As I begin to notice more frustration, fussiness, screaming, and body language that very clearly indicates dissatisfaction, I’m realizing that I often feel ill-equipped to manage these challenging moments with him. He’s also recently gotten his top molars and been weaned off of his middle of the night bottle—lots of reasons to be unhappy. I notice some symptoms of anxiety (increased heart rate, flushing, tightness in my chest) when I hear him crying for longer periods of time, or fussing without any sign of calming down. It can truly feel like everything in my parenting universe is taking a downward spiral during these times. I had settled into a certain level of confidence and self-trust as a mama, which suddenly feels completely uprooted when Theo is having an off day.
I find myself feeling totally alone and lost when he’s in the middle of a fussy spell and nothing I’m doing is working. I start to get into negative self-talk and being overly hard on myself, as if his moods had anything to do with me (hello, Ego!) I have been actively working on being especially gentle with myself during these reactionary moments where I feel like everything is falling apart as soon as he’s having a tough time. Then I remember the gift in our ability as humans to feel and express a full range of emotions. I remember being a kid and feeling that, in my family, everyone always had to be “okay”. If you weren’t okay, you were certainly expected to act like you were. This expectation was awful for me, as a sensitive empathic child with a strong desire and need to express my emotions.
As a parent (and recovering sensitive/emotionally repressed child) recognize that babies are just little humans, but they have no need to filter their emotions the way we have been conditioned to do. I recognize that if I didn’t have my socialization and conditioning, I might go into crying fits pretty regularly as well! Sometimes it feels like I go through a full range of human emotions in a day, but I have the tools to hold myself in my various emotional states. Theo often seems to go through the full range of human emotions in an hour (!), without those adult tools. I have been working on re-framing these moments as opportunities and learning edges for me. Can I allow his crying and fussing not to “mean” anything about me as a parent? Can I allow his emotions to flow freely without trying to “fix” him? Can I step away, take a deep breath and come back to hold space for him, instead of trying to find a way to escape the intensity? All truly valuable questions. Once again I see that Theo is my greatest teacher, as long as I am open to the lessons.
By, Julia Alter
© Birth Love Family 2018