I thought I would be. Like the ever loving Mother Goddess whose image I hold dear, there I would be resplendent, glowing with the joy of natural birth, milk overflowing from my bountiful breasts, nurturing my newborn babe as she lies peacefully in my loving embrace. I would smile serenely at my gorgeous daughter and be at peace, proudly, fiercely standing in my role as ‘mother’. Hah!

It didn’t quite go down that way. Despite my attempts at conscious conception (just the one glass of wine dear) and in spite of all my reading about pregnancy and labour (can anyone say ‘birthing library’) and despite my best efforts at meditation (which consisted of putting on the CD’s and falling immediately into a deep and lovely sleep), my pregnancy ended with me, feet in stirrups, numb to the collarbones with a man called ‘Vasco’ with hands the size of hams, yanking my placenta out of me. Not exactly the natural home waterbirth I had so lovingly planned. Instead I spent the first hour after my daughters birth being sewn up and ‘recovering’ before being reunited with her in my (thankfully private) hospital room and the next few nights trying to sleep through the unfeasibly loud snoring of the woman in the next room. If you can imagine something like a cross between a blunt buzz-saw and a grizzly bear then you may come close. The hospital never slept and consequently neither did I. Not a wink. For FIVE days. I was probably out of my mind by the time I left there but I wouldn’t know never having been entirely in my mind from what I can gather.

Despite these initial setbacks and the utterly alien feelings that swamped me as I returned to my home – as if I was just visiting - I did try to get straight into the swing of my attachment parenting. I breastfed as I did indeed have abundant milk though sadly not tough enough nipples. Each 2-hourly feed was accompanied by hot guilty tears as my hungry baby latched on with a suck like the engine of a 747 (something else I was in no hurry to put my tit into) and slowly grated my nipples into bloody pulp. I remember that feeling of utter bewilderment so well. Not only could I not birth normally, I obviously couldn’t even breastfeed. What kind of mother was I going to be when I couldn’t even get that right? It should be simple right? Wrong. I have discovered that nothing about mothering is simple. Or easy.

Since the day I returned home sleep deprived and blimp chested I have been on a steep learning curve. Steeper than masters level mathematics which is something else I know nothing about. I have bumbled and cried and shouted and gotten frustrated and blissfully breastfed my way through the first 8-months of my daughters life. She eventually stopped grating my nipples though she has never really mastered latching on (and neither have I!) but I figure if she’s thriving then we must be doing something right. I’ve done all the usual new mother stuff like taking her to the doctors convinced she must be part-suffocating every night because of the appalling grunting, wheezing and snorting she did in her sleep (they call it ‘snuffly baby syndrome’), I’ve cried with tiredness and my heart has swelled to bursting at her first smile, her first laugh, her first tight squeeze around my neck as I hold her. I’ve even been paralysed with fear after she rolled off the bed and onto the (thankfully carpeted) floor. But most of all I’ve struggled to be a good mom not even coming close to the Great Mother that I thought I wanted to be.

It has been a struggle, though a struggle with a lot of joy and laughter in it. It has been a difficult journey through my emotions. Through my feelings of inadequacy at not being able to give birth naturally without pain relief. My feelings of envy towards anyone who HAS been able to do it naturally particularly those Amazon women who water birthed naturally. I felt so weak and feeble when I thought about them. I have felt the frustration of a girl interrupted by this little being whose endless needs so clashed with my own. I have forgotten many, many times that she is the most important job that I will ever do and I have tried to fit her in around my work with anger, resentment and frustration the only outcome. I have tried to do it all, look after my little girl, exercise, run my business, cook dinner, clean house and continue to read my parenting books – hoping to find something I overlooked that could explain this complex mothering thing to me in simple terms. I have failed at it every day in a million different ways. But you know what? It’s ok.

