Mommy Dearest

6th March 2007

Well, today I wept. I wept at my own inadequacy as a mother. I wept because I am unable to read my child well enough to know when she needs to sleep, when she needs to eat and when she needs to just cry to let off some steam. I wept because some days are just harder than others, no matter how quiet these days might be compared to others. Most of all I think I wept because I am tired.

Now, I am more than aware that I have an easy baby. I hear stories of mother’s who are up 6 and 7 times a night with their crying baby. My precious bub sleeps right the way through. The only thing that rouses me at night is her ferocious thumb-sucking as she self-soothes herself back into slumber. I hear stories of mothers who are wakened with a jolt as their babies screech into the night until that all important dummy is stuffed back into their needy mouths and I quietly thank the goddess that Lily wouldn’t take a dummy. Of course, this means that she isn’t interested in having a bottle either which causes a whole other set of problems but that topic is for another day.

I didn’t weep for long. It was mostly a little trickle of frustrated and inadequate tears because I realised something that made me really question my mothering skills. My little girl doesn’t cry. Great! I hear a hundred mothers cry. It’s not great though. It’s worrying. A baby is supposed to cry at least sometimes. She doesn’t cry when she’s hungry. She doesn’t cry when she’s tired. She doesn’t cry when she needs a nappy change or when she’s overstimulated and needs some peace and quiet. She doesn’t even cry when she wakes up for her early morning feed having not fed for over 7 hours. But what I have realised today is that the horrendous screeching she has been slowly developing in the last month or so, is her replacement for crying. She screeches and screams in a high pitch for hours. She does it when you are holding her and engaging her in activity or chatter – though not all the time. She does it when she’s hungry and she does it when she is tired. The more tired she becomes, the more shrill and raspy become the screeches.

Surely screeching is better than crying? No. It’s honestly not. Crying indicates a need that is readable, at least in part. Screeching is just noise. Constant, unendurable, brain splitting noise. The kind of noise that makes you want to punt your precious little bub over next doors garden fence. The kind of noise that makes you seriously wish you had never bothered with the whole childbirth thing in the first place. The kind of noise that makes you want to scream because is impossible to read. It could mean ANYTHING. Even boredom, because that’s how it started. When she was left alone in her chair or anywhere for more than a few minutes, she would get bored and frustrated and start to shout for attention. Now obviously, despite our best efforts, we didn’t get to her soon enough because the shouting turned into screeching and as that always seems to have the desired effect on us – i.e. that we come running, anything to silence that damn noise – she uses this to great effect.

So today, as I lay in the bed trying to breastfeed my kicking, squirming, flapping, sweaty-headed child for nearly 2-hours, I wept. I watched her eyes slowly close only to swing back open in just a few seconds as she pulled off the boob and had a screech.
I wept because I don’t understand her. I don’t understand why she kicks and squirms, grunts, screeches, shoves her feet into my tummy and legs and constantly pulls away from the boob when she is so tired. I wept because the screeching gets to me in a way that crying never could. I wept because I felt so inadequate and so unable to help her learn to go to sleep in peace and ease. I don’t know how to deal with these new habits but I realise that they have developed out of a sense of frustration that I am not picking up what she needs properly. No matter how hard I try, I am missing something vital that has caused these distressing habits.

I can’t tell you how demoralising it is to have your child fight like a featherweight boxer when you are trying to feed her. It’s intensely disappointing to know that it is neither relaxing or enjoyable for either her or you. It is irritating and upsetting and impossible to hold the squirming bundle close enough to your chest to get any milk into her. I’m honestly not even sure that she’s getting enough half the time. The only peaceful feeds we experience are those when she is either exhausted or asleep. And yes, I do feed her when she is asleep just to top her up before I go to sleep or when she is asleep but frantically sucking her thumb and I think she’s hungry. Those times are bliss compared with every other feed she has.

I read, I ask questions on forums, I ask more experienced mums and I ask less experienced mums. Most of the time I feel as if I do ok. But not today. Today I am wondering what emotional damage I am doing to my child by struggling to feed her as she fights and screeches. I wonder how I am going to undo whatever pattern she has gotten into as I lie trying to stroke her little face and get her to sleep easily. In all other aspects, she is a blissful, smiley, happy little girl and I adore her. I truly do. I am totally and utterly in love with my baby girl, my little Lilybean. I just feel like I am failing her because now she screeches rather than cries. And I don’t know what to do.

I try to follow the principles of attachment parenting. I am even learning about aware parenting and thus the need to cry sometimes just to let off steam – much like I did today. Or like you do when you have PMT and need to just cry to get it all out. Babies need that too. Only unlike crying I don’t know what the screeches mean. They all sound the same and they are all unbearable to listen to for any length of time. I lose my temper more quickly with those screeches than I would with any length of crying. They just penetrate and agitate my brain so fast.

Anyway, this is the first time I have written for a very long time and I just wanted to get it off my chest. Today I am a crap mummy. I know that I’ll learn and I know that some days are better than others. It’s just that today I feel alone, I feel tired (despite the whole nights sleep) and I feel lost. I wonder how I’m ever going to raise my girl without damaging her. She spends most of her time with me and I am not doing a good job with her. At least not right now. I struggle to adapt to the huge changes she has brought into my life. I struggle to prioritise her over my business and my need for me time. Not that I’ve had any of that for a while. I struggle to exercise, cook, clean, read, operate my business and interact with my husband when I feel tired all the goddam time.

So – this is me. This is Tuesday. There are 3 more days to go before the weekend when I have more time with my hubby and therefore more support. There are three more days of trying to figure out what her screeching means. Three more days of trying to get her to sleep. Trying to get her to feed and trying to get her to relax. Just three more days. So why does it feel like a very long time indeed.

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One thought on “Mommy Dearest

  1. You poor thing. You are not a crap mummy, you’re just human. She knows what she wants, but you don’t and rarely if ever will.It doesn’t make you crap. She’s learned as you pointed out that screeching will get her attention, so she screeches. You could try training her instead. Ignore her when she screeches. Go into the garden and take slow deep breaths until she quietens. Then return to her. Keep doing it until she realises that if she screeches you’ll go away and if she stops you’ll come to her. And the best of luck. You are just doing your best – as your mum did and her mum did. You may make mistakes along the way, but you’re only human, it’s ok to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself too.

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