Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflecting on hard times, thankful for the good ones

We are back from Thanksgiving. It was a far better visit than last time. The schedule was respected. Michael did get a little spoiled and that probably hasn't helped his behavior problems, but it was a trade off. Getting a break from constantly watching your kid is something to be thankful for. I can deal with the spoiling later.

During the visit I got to have a few conversations with relatives about Michael. I've been thinking about how much Michael has changed over time... it's like I have a completely different child these days... in a good way.

Michael really was a difficult baby. I'm always thankful that Michael has been healthy (as in not seriously sick) so I hate sounding gripey about him being a difficult baby, but he was. Oh, my, he really, really was. I seriously wouldn't wish a child as difficult as Michael on my worst enemy. I feel like I barely survived that first year. When I think back on his first month and how I didn't sleep for the entire month (yeah, really) it makes me cry just to think of it. I don't ever think I will forget that kind of tired. (People tell you that 'you don't know what tired is until you have a kid' are right.)

I've decided from that experience that I didn't let others help me enough. This is partially my fault. I am a glutton for punishment. But I really wish someone else (like my husband) would have stepped in and said, "You're exhausted. You need help. I'm getting you some." Because at some point in there I was too tired to help myself and I needed someone to do it for me.

And another huge component of the difficulties with Michael was breastfeeding. I love breastfeeding him, but I think I can say that breastfeeding Michael has been the hardest job I have ever had, and I've had some very hard, demanding, shitty, stressful, painful jobs. That said, I have done my job EXTREMELY WELL. I did that job at the expense of many other parts of my life. I still haven't decided if I regret that or not. Was it worth it to achieve success in exclusively breastfeeding my kid to run myself so ragged for so long? I think the answer is yes and no. Breastfeeding him was worth it but I needed to cut myself a break somewhere else sooner and take more off my plate (I'm such a glutton for punishment).

I think it's common to think while your are TTCing that your desire for a child will smooth out the difficulties you face when the child comes along, but it doesn't. It just lops an extra serving of guilt on when you are already feeling down.

But these factors and others together really left me bitter and resentful of Michael in a way. I definitely had a grudge against my child. I didn't hate him, but I just was so worn out that I didn't enjoy him and I was constantly fearful of loosing what ever foothold I had in my life. I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and send me back to the bottom again. That first year was very difficult.

Then the second year. This year has been a year of transition. Working mom to SAHM. Infant to toddler. Trying to make an emotional recovery from my former job which is inextricably tied to Michael's first year of life.

Somewhere along this year Michael went from being a child I wouldn't wish on my enemy to the most wonderful toddler ever.

It took a long time. I had to make myself realize that the past was over and that I wasn't facing the same challenges I did that first year. I had to learn to stop holding that grudge against Michael for all the sleepless nights, and burning nipples, and muscle pain, and missed work, and etc. I had to learn to trust that it does get better (because I didn't believe that it got better for a long time... I believed it got different, not better).

And I got some help via therapy and drugs. I always wonder how much of the way I feel today has to do with zoloft... I think it's still doing a lot of work for me, but lately, more and more, I think I'm truly getting healthier as well.

And I got better at this parenting thing. Parenting is hard. Doing it well takes a lot of work. I wish I did it better still.

And lately when I've been around other peoples kids, or had conversations with other parents I've had to comment on what a change Michael's made from last year to this year. And I just find myself thankful and proud of my little guy. He's just a great little toddler. Sure, he misbehaves. He hits and kicks and makes messes. But he's exactly how he should be. He's happy and good and cute as a button. During that first year, he wasn't happy. He was angry. mad. pissed off. He wanted (a lot) more of me than I could give and it made me angry, mad, pissed off. Today we are on the same page and it's made such a huge difference. It makes me sad to think about that first year because it should have been so much better than it was. I think I find myself wanting another child just to try to redo that first year. I'm adamantly determined that things will be different if we have another child. It will still be hard, but it's going to be better.

So today I got part of the pay off that I've been waiting for. I was putting things up in Michael's room and he came in, running at me, acting like he was going to attack me, and he comes up and wraps his arms around me as I brace for impact. I asked him what he wanted, but to my surprise he said back, "Love you," finished hugging me and went to play with a stuffed animal. Perfect.


Rachel said...

Such a lovely post. I am so glad to hear things are going well now.

Shelly said...

Your feelings and experiences are felt by many....you're not alone. Thanks for sharing, this will help others experiencing the same thing!

Michelle said...

Awww!! Isn't that the most sweetest sound to ever hear???

I feel the same way about wanting a 2nd child in order to fix some things that I really wish were different when Kristopher was a baby. It's more than just that, but a big part of it is I feel for us, so much was rushed and there was too much other opinions that we took to heart. Next time, we won't be taking advice from anyone, and will go with our hearts on what is right.

Maybe part of the frustration was also your busy work schedule and the stress there. I know things were difficult before it ended, and with the lack of sleep and cranky baby, it would have put a lot of people over the edge I'm sure.

I think my favorite age is definitely the 18months-3 years. They are still so sweet, and haven't formed the wild attitude opinions yet, and still need us.

Jessica White said...

Those random hugs and kisses make it all worthwhile!

Anonymous said...

Aww that made me cry! How sweet! Birdie will come up to me randomly and say hug and give me a quick snuggle, but I'm still waiting for a "love you".

I am so glad that you are enjoying toddlerhood so much more than infancy. I know exactly what you mean. Birdie was a difficult baby too, and as much as I love her, it was HARD. I wish I had done some things differently, including cutting myself some slack because of the breastfeeding difficulties. As much as I am glad that I stuck with breastfeeding, I did not enjoy the first 6 to 8 months of her life. It was week after week of pain, blocked ducts, thrush. If things start getting difficult with number 2 I am not going to be so stubborn and make myself suffer so much.

Kate said...

Great post. I wish K could say "Love you" already! It must have been such a fantastic moment.