That’s right. It’s ok. It’s ok to fail because it means I’m trying. It’s ok to fail because in every failure I see what doesn’t work for me, my baby and our family as a whole. Every day I try harder to be a more intuitive mother, a more understanding and aware parent and every day I fail at some part of it because I’ve never done this before. That’s right. I’m a complete novice. I know if this was a profession rather than a vocation I’d have been sacked by now but thankfully my heart is open to the learning’s inherent in the failings and I just try different things every day. I sometimes feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. When I’ve misread the signs for the umpteenth time that day and my baby has already cried herself to sleep in my arms before I realise that she’s tired, it can be demoralising. You know that your baby is speaking to you but it might as well be in Urdu because you just don’t speak the same language and it can make you feel lonelier than you ever thought was possible. BUT (and like mine, it’s a big butt) if you can hold on through these testing times you’ll be rewarded with… more of the same. Yup. I’d like to tell you it gets easier but it doesn’t. Or at least, it hasn’t for me. Not yet. Yet it truly doesn’t matter. You find more strength, more patience and more trust as time goes on even though the learning curve continues its sheer ascent. Once you’ve got them sleeping through the night then come the teeth and the two hourly waking through the night. What do these teeth do? Wrestle their way out of the gum? How can something so small cause that amount of sleeplessness? That’s followed (or precursored) by starting them on solids which sometimes results in the shiny sore red bum which causes more night waking. Then of course, interspersed with all of the above you have the milestones. Rolling comes first which is swiftly followed by rolling off things, which is followed even more swiftly by the heart attack. Then comes crawling – this they do in their sleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone in to my crying baby to find her confused and sleepy on all fours. How do they do that in a sleeping bag, I ask you? Could you put yourself on all fours in a sleeping bag? On second thoughts, don’t answer that. I don’t want those images stuck in my mind. And the curve goes on.

There are days when I find myself shouting ‘What? What do you want?’ at my precious little cherub. Only to realise that she wants me. She wants me to play with her. To listen to her. To watch her. To show her things and share in her daily growing. Aha! So that’s the answer then is it? Well, it is today. Tomorrow it may be that she is hungry or that her bum is sore or that her gums hurt or that she wants to grab the cat by the face and love her to death. Who the hell knows what it will be the day after that but I can’t wait to get there and fail to understand all over again. Because in these daily lessons I come so much closer to understanding who she is as a being and who I am as a mother. I am not perfect. (No! You don’t say). I’m not even close. I am committed though (or I should be) and I am in it for the long haul. So when my daughter hits 16, dies her hair purple, gets her nipple pierced and yells at me that she never asked to be born, I will smile and know that despite everything I did wrong by the time she hits 20 she and I will be really good friends because I did some things right and one of those things was to try hard and to love her with my whole heart every day and every night for all of her life.

Viva Failure!

Today I Danced Naked…

20th May 2007

Today, I danced naked in my living room. It was not planned. It was not even without its difficulties. I had to negotiate my daughter who was playing semi-noisily with her myriad of toys on a mat on the floor. I had to negotiate my own feelings of embarrassment, insecurity and mirth brought about by just the thought of what I might look like. Me, naked, dancing to my own tune. I wondered what the neighbours would make of it if they caught sight of me through their side window. I wondered if they ever looked through their side window. Then, just be safe, I turned off the living room light.

As I danced I thought about myself. Selfishly yet in a pure and unadulterated way. I thought about my body, soft, doughy and warm since the birth of my daughter just 7 months ago. I felt the excess fleshiness of it, the extra weight that still clings to my contours and I danced into its heaviness. Though it felt like I was swinging bags of cooked semolina around me as I twirled, I tried to inhabit my own skin once again. I could almost see the clouds of dust rising into the air around me. I stamped and kicked and shook every limb. I swung my long hair around like a demented Woodstock hippy. I stretched into each sinew, each bone sighing with delight and each muscle smiling with the effort. I thought about what I have become and what I might yet become. I thought about the reasons my body is the way it is. For once, I didn’t feel shame or sorrow at the loss of firmness and youth. I felt pride. Pride that this body, my body, had brought new life into the world. Pride that my body could withstand the pain of labour and birth spirit into matter. Pride that I could still find some warmth, some passion within the dusty confines of this skin suit I inhabit but rarely enjoy.

