Losing Sense of Self

So I’ve been very bummed out about the Cirque du Soleil thing and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I mean sure, Cirque is great, but I should be able to just get over this. It obviously means something more. And I think I’ve figured out what it is.

These first months with a small baby are hard. Throw in a preschooler and it gets really hard. Thrown in chronic illness and it feels almost impossible. Right now, my needs are languishing under EVERYONE ELSE’S needs. I am taking care of everyone else over myself, because I have to. And that means, most days, my needs are not being met. I’m not getting the sleep that I need. I’m not getting the nutrition that I need. I’m not getting the human contact that I need. I’m just not. And right now, there isn’t really anything I can do to change that. There isn’t anything anyone can do to change that.

Not being able to go to Cirque is a perfect example of that. The whole thing is waiting there for us to take it. We have free tickets. We have two capable adults who love our children ALREADY STAYING at our house. We have a baby who can drink from a bottle. And I probably could manage to make enough milk for said baby to keep him sated through the night. (This is my biggest concern, not being able to pump enough before I go–my supply is actually dwindling quite a bit, which I guess is good?!) We have everything that we need and yet we’re not going because it might be too hard for our parents to manage our two kids. We don’t KNOW that it would be too hard, but the evenings are challenging times, especially for baby boy right now. And while we do know that he’ll take a bottle, we don’t know that he can get through “the witching hour” without me around. We also don’t want to subject my parents to the possible fallout if things go awry.

And so we don’t go, just in case. Because that is what good parents do, right? They put their children’s needs ahead of their own, whenever they can.

That is what we’re going to do. That is what I am doing, every single day. And I’m not quite sure how to make space for myself when I’m doing that. I’m not sure how to protect my sense of self when it’s so intimately intertwined with these two little, helpless beings, that I love so much and that need me so completely. It’s really, really hard.

I forgot how hard these early weeks and months are. I forgot how suffocating the isolation can feel. I forgot how devastating the sleep deprivation can be. (Holy shit, it is KILLING me right now). I forgot how frustrating breastfeeding feels when you know you’re not doing it quite right and no one seems to be able to help you. And, of course, I didn’t know how hard it would be to owe myself to two small creatures instead of just one. I didn’t know how impossible it would be to meet both their needs and manage both their expectations. I didn’t know how overwhelming it would feel to have so little time for myself.

I’m sure this post sounds incredibly negative. I want to assure you all that it’s not really all that bad. I’m not stuck in some deep hole of despair. Mostly I’m just tired, and my boobs hurt and I feel incredibly overwhelmed. But I also know that someday it will get better. I know that this too shall pass. I know that we’ll get through cold and flu season to a time when we’re not all sick, all the time. And some day I won’t have thrush and it won’t feel like searing glass is being pulled through my nipples when we nurse. And I know that some day my son won’t choke and cough and pull away, crying in frustrating, during random breastfeeding sessions. And I know that some day, there will be a rhythm to our days, and that rhythm might help create purpose and meaning and I might actually feel like an adult human being again.

In the meantime, I still delight in my son. He’s amazing and I cherish my time with him. I feel so lucky to have him in my life, even if I’m not quite sure how to manage this new life with him in it. We’re going to get through these hard days, me, my son, my daughter and my partner. Some day, maybe even soon, we’ll look back on these days and say, “Remember that? Thank gawd it’s so much better now.”

7 responses

  1. Ugh, it’s so hard to find that balance. I remember struggling with the same.

    Would it be possible to just bring M with you to the show? Or talk to your parents about their comfort level with handling the witching hour and maybe giving it a shot anyway? I mean, the tix are free, so if you get a call after 2 hrs that you need to go home, you can, and at least you got away for a bit??

  2. I agree with Josey. It sounds like you really need a night out. How do your parents feel about it? Are they worried about it or is this coming from you guys? My mom gets totally worn out watching my 2 but then she says “i can sleep tomorrow. I don’t have to do this every day like you do.”

  3. Ok this might not be possible, but just a thought. Would you be able to go if you take the baby with? He probably gets in free, and might sleep most of the time? So you can still enjoy the show and sort of a break? (Long long Time reader, first time commenting).

  4. It is so hard in the beginning! The lack of sleep and difficulty with feedings makes it all the harder. Just wishing you some easier days in the near future.

  5. Yes. I totally agree with this post. I feel like there is no room for “me” right now. My existence is about feeding the baby and that is all. It is terribly isolating and lonely. I was thinking about this tonight when my family and friends were enjoying dinner together and I was in the bedroom, feeding. As someone who’s been through it before, you tell me – how long does it last??

    • Ugh, feeding your baby in another room while the other adults have their time somewhere else. That is so, so hard.

      I honestly can’t remember when it gets better. I do know that I made a real effort to meet other mothers last time. I was lucky enough that my city has this massive mother’s group and I pinged the forums looking for mothers of newborns in my neighborhood who wanted to meet up. A few responded and I would set up “play dates”–mostly walks to the park or meet ups at a local cafe. I didn’t really make any amazing connections with these women, and some I saw only once, but it helped to just see people every now and then. I would also sign up for classes at local stores or through Kaiser and meet people there or just go to have something to do and enjoy some adult contact. You do have to make a big effort to have those things though, they definitely won’t just happen.

      This time around I don’t have the time or opportunities to meet other mothers, not with a preschooler’s schedule to accommodate. But I seem to be looking forward to the three month mark. I think that is where things start becoming more about life and less about survival. Of course I’ll be heading back to work at exactly that time so I won’t have much opportunity to revel in it getting better. I hope you do though. 😉

      • I am planning on trying to go to some Mommy groups. Hopefully that will help. I also keep hearing at 3-4 months it gets better, but oh god that seems so far away and I honestly can’t imagine going back to work right when it gets better. How unfair.

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