Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I don't deserve him

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while now, and what crystallised it was MMG's post about her mother.

The thing is, I don't think I'm a very good mother at all.

It sounds stupid- ok, it sounds awfully stupid, but Patrick's arrival took me by surprise. If you've read any of my old posts, you would have realised what a long time it took for us to get to the actual live birth stage. As long ago as August 2005 it hit me that there was never going to be a 'right time' to have a baby, and that then was as good as any other time. I was ready. I remember sitting in the on-call room in my old hospital on a night shift, full of readiness to bring a baby into the world, a little child spirit who was waiting to be born. I felt swelled with love and anticipation. I remember what absolute certainty I had that it was now, that I was ready, that we were to become a family. I remember seeing the faint pink positive line on the test and knowing, just knowing that it was the right thing. I started knitting. I did all the belly rubbing and nurturing thinking I could. I ate the most healthy diet I could, making sure there was the right amount of protein, down to the gram.

And then, it ended. I miscarried.

I felt betrayed. By my own body, by the universe. I hoped that the little baby spirit would find another chance to be born. (I was very into this whole 'spirit' thing at the time).

So we tried again. We miscarried again. We tried again. We miscarried again.

By now it was May 2006. I had become so focused on becoming pregnant it consumed me. Every day was another day of anticipation of either a positive or negative test. And once we had a positive, it was anticipation of the dread spotting heralding the end of that pregnancy. I was obsessed with pregnancy.

So when my test again showed up positive in June, I was pretty sure nothing would come of it. But the days came and went, and then weeks, then months. In September we were pretty sure it had ended again. It hadn't. My pregnancy continued.

But by then, the rot had set in. I was so consumed with the pregnancy and it's frailty, that I wouldn't let myself think about the baby that would come. I was trying to protect myself against loss. Even in the later stages, I knew what could happen with premature labour. I saw three women have deliveries of term babies who were dead for no accountable reason in one day. By 34 weeks, I realised it was a distinct possibility that I would have this baby, but I still wouldn't let myself believe it. I wrote

"...I am sincerely worried that I won't be able to love this child as much as it surely deserves, simply because of my own selfish denial in order to protect myself from the potential of loss. So despite having now been blessed with actually being pregnant, and making it to a major milestone (34 weeks), I am so scared that I will not be the mother that this child deserves. Does that make sense? I had a dream last night that I had had the baby (I had a GA LSCS in the dream) and then when they brought around the baby (which was already smiling and walking) that I didn't feel like it was mine at all; the baby seemed like a present someone gives you that obviously was very expensive and difficult to source, but completely not your taste, but you still feel obligated to put it on the mantelpiece and ooh and aah at it all the time. It was disturbing."

I feel like that premonition has actually been right. I don't feel like I am the mother that Patrick deserves. I still don't feel I was ready for him, and to be honest I found the early days extremely trying as this little person intruded upon my life, and constantly demanded attention and rubbed my nipples razor-blade sore. Like MMG's mum, I felt like running away. I actually devised a plan where I would express enough every day to make two day's worth of milk (I was super-lactator at this stage) and then by twelve weeks he would have enough to make 6 months and then I could just... dissappear. (I"m not sure exactly to where- I wasn't really hot on the details).

Things improved with Pharmacology and attendance at 'mad mummies'. But I'd be lying if I said that life is just peachy. I really look forward to the occasional day that I'm not working and Patrick is at (already paid for) day care.

Sleep is still a major issue- not sleeping through the night, which, mercifully he does with generally only one or two feeds overnight)- but getting him off to sleep. This poor little guy can be overtired and absolutely inconsolable, but it doesn't matter how long you rock, pat, swing or sling him, it's still a major fight to get him to close his eyes! I have admit it's these times that I find the most trying: I'd love to be able to wave a magic wand and have him zonk out. What bugs me is - is this because it's an inconvenience to me, or because I want him to be happy and consoled? I really think it's more the latter, but there is still a little niggly voice that says "Are you sure? You are quite a selfish person, why shouldn't it be the former?" . I'd like to think this is the remnants of my PND, and is not actully true, but how do you know?

I'd also be lying if I said that the return to work has been painless and rewarding. I think this in part has exacerbated my feelings of inadequacy and lackof time to myself. The night Patrick got sick I came home at 10pm from a 14.5 -hour shift during which I had been able to pump a whole two times, and had no break at all from 1600 hrs. I was so looking forward to sleep- and didn't get more than an hour's worth for another 36 hours. It's not Patrick's fault he was so very sick, but when you are deprived of sleep- which, despite what the US government thinks, is a form of torture- you are going to feel less than 100%.