As I danced and occasionally worried that my husband would return early from his errands and find his crazy wife dancing naked in front of his DVD collection, I realised that I am a MOTHER. I believe it needs capitalising because I have, for so long, been whispering that name to myself, scarcely believing that this is who I have become. Not all that I am you understand. I am not only MOTHER. But it informs everything I do, like the word printed through the centre of a piece of rock, like the jam at the centre of a yummy sugary doughnut. The world can nibble away at the rest of me but my soft red centre is for my family alone. And it will always be so. For the first time my body shook around that centre and was warmed by the thought. I felt connected to myself again and through that sacred connection, to my daughter, so shining and new and, most importantly, to my husband who has felt the loss of the intimacy that once graced our relationship because I have been so totally disconnected from my earthly body and so tapped out with touch catering to the needs of my darling daughter.

I shook, I swayed, I danced, I pranced, I lunged and hip hopped (yes, who knew?!) and I twirled and swirled like the water spirit that I am at heart. It was blissful and funny and sad and wonderful all at once and I revelled in the feel of the warm (ducted) air on my skin. I felt silly and insecure too but they were quickly replaced with the thought that if I can’t dance naked in my own living room then where can I dance naked?

I gathered my daughter up in my arms and whooshed her through the air, captivated by her giggles and her smiles. We played together, truly played, without an agenda, without my thoughts always leaning towards her development and her learning. We just laughed and swooped around the house to the music. Dancing to our own inner beats and finding our rhythm together. And that’s when it struck me.

I picked her up and played with her when I felt that desire but when I needed to dance alone, I put her down and danced in my own being and this is how it should be. I am not only a mother. I am an individual. I am a lover. I am a wife. I am a businesswoman. I am a spirit in an earthly body. I am a woman. Sometimes my dance will bring my daughter and I closer together. Sometimes my dance will take me away. Sometimes her spirit and mine don’t mesh fully. We are still discovering the ways in which we touch and communicate. Sometimes her spirit and mine soar like a kite on a windy day. And that’s good enough. We are not meant to live enmeshed like one soul. We are meant to inform, to share, to grow and to challenge each other as all good relationships do and it felt wonderful to realise this.

I can now go to my own self without reproach because by nourishing myself I am ultimately nourishing her. By exploring who I am as a mother and as a woman I can, in time, help her to discover herself. But most of all I can be the mother that I want to be, calm, patient, involved only if I listen to and honour the needs of my own spirit. Without it I am simply running on empty as so many of us do caught up in the trap of perfect motherhood and feeling so out of step with our energy and passions.

I get it wrong all the time. I miss cues, I miss signs, I forget that she is the most important job I will ever do and get caught up in the emails, the phone calls, the bookings, the outer world again. But today as I danced it all faded into its rightful place somewhere at the back of my mind, and I let go. I relit the fire of old passions. I felt the heat rising in my womb again and felt the energy there lifting its tired head and nodding to the beat. It will take time to integrate these new things I know. It’s too easy when tiredness and crankiness take over to ignore our needs and get caught up again. I know also that sometimes it’s easier to give in to old habits than it is to make the effort to make even much needed changes so I want to finish by saying this, do what you can do when you can do it and don’t worry about the rest. That’s all.

When my husband finally came home and found me sitting naked on the floor breastfeeding our daughter and asked me what I had been doing. I told him in all seriousness ‘dancing naked in the living room!’ He grinned and replied ‘Awesome!’ And so it was.

