Under the circumstances, it's kind of funny. But when I really thought about it, this revelation has made me sad and a little guilt ridden. But when the truth hurts, it helps pave a way to righting a wrong.
I was at a birthday party for my BF's son. He was turning two. And this party was filled with all the usual suspects that have been gathering since her oldest turned one almost six years ago. With this crowd I feel safe. I feel like I can be myself. I even feel loved. So, I'm sure this had everything to do with my honesty.
The BF's sister in law was having a moment with her second born. Baby girl is in that 6-9 month stage of separation anxiety. So poor SIL was having one heck of a time with baby girl. Every time SIL sat baby girl on the floor, or in a chair, or handed her off, baby girl would scream and cry big alligator tears. The tears and the heartache were real. So was the familiar look of frustration on SIL's face.
So I smiled my "this momma gets it" smile and said the only thing I knew I could say.
I had one just like that.
She smiled back, a half smile half grimace, that only moms with demanding babies flash in those moments. She asked me if it ever ends. To which I replied it gets better. Yet, there was something else I wanted to say. Something I didn't even realize myself until that moment. So I shared one of my biggest mommy revelations to date:
It gets better, but as she gets older, every whine and every cry, sends you back to this place right now. And you are just as frustrated and sometimes more.
Then I shared this story, I'm going to share here. I'm part embarrassed and part relieved. Embarrassed because it shows that I'm still held captive by some of my PPD past. Relieved that I'm finally able to recognize it and hopefully it will help me change.
I've finally realized why I lose my temper with Caitlin faster than with anyone or anything else in my life. I can finally see that it has more to do with my past and not the present mothering I'm doing on a daily basis. I'm still stuck in the fear and loathing that was PPD, but only when she whines and cries.
I've written about my journey with Caitlin before. It was some of the darkest days. To make it simple, I will say that Caitlin was a disgruntled baby. Never satisfied, never content, and on some days it's possible she was unhappy. So was I. But that is an entirely different post for a different time. I will say that we did not bond, as mother and child should. Those first precious moments were overshadowed by boobs that just wouldn't work, a screaming hungry baby, and a new mom at the edge of her sanity and being. It was ugly, friends, but at the time it was all I knew.
The winter of discontent for Caitlin has continued. I don't think that she is an unhappy child. But she is a child that can go from smiling to crying and whining in less than a 10 count. And please, it's not a preschooler thing, it's not a girl thing, this is a Caitlin thing. If you have a child like this then you will know. You are most likely nodding your head now.
So I find that when things don't go her way, like pink leggings that didn't get laundered, or having to wear a size 11 shoe instead of a 10, I lose my *stuff*. Like in less than a 5 count, I've yelled, screamed, and made a horrible mess out of virtually nothing. She can push my buttons like no one else. And it scares me, and it makes me feel guilty. But finally on Saturday I figured out why.
For every hair that's out of place on her head, for every bow that's crooked, for every half hour spent on picking out an outfit on a given day, I'm reminded that every day has been a struggle with this girl. That every waking moment for almost 5 years has reminded me that I am no longer in control of my life or anyone elses. That some things cannot be fixed, or mended, or changed. That my life is not my own.
With every fit she throws, I throw one back. Equally as charged, but somehow more loaded. Because I'm the momma. I'm the one who is supposed to be prepared for the challenges of why pink polka dots and orange stripe are not appropriate dress for school. Why she cannot wear a size 4 anymore, because she needs a size 5. I'm supposed to be stable and dependent and patient. When it comes to Caitlin I am none of these things.
Realizing this has been a blessing and a curse. A few weeks ago after a bad night in particular, my husband asked why I was so hard on her. Why I lost my temper so quickly. Why I just fly off the handle. Why I answer her whines with a hard edge in my voice. I could not answer any of those questions. I admitted to knowing that I have high expectations for my little girl who can style outfits like Rachel Zoe, but has a hard time picking up her ponies. My sweet child that can memorize a song after one episode of Shake It Up, but still can't recognize the word "on" by sight. Unrealistic? Of course they are, she is four.
Now I know why. Now I know that every whine and every tear, transports me back to those foggy days. Foggy days full of diaper changes, endless crying, and no napping. Those middle of the night wake up calls that could not be relieved with a pacifier. Those days of wondering how on earth I would get through that first year. All the loathing. The struggling. The disappointment in motherhood. I'm reminded of that every time.
I know this now. With knowledge comes power. Power to overcome feelings. Power to make changes. I don't want to be so hard on her. I want to foster her determination and tenacity. I want her to be this little creative person she is turning into. I want to be able to lead her in the right direction without pressure. I want to be patient and kind. I want to teach her about the love between a mother and daughter. I want to mend the trials of my mothering past, and set a better more patient standard for my mothering present. Mind my temper. Count to 10. Breathe.
Please believe I love my child. She is my heart. She is my comrade in arms. We are survivors. We are a testament to unconditional love. I fumbled and fell. I've cried and screamed and all but given up, yet she loves me. Like no one has loved me before. Like only a child can. And I love her more than my being. Like only a mother can.