The other major issue is that I still don't really feel bonded to him. Shameful, but true. Despite the massive evidence to the contrary, my brain still doesn't really accept this is my baby. Every time I kiss or cuddle him, or stroke his beautiful cornsilk hair as I feed him, or watch him silently slumbering and my heart swells, I wonder, hope and wait for a feeling that will be bonding. It hasn't come yet. Maybe next time, I think. But it doesn't come. I know that it takes years for some women, and I hope it won't be for me. I wonder if it's something to do with the happy pills-
like Jill Sobule says so well:

I used to sit under a gloomy cloud of gray
And now the sun is out and my
whole world is beige
I used to go up
I used to go down
Now I'm just even here in happy town
I don't get excited
But nor do I frown
The lawn is always neat in happy town

Sure I don't cry any more, but I also find it hard to get really excited or delighted. I know that this is not really living, but I won't go back to the pit of despair. That wouldn't help things one jot.

-pause for some really good baby snuggling-

I know that it's there, it's just waiting to pop out. Maybe it's closer than I know.

And you know what? I feel better already.


Blogger Mermaidgrrrl said...

I tell you girl, there's a world of fucking difference between you and my mother. My mother certainly never sat down to think about whether what she was feeling was real or imagined!!!! She has no self analysis skills whatsoever!!!

And when I read what you write about how you're feeling, I have many of the same feelings as you and still think I'm a rocking mother because I am in my opinion and so are you. We have both had tough times with demanding babies and we're both still hanging in there and doing the best we can for our little guys. Seth is waking in the night still and has become worse recently and last night I growled at him "seriously you little fucker, shut the fuck up". Does this make me a bad mother? No. Cause I didn't just drop him or shake him or do anything cruel to him. I took some deep breaths and reminded myself that he doesn't do these things on purpose and I got on with it, the same that you do I'm sure.

I have never read anywhere that you have left Patrick with someone and swanned off for a few days the way my mother did. Instead you have not only cared for him at home, you took him interstate with you! You are breastfeeding him despite having to work outside the home! I find it hard enough and I'm still a full time SAHM. Look at your dedication for doing the best for your kid!

Now Patrick and Seth are about the same age and I'm realising that I've been too hard on myself as a mother and it's time now that he learnt to sleep on his own and that me teaching him that doesn't make me a bad mother, so I'm starting controlled crying tomorrow night. It is not us being selfish to hope that our baby sleep well at night - it is us wanting to give the very best of ourselves to those little guys by getting some fucking sleep ourselves! And it can only help them to get some solid sleep without crying and carrying on. Of course I'm not going to just leave him to cry alone for hours on end and I'll probably go in and comfort him a lot more often than they recommend, but I'm doing it in a loving way for all of us.

What exactly are you expecting bonding to feel like? Cause when I read about you stroking his hair and your heart swelling.... that's bonding in my opinion. I look at Seth and I wonder sometimes when his parents are going to come and get him. The main times when it hits me that I'm his mother is when I'm at Kindyroo with the other mothers and really "holy shit - I'm a mother like them!" and it kind of wigs me out. I look at that little stranger in front of me who can now do pincer grip to pinch the fat part of my arm and I realise "oh my god - I have a son!". Now isn't this what you're talking about as lack of bonding? Cause I'm bonded and this is how I'm feeling! I think you're being waaaaaaaaaaaay too hard on yourself girl. I am just totally shocked that you would ever say that you're not a good enough mother. I think you're bloody wonderful - self-aware, caring, motivated, sensitive, funky and communicative. You are just the mother that Patrick needs. And I wish you lived here so we could hang out!

Sorry for rambling. I had one small glass of red wine and am hopelessly tipsy. Hence the six million exclamation points through this!!!!!

18/10/07 03:06  
Anonymous minnie said...

i went and looked up bonding. almost everything i read was crap.
surely bonding with ones baby doesnt have to mean losing ones self completely and becoming mombot2007.

One thing i read says that bonding means that you enjoy time with your baby and think of him as a real person.

anyway, i'm with mmg when she says tht she has similar feelings and still knows she is a kick ass mom. i feel the same way.
it's totally okay to still value ones alone time. i know i do!

18/10/07 20:33  
Anonymous J-Le said...

damn it. i've been sitting on this blog entry for a whole week now, digesting it and wanting to take the time to comment properly but now it feels like the moment has passed.

but i will say this: i don't know what the bonding thing is all about. i haven't had any "a-ha"* moment with the twinkle. we have just spent a lot of time together and have gotten to know each other and i'm taking that as proof that we have bonded. whatever that means. i remember when you said you realised that if a train was coming (or some similar dire scenario) you'd save him before yourself and i figure that means you're bonded to him and are a great mum.

but i know it is seriously hard to believe sometimes. i often have these moments where i catch myself feeling frustrated that the twinkle is getting in the way of me doing something that i want to do. and it's never even anything important in the scheme of things - it's like i'll feel frustrated because i can't hear who is being evicted from the latest reality show. and then i feel like the worst mum ever that i could think that way.

i'm no expert at parenting. god, who is? i don't even think robin barker is, and there was a time i thought she was a parenting deity. but i really love reading your blog, and always have, for your honesty. and being honest is a good start for being a good person, and being a good person is a good start for being a good parent.

so thanks for that.

*much as i would like morten harkett to randomly appear in my life

25/10/07 05:16  

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