Screams, Screeches and the Dark Road In-between

12th April 2007

I was just lying next to my sweetly sleeping plump cheeked little daughter watching her sleep and wondering how it is that she can sometimes make me want to throw her over next doors fence. Like most mothers I am aware that sometimes motherhood gets very overwhelming. All mother’s sometimes feel like they could throttle their beloved child when things get too much but as I lay watching her I realised how easy it would be for me to slip into the patterns of abuse that were used to control me when I was an child. That was a sobering and frightening thought.

The thought stemmed from one of those frustrating times in our relationship when Lily is tired but won’t sleep and I need to get something done in the office (when will I learn this is futile with a crotchety baby?) and so she starts to screech and screech and whine and I get more and more crabby until, today, I threw a small rubber at her. Now, don’t get me wrong – if the rubber had hit her it would have only shocked her for a moment, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt her but it’s the fact that I could do it at all that shocked me. In the moment that I threw it, I wanted it to hit her – just to shock her out of the godawful screeching she was in the middle of. I wanted, just for a moment, to shut her the fuck up using any means at my disposal. As soon as I’d thrown it I knew that I’d crossed a line. No matter how small or indistinct that line is I had crossed it by lobbing something at my child.

I then wrestled with her in bed for about 40-minutes until she finally fell asleep after some crying in my arms while I held her. The crying was not related to what I had done but was due to the fact that she was very tired and not able to let go. It was while she slept that I thought about how much I loved her. I always feel such tremendous guilt when I shout at her or finally lose my temper because she’s doing something (usually screeching) that shreds my last nerve. Today started out that way and dealing with that constant noise is no way to start a day. However, what struck me was that maybe this is how abuse starts in families. First comes the shouting at the noisy child, then comes the smacking, shaking or – in my case – the lobbing of the rubber. After that it all gets very dark indeed and I don’t even want to think about the other atrocities that are dealt a child.

The reason I thought about abuse at all is because of my abusive upbringing. My sister stayed with me recently and we were sharing stories about our respective upbringings (if you can call them that!). She shared some stories with me about my mum which were a little eye-opening – one involved her shaking me when I was screaming because of teething and Elaine genuinely feared for my life that day. Lily is teething. She was screeching before she ever got teeth but it stopped for a while and she babbled happily instead. I can easily cope with excessive loud babbling. The screeching is the trigger for me. Screeching and screaming. Maybe I respond in the way that I do because that’s somehow what I remember being done to me. I don’t have any specific memories of anything my mum may or may not have done to me when I was that small. Elaine’s memories are all I have to rely on in many ways and they are unreliable as they are the memories of a terrorised, angry and petrified adolescent who was made responsible for my life up until I was 4 years old. Too young to be a surrogate mum.

Anyway, it made me think that there may be, lurking in my psyche – all subconscious and twitchy, some horrible abusive patterns that I am in danger of repeating. Not terrible violent patterns like beating my child or mentally berating them but subtle abuse like shouting at my bub when she screeches or yelling at her to ‘shut up!’ or lobbing a rubber at her to get a moment’s peace from the noise.

I would never in a million years have thought of myself as an abusive person. Far from it. I am a woman made timid by years being surrounded by violence and abuse, watching and hearing it until I cannot remember much of anything about my childhood except one or two terrifying incidences that I would much rather forget. So why then does it worry me so much? I guess it’s because I know now that the possibility is there. Maybe it’s present in everyone just as I suspect that the ability to do many horrible things is present in everyone – we just don’t act on those urges. The question is what urges WILL I act upon? Given my history I think I am just that little bit more likely to give in to an aggressive urge and I need to know that now so that I can take some steps to avoiding it before it happens.

I don’t believe I am one of those women capable of shaking their child though I have had moments where I can see how it happens and I know that I handle Lily more roughly when I am angry than I do when I am calm and happy. I guess that’s a no-brainer though. Who wouldn’t? It’s just that I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be more at risk of smacking or shacking or even just shouting aggressively at my child and yet I know that I am. I am capable of dark and horrible things because I have been a victim of dark and horrible things and they live in my psyche. What then do I think of as normal?

