GentlyI woke last night at 11:30pm and didn't return to sleep until well after 2am. For some reason, Bowie just would not go back to sleep. We have never encountered this stubborn kind of refusal on her part before, so it was new and very frustrating.
At 1am, I stumbled into a version of myself that I wasn't aware existed. This version was very very angry with this small human. I wanted to take her square by the shoulders and demand she stop it right now. I accused her of acting like a crazy person, I assumed she rebelling and needed corporal punishment. I wanted to reason with her, then I wanted to yell at her, then I wanted to spank her, then I wanted to give her away. Finally, I had to leave the room.
I felt my blood boiling as I stood in my dark kitchen, sobbing like a spoiled child. Why wasn't she behaving as predicted? I was so illogically angry with this small human who cannot control her emotions or her sleep patterns or her incoming teeth or her body that wants to crawl so bad it's waking her up in the middle of the night to practice.
When dealing with a screaming baby (which we've had little practice at), I always try to take a deep breath before picking them up - to calm my energy and to center myself in patience and understanding. Last night, after the third time going into Bowie's room in half-an-hour, I forgot to breathe. I snatched her up, spoke rudely to her, and tried hard to fight a losing battle, mainly because I was mad. I lost it and had to put her back in her crib immediately, for fear of whatever it was this version of Candace was capable of. It was time to tag-team Joelio.
This morning, with my 5-hours of sleep acquired periodically through the night, I woke with my heart in my heels. I'm was so tired I could barely lift Bowie. She played happily with her toys and I sat sipping my coffee, I began to unravel the knot of sadness pervading my being. How could I have anything but pity for this beauty? I was so disappointed in me.
|Who can stay mad at that sweet face?|
She turned and flashed a gorgeous smile at me and I shrugged with resolve. Such a beautiful stinker. I forgave her immediately. She forgave me immediately. Repair complete.
However, what of the repair I must conduct within myself? Anger is a powerful perspective-stealer, so I don't blame myself for feeling the surge of of violent rage*, or for setting B back in her crib less gently than usual. I say to myself what I've said to my mom friends all these years, "You are human. You are imperfect. You are learning. Forgive yourself and move on."
So gently, I pour that message into a tall mug, heat it up, let it brew, swirl it around, and let the warmth creep into the inflammation surrounding my soul, letting it sooth the self-hate.
Though silly, I did half expect that when I became a mother, I would never lose my temper. I would be so in love with this little blob of flesh that all vice would cease to exist.
I expected to be good at it immediately, which is about as logical as expecting Bowie to stand up and walk without wobbling, to never have to actually learn, but to already be perfect. But just as Bowie has to practice all of her new skills, so I have to practice mine. As I learn to walk into the identity of motherhood, I am keenly aware that I'm falling. No one is going to pick me up, dust me off, and kiss my boo-boo anymore.
As I mother Bowie gently, so must I mother myself gently.
Ah, but the painful memory of my thoughts...who did she think she was! Here I am, sacrificing my sleep. Here I am, muscles on fire with the pain of bouncing her back to relaxation. Here I have given her my very body, provided such a good life, so much love, plenty of food - all the best of myself is hers - all her needs are addressed completely and willingly. Instead of the thanks I deserve, I was kicked. Instead of the love I deserve, I was hated. Every scream of terror spoke clearly and loudly that all I've done for her wasn't good enough.
Only that's not at all what she was saying, which of course I can see only now in the light of day. She was saying that she was overtired, or her stomach hurt, or she couldn't get back to sleep, or she was hungry, or had a dirty diaper. She had a myriad of MUCH more logical reasons for her actions than I did. What she didn't possess was the ability to express those needs in any other way outside of the language of babies, the message of crying.
It is in the space between us that the true exchange happens. The place where I have noticed my negative feelings and left them alone in the background, not letting the judgement for having them take precedence over Bowie's immediate needs. The place where she is saying only what she needs, not what I think she means. The place where it's okay that I wasn't immediately patient with a screaming tyrant at 2am. The place where I can forgive myself and move on.
I can see that place now. It's the place where I lost my shit. It's the place where I'll be all day, crawling on my knees in humility and gently gathering myself back to love.
*And let's not forget that feeling something negative isn't wrong. It's how we act upon that feeling that matters. Even in the searing blindness of anger, I was able to restrain myself from the normal human reaction of yelling back accusatory words when someone yells them at you. For this small victory, I will celebrate.