Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is my Baby a Jerk?



You have the most amazing baby in the world.  You are SO in love with this bundle of joy.  Those eyelashes nestled fan-like, ever so delicately upon his face as he sleeps....those little hands...the thigh chub...utter perfection!  We know your gratitude knows no limits for this magnificent baby of yours.  And, let's face it:



BABIES ARE UNPROFESSIONAL!

One day on a postpartum visit after a particularly long birth the mother dealt with like a rock star, the dad took me aside.  He wanted to be out of earshot of his wife who at that particular moment was cooing animatedly at their little son as he spat sour milk up all over himself, as proud of him as if he had just ended world hunger.  

Looking cautiously over his shoulder Dad said, "Don't get me wrong.  We love this baby more than words can express.  But he cries a lot.  Like, a LOT.  We worked really hard to birth him. We feed him, we change him, we hold him, we make stupid faces at him, we talk to him in voices our friends would never let us live down if they heard. We are doing our best to make him happy. We adore him, but between you and me, I think he's kind of a jerk sometimes.  I'm terrible, right?"

I hugged this earnest new papa, so invested in his child's happiness, willing to wrestle a pride of lions if need be to protect his family. He was feeling so powerless about the reality that there were times he couldn't elicit smiles and contentment from Junior despite his valiant efforts, and so guilty that he couldn't help entertaining a negative thought about this precious new life entrusted to him.

"You're not terrible at all," I reassured him. "Most parents feel like this at times. Besides, it's true," I admitted, having been in the trenches of life with New Baby a few times myself.  "Babies CAN be jerks."  

I believe it is important for parents to be able to have the space to express the truth of their frustration once in a while amidst their sweet whispers of undying love.  Lectures from those who feel the need to snap people out of their emotional struggle by reminding them how grateful they should be for their babies can serve to create shame around these occasional feelings which, if you check in with most parents, you'll find are pretty normal.

Babies are born unprofessional at this life business.  They aren't interested in keeping decent hours. They frankly don't care that you're exhausted and sporting stitches in unspeakable places on their account.  They demand attention in excessively dramatic ways.  They are incontinent.  As soon as you remove one poop saturated garment to replace it with a fresh one, they explode AGAIN....like tiny little geese.  They throw up without apology, and rarely let you get any work done.  It is a fine day when you can take a shower AND do a load of dishes.  

There will be times when for a moment we are caught up in taking it all just a little bit personally.  The sheer magnitude of new parent love can strip us down to emotional brass tacks, exposing the soft underbelly of vulnerability which lies just beneath the thin veneer of "I have my sh*t together."  We can find ourselves feeling irrational in moments of overwhelm, ashamed at our intruding  frustration when just moments before we knew with absolute certainty there was never a more holy being on Earth than our very own baby.  

There is no need to be so hard on ourselves.  It is normal and okay to wonder sometimes if our babies (and older children) are intentionally sabotaging our efforts to be great parents. 

If you whisper to me that you secretly think your baby might be a jerk, I'll meet you in that place with empathy.  Go ahead and let off a little steam.  Your baby will not be ruined or jinxed because your parental feelings aren't always pristine. Your gratitude lives within you intact even if you've momentarily misplaced it.  I also promise not to let you know that I'm barely surviving my third teenager. Because that is a whole other story.

Lesley
MotherWit Doula Care