Since my middle child, Ayla, was born I have blogged much less. This is partly due to being incredibly busy, but I think mostly due to the fact that I have been slightly traumatised and have felt unable to really talk about this, except for to a few close friends, before now.
Before Ayla’s birth I wrote this blog about Letting Go of expectations and fear. If you read the following blog you will see that I went into labour the night after writing the first blog. Now, I have a theory about this. I feel that I did let go of fear enough for my body to relax and go into labour, but I don’t feel that I was relaxed enough. I didn’t exactly explain this in the birth blog (the second one) but looking back now, I find it quite odd that once Ayla’s head was out I lost all desire to push her body out. It took at least another 7 minutes before I forced myself (with Stevens help) to push her body out, which I believe is quite long. Looking back now, I do feel that I wasn’t actually ready for her. As wonderful as I thought my living arrangements were, there was actually a lot of constantly having to shush Erin and stop her from going into rooms and exploring like a normal toddler, and Erin was a pretty quiet, angelic child. (we shared a house). In retrospect I KNOW this caused me a lot more stress then I acknowledged or even realised at the time. I know because when we moved out I felt such a HUGE sense of relief. This was probably one of many factors – there was the ‘how will I cope?’ factor, and many more.
Anyhow, within the first day or two when little gorgeous Ayla began to cry constantly I was completely taken by surprise. My first daughter had practically never cried. I was bloody tired and emotional and nothing I did seemed to satisfy this little soul – and it made me feel so useless – and angry. I felt I never really bonded with her and fell in love with her the way I did with Erin – this process was interrupted by desperate cries and helplessness. Many a night Steven and I would just pass her between us and hold her for as long as we could cope with the crying. She has a hearty, shriek-like cry which seemed to make all the nerves in my body twang and I felt like SUCH an awful mum! Not even boobie would satisfy her. She HATED the car and would literally scream from the second we got in to the second we stopped – I often had to stop and get her out on the way somewhere as I felt so utterly mean allowing her to get into such a state..she was literally breathless, sweaty and bright red by the time we arrived. And there were times when I wore her in the sling and sat in the back of the car with her, and she was much happier like this. It was heartbreaking. I went out as little as possible. Seeing Dr Maryellen Stephens of Westcountry Family Chiropractic was a Godsend, and the crying immediately reduced. But Ayla has always been a needy baby and she has carried that through to childhood.
I feel she is traumatised for a few reasons:
1) me not feeling ready for her due to unforeseen & unchangeable circumstances
2) me being fearful of ending up in hospital
3) allowing intervention in having my waters broken when it was looking apparent that labour would stop
4) me literally not being able to push her body out for ages – having her head in the water, eyes open for well over 5 minutes (a very clear subconscious message??)
5) me being unable to cope with the crying and feeling utterly helpless
I have had three wonderful natural births, that many a woman is envious of & I should be thankful, right? But yet I can relate to how people who have had awful traumatic births must feel. I believe that Ayla’s stress hormones(cortisol) are high and used up fast and then adrenaline kicks in. It is hard. I totally adore this child and would die for her, but there are moments when I just simply don’t know how to be with her. This has reflected negatively on our mother child relationship and I sometimes feel that Ayla is simply a reflection of how I’ve become as a result of her crying and unquenchable neediness, and therefore my feeling of helplessness. I used to be super chilled and easy going, but there is something about that cry (which she still has) that makes something in my brain go ‘twang’ and I lose the ability to cope – over and over again. I say things that I don’t mean and I see the fear in her eyes when I roar at her to ‘stop crying because it’s making me go insane’. Tears are rolling down my face as I write this. I recognise that it is so terribly terribly sad, and I still feel helpless as to how to make it better.
What is also interesting is that when Ayla was 2 months old I broke my finger and had to have it operated on. This put my one hand out of action for over a month. I don’t think I purposely broke my finger, but I do think that this gave me the ability to step back and hand over the childcare a bit more to Steven at a time when I was feeling unable to cope. You have to wonder about timings sometimes…
Ayla is quite aggressive, extremely emotional, quite angry and has a blood curdling scream which makes everyone cover their ears if we’re in a public place. She is constantly hurting Leander or pushing him over (sometimes I think she just wants to squeeze him because she loves him, but then gets carried away and hurts him instead) and hubby and I often find ourselves talking and worrying about her mental health. I know it is a mothers ‘job’ to blame herself, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself – but it is hard. I also feel very guilty that we had Leander when she was so little (she was 27 months old) and I know that of course she must be quite jealous of the attention he gets – and he is a total angel of a baby so he gets lots of positive attention, whereas she mainly seems to attract negative attention although we really really make an effort to give her one on one and as much positive attention as we can.
I myself have been rather down in the dumps and am in fact currently having Counselling – and I must say that I feel a big part of the problem is as a result of Ayla’s babyhood and my loss of faith in myself. I do actually feel traumatised by the crying and have the most terrible guilt for not being able to provide for her needs – I could not stop her from crying, no matter what I did. I have gradually begun disliking myself more and more over the past 3 years and am now actually only recognising this and changing the pattern. How can I expect my kids to love themselves if I don’t love myself?
Regardless of all of this, I can honestly say that I love Ayla as much as my other children, and she probably spends a lot more time going around in my heart & head as I worry about her, and I desperately want to make things right in her world. She is pretty damn hilarious when she wants to be and ever so cute and small and articulate. She can be very loving and adorable, and she can be totally feisty and wild too – all of which I adore. If I had a time machine, I would like to repeat our first few months together – I want to take her on a journey back into the womb and really wish her out into this world wholeheartedly, make things right for her from the start..somehow I feel like if this had been the case she may not have cried as much as she did. If she hadn’t cried so much I would have been able to bond much better. If I’d bonded much better, she would be a much more secure child. Oh, the guilt that comes with parenthood – and of course, there’s no guarantee that any of this would have made any difference.
Another theory I have is that I persuaded her to stop breastfeeding when she was 18 months old. I had just ended up in hospital with severe blood loss after an anembryonic pregnancy, and I just felt too physically drained to continue. I also felt I never had quite the same breastfeeding relationship with her as I did with the others – it was much easier to stop feeding her than it would have been with Erin. I just didn’t feel as ‘connected’ to her. I breastfed Erin til 3 and beyond, and she is such a secure child and I am sure this is a contributing factor. In retrospect I do actually wish I’d continued with Ayla, because I think it could have been really healing for both of us – but I was physically and mentally depleted and felt unable to at the time.
What could really heal her, I think, is plenty of one-on-one time with her. Plenty of praise, endless love, no punishments. (Easier said then done when her shrieks trigger an automatic negative response from me…something I’m working on). I feel I need to allow her to be a baby again too. Life has been hard enough for her…I have no idea why she actually cried when she was a baby, but whatever it was – I believe it has left scars. I believe Love-bombing may well be our answer, and in small doses has worked miracles for as long as a couple of weeks afterwards. I want to do a few days of total love-bombing when Leander is weaned some day and see what that does. I also want to learn to forgive and love myself again, as I’m sure this will reflect on our relationship and I’m happy to say that I am well on my way there!
So now the secret is out – I am indeed human and no super mom at all. But, as I so often say these days, I’m working on it 😉