Saturday, October 25, 2008

My girl...

Nothing truly comes without struggle, does it. We qualify certain things and let others pass but when it comes down to it not much in life is truly easy.

I would put mothering into this category, really and truly.

I often think of this, how I "wanted" to be a mother before Charlotte was born. I had always "loved" babies and kids, and I longed to have children of my own. I thought I longed.

Truly what I did was dream, and feel warm and grounded at the thought of a newborn that would actually be mine. It felt amazing and surreal to imagine that I could accomplish that great feat of reproduction that had always felt so far-away and intangible.

Of course, the first time around, it turns out I was not able to truly accomplish that goal, was I.

And that in itself made me want to be a mother, long to be a mother, in a way that is difficult to even write about. It was more than a longing, a desperation, a hunger. I had held in my arms this beautiful thing, this remarkable love that brushed against me like a lizard's quick tongue: there and then gone. There and then gone? A mother, and then not a mother. A baby is there, she is mine, and then she is gone.

I felt it, I felt that surge of disbelief and primal love and protectiveness, and then the baby was gone, as if I had never been a mother in the first place.

(and was I?)

Then began the new wanting. The true wanting to be a mother. There was this calling, I could feel it deep in the beating of my heart, I needed to have a baby. I needed to raise one. This was what I was made to do. There was nothing sweet and easy about it, and I had to have it. This was true desperation.

I achieved my goal, my two beating hearts walk around all day, they laugh and giggle, they make music and sing and ask incredibly deep questions and have passions of their own. I am doing it-- for real-- I have produced these babies and they are growing to be children and I am part of it. It is all of me, for now.

It was hard, in the beginning, to admit the struggles. When Liam was born he didn't latch on properly for days, by then my nipples were cracked and sore and my breasts were engorged. Then he got thrush, and the cracks turned into huge sores. He began to bite instead of suck, because it hurt his tongue to suck. This caused more pain. For seven weeks we tried to find a solution to this problem, to the raging yeast that we were passing back and forth, to the huge, bloody sores, to the lack of proper latch and suck due to the soreness in his mouth. Finally, when he was almost eight weeks, I nursed him one day and it didn't hurt. I wasn't hunched over and stiff and tearing up from the sharp, shooting pains. We had come over the hump.

In this instance, I believe, my insistence on how very much I wanted this kept me going: I had spilled milk for one dead baby, and I would nurse this one through hell or highwater. But there were other moments where my grief sent me into a confused tailspin; wondering whether I was truly made for mothering after all.

The nights went like this with Liam: nurse for one hour, sleep for forty-five minutes. Nurse for one hour, sleep for one hour. Nurse for one hour, sleep for half an hour. Keep in mind the bleeding ulcers on my nipples. There were nights where I would lean back on the bed, tears streaming from my face, my entire body trembling and quaking with sheer exhaustion, willing myself to keep holding onto him and not just stand up and walk out the front door without stopping. I would look at him, his tiny little face nursing contentedly on my ravaged breast, and I would feel love for him, but I would want him to stop, and I really wanted to put him back in his basket so I could sleep.

Then I would be tormented: isn't this exactly what I wanted? Isn't this what I asked for? Don't you want to feel like you deserve this? BE A GOOD MOTHER. Show Charlotte what you're made of.

And I know that's not true, that I can miss her and feel worthy of Liam and still want some shut-eye.


I am thinking of this primarily because my doll of a two year old girl has been having me run in circles lately. She is fragile, despondant, irritable, demanding, irrational, needy, and independent all at the same time. Every now and then I get a giggle out of a child who, three months ago, smiled all day long and cried only when she was hurt. It is breaking my heart to see her struggling through the crisis of being two-and-a-half, sleep deprived and cutting molars, constantly frustrated with me and constantly too frustrated (and perhaps overtired) to put her precocious verbal skills to good use and tell me what she needs to be happy.

So you know what? Here's the truth of that. This isn't all that much fun. Being with Aoife is like walking on eggshells, because you never know when you are going to send her off the deep end. Sometimes she cries because she needs help, other times she cries because you have helped her. Sometimes she cries because she is hungry, other times because you have given her food and she doesn't want to eat. I am never sure, at any moment, whether the thing I am about to do will make her happy or furious.

It is peculiar, indeed, as I found her to be a much more even-tempered and mostly always happy baby than Liam was (although he has always been good tempered as well) but this two-ness seems somehow more severe than his was.

Still, I do remember crying to Greg one night, when Liam was in the thick of this himself and I also had a six month old Aoife to care for; I said to Greg, I hardly enjoy spending time with him anymore, we fight all day long. So I know it happened, and I know that now he is just the most amazing little friend I could ever hope to spend my day with. So this too shall pass.

(us Thursday while Liam rode in the chopper)
In the meantime, I will cherish the hugs and kisses that I get, and try to unlock the key to happiness for my sad girl. I love her so much, and I just miss the happy little chipper girl that she used to be. There is a very huge piece of me that knows that it's just right that I'm not expecting a baby this winter, that my little girl is needing me right now and that it is going to be just the right thing for her that she's getting an extra year (or more?) of time as my baby when she needs it most.

Oh, remember this? (of course you don't, but I do... she NEVER stopped smiling).


Meg said...

My "baby" is also going through the TERRIBLE twos and it's been so hard. I find myself wishing that it was just me and my oldest sometimes, but of course, I don't really wish that. I just wish things were easier than they are. She is a joy when she is happy, but when she's not, watch out! I guess maybe it's the same way with me?....

Natalie said...

Oh this makes me afraid- we are nearing two and a half. But glad to know others are getting through it.