I’m on an airplane, my son is in my arms. There is turbulence. The cabin pressure suddenly chances and we are both gasping for air. An oxygen mask tumbles down just inches from my face. Instantly the stewardess’ instructions come back to me, something about putting on my mask before assisting others. I’m starting to pass out, there’s not much time. I look into Little Man’s eyes. He is desperately trying to communicate his desperate need to me. Tears stream down his face. He looks bewildered. “Mommy why aren’t you helping me? I need you!” I feel the wetness on my cheek as in the last few seconds before I lose consciousness I reach out and grab the mask to place it on my face. Instantly, the fresh oxygen hits my nose and I breathe deeply. As my mind starts to clear, my baby looks up with one thing in his eyes before he slips away – betrayal.
I experienced this feeling last night.
I am suffocating in my own life. Constantly being needed by my kids, my husband, my church, my family. I am drowning in endless tasks. Diaper here, spit up there, lesson to teach this week, party to attend next week. And my friends HA! Like I ever see them anymore.
I reached a breaking point in my life where I was so unhappy every second of the day that I just screamed at everyone and anyone all the time. My husband softly suggested he watch the kids this Friday so I could take time off and I loudly reminded him that I can’t go anywhere with Little Man tagging along. He says “ I will take Princess Pie, she’s the problem child anyway.” Mount Mommy erupts. “Princess Pie is NOT the problem!! It’s Little Man!! He is all over me every single second of the day and I have not had one day off since his birth 7 months ago!!”
The car is silent.
The truth sinks in.
This baby who I am head over heels in love with is the one who is driving me bonkers. He refuses to take a bottle. I can’t escape him to even spend alone time with my own husband because he screams without me.
So last night I made a change. I decided that I would stand my ground and not let Little Man fall asleep by nursing and that he would not sleep in my bed anymore. Not that I don’t love cuddling him all night or enjoy spending time with him while he nurses. Not that I don’t understand these days don’t last forever and I should enjoy them while I can. It’s just that sometimes, I need a break.
Princess Pie had horrible colic for 5 months of her life. Princess Pie took a bottle. When I got fed up with holding a baby who screamed every minute I would pass her off and go somewhere, anywhere, without her and regroup. She spent her first night away at 3 months old, on our 1 year anniversary.
Yet here I am, 7 months post-partum and I have not had one day off. Not one.
I am suffocating. I need a break.
I nurse Little Man at a gas station. He sleeps all the way home. We get him out of the car which wakes him. I take him to HIS room and he starts to squirm, trying to nurse. I hold my ground. He starts to scream.
The plane illustration becomes my reality.
As I am taking one small step towards a breath of fresh air from being the 24 hour mommy, my son feels totally and completely betrayed. 20 minutes into the struggle he looks at me in complete desperation and frantically signs “eat.” Then “milk.” Then he yells “NAH NAH!!” which is his word for nurse. I could see in his eyes it was as if he was saying “Aren’t I doing it right? Isn’t this what I am supposed to do when I want to eat? Why won’t you feed me? What did I do wrong? Please mommy, I need you!” As his little fist opens and closes I stand there, tears running down, telling him how sorry I am that I have to put him through something so awful.
After an hour, he succumbs to sleep and I lay him in his crib. His whole body shudders with each breath from pure exhaustion. I have won this battle, but I am not proud. I am angry at my husband that I had to hold the screaming baby and he didn’t. I’m angry at myself for making my son feel so sad. I’m angry that I wasn’t mother enough to stick it out and be wonder mom who always parents with a sensitive, child-centered approach.
How could I be so selfish?!
But then, once the oxygen mask is on and the fog clears, I am then able to complete the task at hand. What good is it to try and fumble with my son’s mask and pass out so we both die? Only when I care properly for myself can I give the best care to others.
This is how the story ends. I get the mask on my baby boy and the oxygen fills his lungs. He is revived and both of us turn out just fine.
At all of his naps today he went to sleep without nursing.
Tonight I went to church and I left a 5 ounce bottle with my mother. For the first time since he was a week old, Little Man drank out of a bottle, he drank the entire thing. When it was bed time, he snuggled in with her and went to sleep. This is a drastic contrast to last week when he screamed for hours while we were gone.
When I woke him up and brought him home from her house, he put up a fight to go to sleep without nursing, it lasted a mere 5 minutes.
The possibility that I may actually once again sleep with my husband alone, is within my grasp. The probability that he may actually sleep through the night someday is drawing nearer. The chance that I may get to go somewhere WITHOUT Little Man in tow and not get a phone call with screams on the other end after 2 hours is greater.
I have sucked in a breath of fresh air and it feels glorious.
The decision to stand firm and win that one battle has empowered me to be a better mother to my baby boy. The guilt that I had was swept away at Little Man’s first smile of the day, reminding me how resilient children are and that they don’t remember much at this age. I truly believe I have done what is best for me, and in turn what is best for him.
Everything’s going to turn out just fine.