I joined a mom’s group after Private was born. One day, on maybe our fourth meeting, we were going around the group talking about the new things our babies were doing and the leader had to stop in the middle to address the fact that I was weeping uncontrollably. Private was not sleeping for more than half an hour at a time, meaning I wasn’t either. I don’t know how I was standing upright, really. I was so tired and felt like such a failure that hearing other mothers talking about their babies smiling and cooing just about killed me.
The other mothers reassured me and two of them even came to my house to watch Private while I napped. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make myself nap because there were two potential friends in my living room and I was afraid they would bond with each other and I would become even more isolated than I already was. I know that’s irrational…mostly…but I was sleep deprived and desperate.
Around that time, our pediatrician sent us to an occupational therapist because Private’s head was becoming flat on one side and she thought we might need a helmet to correct it. After the initial appointment, the OT told me Private was the most irritable baby she had ever seen. Years later, I’m kind of grateful for the validation that our situation was way outside the norm, but at the time, it felt like she was rubbing my failure to comfort my baby in my face.
I was also having trouble breast feeding. Private had trouble latching on and I couldn’t figure out how to teach him. None of the lactation consultants could understand why we just couldn’t get it. I remember throwing a nipple shield at the door after one of them left. If you know me IRL, you’ll know how big a deal that was. After five pain and frustration-filled months, I decided I had tried hard enough and was ready to quit breast feeding. I took a week or so to just pump before giving it one more try and that’s when he was suddenly able to latch on without a nipple shield. I don’t know why it clicked, but he suddenly had the hang of it and our breast feeding problems were over. Well, at least until he started to bite me, but that’s another story.
Kowalski told me the other day that he thinks one of my super powers is that I keep trying; keep looking for something to help no matter how many times I get knocked down; keep learning new ways to approach our issues. I feel like an imposter because I’m not sure I am learning new ways. It’s true that I keep finding new ways, but I’m afraid it’s because I didn’t actually learn the old ways. I feel like I’m constantly treading water, barely keeping my head out, and never learning to swim no matter how many instructors try to teach me. I am unteachable.
We’ve tried loads of parenting techniques/philosophies, some geared toward special needs, but most not. We’ve had help from OTs, SLPs, BCBAs, PsyDs, psychologists with CBT, and books. Lots and lots of books. Our kids are wonderful and, when I try to describe the issues we have, most of the time I feel like I’m complaining about nothing. But it’s not nothing because it is tearing me apart. I’m not, in general, someone who is easy to rattle, so it’s definitely something.
I’ve signed us up for a new parent coaching framework called Calm the Chaos. Creator Dayna Abraham talks about all the things I think are important in parenting, especially that behavior is communication. Kowalski and I love the program and believe it will affect not just how we parent, but how we interact with the world at large. We are behind in the workbook, though Dayna says you’re never behind, and I’m feeling guilty about that.
I am also avoiding the Facebook group, not because I don’t want the support or think people will judge me, but because I am afraid of another moment like the one in the mom’s group years ago.
I am afraid of another professional telling me I have the most irritable baby or, in this case, that everything is fine and it’s all in my head.
I am afraid that these tools won’t work for my family and the moment when things click will never come no matter how many new things I find to try.
I am afraid of failing another form of help.
I am afraid I am unteachable.