There are days when I want so much to have just a little peace from the constant demands that she places on my time and I know that this is just me struggling to find myself in the role of mummy. And then there are days when I long to be attached more to my child, when I never want to stop breastfeeding her, when I think I should be holding her more, wearing her in a sling more, playing with her more and then I feel guilty that I am not focused on her 24/7.

I am trying to be a better parent to my baby girl than my mum and dad were to me. It’s not that difficult when it comes to my dad – I just have to not belittle them, punch them or make them feel inferior – oh and I have to not drag them from their beds at 4am while the hubble and I have a punch up in the house.
With mum it’s more tricky. I don’t really know what bad patterns I have internalised there. I can name a few of the more obvious patterns right off the bat such as:
Not pushing my child to compete with other children or to be ‘the best’ at something.
Not making my child do all the things I wish I had done as a child.
Not being so controlling that I don’t allow my child’s own personality to develop normally.
Not spoiling the child out of guilt for the start that I gave her and the horrible upbringing I allowed my other children to have inflicted upon them.

The subtle mum stuff is more difficult because I only just realised today that the capacity for violence is in me and there is nowhere else that it can have come from other than my parents and my upbringing. The blame lies squarely with them for that but the responsibility for Lily is mine. I will not do to her what was done to me – no matter how impossible the circumstances may have been. I will not allow myself to give in to these horrible snappy moments when I do things like this – no matter how small they are in reality. They are a sign of a much deeper well of dark matter that I must now start to scoop out in order to fill my parenting well with clear, nourishing cool water. How I do that I don’t know but it is my responsibility and I guess my leanings towards attachment parenting and aware parenting are all part of my desire to iron out the kinks in my psyche and be a good mum to Lily and her siblings when she has some.

I am a good person. I truly believe this. I just have a dark half, a bruised shadow that waits in the wings trying to show me, to teach me, how to do things better. How to be a better mummy. How to undo some of the damage so that I don’t pass it on.

What realisations come – huh?


Mommy Dearest

6th March 2007

Well, today I wept. I wept at my own inadequacy as a mother. I wept because I am unable to read my child well enough to know when she needs to sleep, when she needs to eat and when she needs to just cry to let off some steam. I wept because some days are just harder than others, no matter how quiet these days might be compared to others. Most of all I think I wept because I am tired.

Now, I am more than aware that I have an easy baby. I hear stories of mother’s who are up 6 and 7 times a night with their crying baby. My precious bub sleeps right the way through. The only thing that rouses me at night is her ferocious thumb-sucking as she self-soothes herself back into slumber. I hear stories of mothers who are wakened with a jolt as their babies screech into the night until that all important dummy is stuffed back into their needy mouths and I quietly thank the goddess that Lily wouldn’t take a dummy. Of course, this means that she isn’t interested in having a bottle either which causes a whole other set of problems but that topic is for another day.

I didn’t weep for long. It was mostly a little trickle of frustrated and inadequate tears because I realised something that made me really question my mothering skills. My little girl doesn’t cry. Great! I hear a hundred mothers cry. It’s not great though. It’s worrying. A baby is supposed to cry at least sometimes. She doesn’t cry when she’s hungry. She doesn’t cry when she’s tired. She doesn’t cry when she needs a nappy change or when she’s overstimulated and needs some peace and quiet. She doesn’t even cry when she wakes up for her early morning feed having not fed for over 7 hours. But what I have realised today is that the horrendous screeching she has been slowly developing in the last month or so, is her replacement for crying. She screeches and screams in a high pitch for hours. She does it when you are holding her and engaging her in activity or chatter – though not all the time. She does it when she’s hungry and she does it when she is tired. The more tired she becomes, the more shrill and raspy become the screeches.

