I never understood, before I had kids, how someone could hurt a child. Before I had kids, I had never felt the depths of frustration that I've felt with my kids - when they just wouldn't stop crying, and they just wouldn't sleep, and nothing would comfort them (or me).
I have been to some very dark places inside of myself since MG was born. She has not been an easy baby. She is very wakeful, and very alert, and has always needed constant stimulation and interaction - almost since the day she was born. She is an exhausting child. Now that we have C, who is a much more typical baby, I know that this is just part of who MG is - not any failure on my part. Parenting her differently wouldn't have made any difference - she would still be MG.
She's not bad, she's intense.
Ironically, the things that make her so tough are also the things that make her so wonderful. I can see that now. It wasn't so easy to see when she was really small. When she was really small, I didn't know if things were ever going to get better. Sure, people told me that it would, but those peoples' kids were also sleeping through the night by 6 months. They didn't have My Kid. The couldn't really Know.
The only person I could really take much advice from was my mom, because I was the same way when I was a baby. So, she promised that it would get better, and I believed her, and I learned to call her when I Just Didn't Think I Could Take It Anymore. And she was always there, even when I scared her.
Combine all of the above with a raging case of postpartum depression, and I was practically a ticking time bomb. Seeing those pictures of that little boy just made my heart ache, because it was very literally, "There, but for the grace of God, go I..."
I think it's important to talk about these issues - frustration in parenting, shaken baby syndrome, postpartum depression - because they are so real, and so common. Normal people, people you love, people like me feel angry at their babies. It's not just something that happens to bad mothers.
I am a good mother. I hope that you can see it in the way I write about my kids (and if you know me in real life, the way I am with them). I am a good mother, and I almost shook MG. We tried for two years to get pregnant. I wanted to have a child to the depths of my soul. And I got so angry and frustrated and tired and strung out that I almost shook her. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
I am putting this out there, my confession, so that other parents who may read this someday will know that they are not alone. It is normal to feel angry. Feeling angry doesn't make you a bad parent. Thinking is one thing, acting is another.
I wrote earlier that I am grateful that I have always had the strength and clarity to put my babies down, gently, and walk away. One time, I almost didn't. MG bit me, hard, while nursing. When I scolded her, she laughed. I won't attempt to justify the rage I felt, I will just say that at that moment, I came so close to losing it that it scared me. I thank God that I walked away. It wasn't easy. I went into the bathroom and screamed into a towel. I cried. And I stayed there until I had myself under control again.
Even a good driver can experience road rage. Even a good parent can experience fury toward his or her child. The important thing is what you do with those feelings. Do you run the other driver off the road, or do you pull over until you cool off? Do you shake your baby, or do you walk away? I am grateful that I walked away. I hope that other parents who might read this will feel less alone, and will understand that their dark thoughts don't make them bad parents, and will remember this if they ever get to the point where they're in danger of losing it:
Walk away. Breathe. Breathe again. Deeply. You're going to be okay, and so is your child. This too shall pass.
This too shall pass.