Surely screeching is better than crying? No. It’s honestly not. Crying indicates a need that is readable, at least in part. Screeching is just noise. Constant, unendurable, brain splitting noise. The kind of noise that makes you want to punt your precious little bub over next doors garden fence. The kind of noise that makes you seriously wish you had never bothered with the whole childbirth thing in the first place. The kind of noise that makes you want to scream because is impossible to read. It could mean ANYTHING. Even boredom, because that’s how it started. When she was left alone in her chair or anywhere for more than a few minutes, she would get bored and frustrated and start to shout for attention. Now obviously, despite our best efforts, we didn’t get to her soon enough because the shouting turned into screeching and as that always seems to have the desired effect on us – i.e. that we come running, anything to silence that damn noise – she uses this to great effect.

So today, as I lay in the bed trying to breastfeed my kicking, squirming, flapping, sweaty-headed child for nearly 2-hours, I wept. I watched her eyes slowly close only to swing back open in just a few seconds as she pulled off the boob and had a screech.
I wept because I don’t understand her. I don’t understand why she kicks and squirms, grunts, screeches, shoves her feet into my tummy and legs and constantly pulls away from the boob when she is so tired. I wept because the screeching gets to me in a way that crying never could. I wept because I felt so inadequate and so unable to help her learn to go to sleep in peace and ease. I don’t know how to deal with these new habits but I realise that they have developed out of a sense of frustration that I am not picking up what she needs properly. No matter how hard I try, I am missing something vital that has caused these distressing habits.

I can’t tell you how demoralising it is to have your child fight like a featherweight boxer when you are trying to feed her. It’s intensely disappointing to know that it is neither relaxing or enjoyable for either her or you. It is irritating and upsetting and impossible to hold the squirming bundle close enough to your chest to get any milk into her. I’m honestly not even sure that she’s getting enough half the time. The only peaceful feeds we experience are those when she is either exhausted or asleep. And yes, I do feed her when she is asleep just to top her up before I go to sleep or when she is asleep but frantically sucking her thumb and I think she’s hungry. Those times are bliss compared with every other feed she has.

I read, I ask questions on forums, I ask more experienced mums and I ask less experienced mums. Most of the time I feel as if I do ok. But not today. Today I am wondering what emotional damage I am doing to my child by struggling to feed her as she fights and screeches. I wonder how I am going to undo whatever pattern she has gotten into as I lie trying to stroke her little face and get her to sleep easily. In all other aspects, she is a blissful, smiley, happy little girl and I adore her. I truly do. I am totally and utterly in love with my baby girl, my little Lilybean. I just feel like I am failing her because now she screeches rather than cries. And I don’t know what to do.

I try to follow the principles of attachment parenting. I am even learning about aware parenting and thus the need to cry sometimes just to let off steam – much like I did today. Or like you do when you have PMT and need to just cry to get it all out. Babies need that too. Only unlike crying I don’t know what the screeches mean. They all sound the same and they are all unbearable to listen to for any length of time. I lose my temper more quickly with those screeches than I would with any length of crying. They just penetrate and agitate my brain so fast.

Anyway, this is the first time I have written for a very long time and I just wanted to get it off my chest. Today I am a crap mummy. I know that I’ll learn and I know that some days are better than others. It’s just that today I feel alone, I feel tired (despite the whole nights sleep) and I feel lost. I wonder how I’m ever going to raise my girl without damaging her. She spends most of her time with me and I am not doing a good job with her. At least not right now. I struggle to adapt to the huge changes she has brought into my life. I struggle to prioritise her over my business and my need for me time. Not that I’ve had any of that for a while. I struggle to exercise, cook, clean, read, operate my business and interact with my husband when I feel tired all the goddam time.

So – this is me. This is Tuesday. There are 3 more days to go before the weekend when I have more time with my hubby and therefore more support. There are three more days of trying to figure out what her screeching means. Three more days of trying to get her to sleep. Trying to get her to feed and trying to get her to relax. Just three more days. So why does it feel like a very long time indeed.