I thought I would be strong. I thought I would be THAT mom, the one that puts her foot down, says “good night” and shuts the door behind me.
As I sit here, typing, I have tears rolling down my cheeks. This whole mothering thing is a lot harder than I thought.
I spent much of my adult life raising other people’s children, and though that was a welcomed challenge, it didn’t prepare me for what I am now living through.
My first, born to me, child.
He is my first, and probably my last and I am pushing that lovely age of ….shhhhh…43. Or is it 42? 41?
Ahhh, all the years are the same for me. Each day is a blur, a wash, an exaggeration of the previous day except there are more marks on my body of where I pinched my arm just to verify my existence.
Is this a dream? Can I wake up from all of this lack of sleep? No, it can’t be a dream because a dream requires you to sleep…at least a bit. Just enough to go into the fantasy world.
Sleep just enough to lie to your body and tell it that you are “ok”.
But here’s the thing, The Body Really Does Keep Score. Every day.
It keeps score.
Baby 1…Mamma none.
Dog 2…Mamma still none.
Laundry 10…Mamma creeping up to a 1.
Backache a 10…Mamma’s sleep is finally at a 1. And I’m still losing.
Tits full of milk. 10 points for those. 20 for baby because he gets to disfrutar/enjoy and be nourished.
But mama can’t eat enough food in the day to catch up to all the food baby downs starting at 5:45 in the morning.
She tries….I try. We try. But it is never enough.
The other day my elbows were hurting. WTAF? I wasn’t playing tennis, golf, or any other sport that would cause elbow pain. I was holding a baby.
Yep, you heard it right. I was holding a beautiful baby who loves to scream if I hold him too long, and cry if I put him down a second too late.
Yep. Indecisive little guy.
But he’s a baby. Learning, growing, yearning to be more human than he already is.
Yams is almost 8 months old. He is beautiful. He is smart.
Each day he surprises us with something new he can do. Like the other night, he scratched my face so hard it actually drew blood. I will take responsibility for not clipping his nails for the 3rd time that week.
Today he was able to shift from sitting to laying down on his tummy. I find that fascinating until I have to get up and make sure he is not eating the doghair-ridden carpet.
Each morning I work and he sits on my lap. He thinks the mute button on zoom means he is supposed to be quiet. Each time I hit the mute button I try getting him to get out all his single-digit-age words but he refuses to.
The second I choose to unmute, he blurts out what he was really thinking. I feel for my students every day. But we laugh as his left arm strategically grabs my coffee and plum knocks it off my already “failed to babyproof” desk.
I love Yams, but he stresses me out, he puts me on constant alert, he makes me cry. He also makes me laugh each day and question who I am as a person.
He is a better version of me and I must continue to keep him this way.
What I mean is this:
I cried when I was a baby. I cried for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours.
I was put in a closet so that I would stop crying. A dark, dank, filth-filled closet.
Then I stopped crying.
I stopped because no one came to me. They stopped coming to me. They couldn’t come to all 56 of us toddlers cohabitating in one room with 1 closet, and one bathroom.
They couldn’t attend to us all. So we stop.
We become despondent.
We learn as babies that our cries are not important.
We learn to pretend that our need for our mothers, fathers, siblings etc are not important and is not a need.
We essentially give up on humanity; only hoping we get our physiological needs met.
A roof over our heads.
But often we didn’t get food.
I remember being parched.
But I remember always having a roof over my head.
Yams is the better version of myself because I will not let him be what, where, or how I was.
I didn’t choose the experience I had, but I will choose an experience that is not that for my son.
So no. I will not let him cry himself to sleep.
People tell me to let them cry. And I actually understand the reasoning behind this. But most of the people who advise me to let him cry till he falls asleep are not aware that I am someone who cried with the hope of having someone hold me.
They never came.
So why cry if they won’t come?
When I hear my son cry, I cry.
I do not cry for him.
I know that he will be ok. That I am there for him. Always!
But I cry for my baby, infant, and child self.
I cry for what I didn’t receive. I am triggered. His cry reminds of me of what I went through. His cry sets off alarm bells.
His cry forces me to remember what I for so long, tried to forget.
His hyperventilating cry creates within me the inability to breathe, because as a baby, I cried so much I could not stop. The only way to stop was to fall asleep.
I wonder if I hoped to sleep forever.
His cry pushes me to stop him from crying.
Because what is the point of letting your baby cry until they fall asleep? What is the point of creating so much stress and anxiety that their entire body shakes, jumps, moves, ….cries.
Is this really going to teach them to self-soothe or is it going to teach them to give up?
I don’t know the answer.
I just know that I gave up and I don’t want my son to give up.
Do I let him cry for a couple minutes? Yes! Do I jump the minute he cries about something? NOPE!
Do I let him cry to the point of distress? NOPE!
I can’t. I refuse to. I won’t.
Adoptees are a different brand of humans. We are anomalies. We have experiences that no person, let alone, no CHILD should have to have.
We have seen the world through so many different vantage points.
We know how to fit in, and fit out.
Because we don’t fit in…or out.
We are truly superhuman because we are forced to hide how we really feel,
think, want, need.
We are told that we are “lucky” that we were not aborted. Because somehow, that is always the go-to. But here’s the thing…what about that middle ground? Why is it adoption or abortion?
How about family preservation?
So when adoptees have babies, they are not only entering into a new realm that all new parents enter into, they are bringing the anomaly -self to the table.
They are laying out their soul onto a table that was not created for their mind, body, spirit.
They are unpacking the baggage that is bursting at the zipper.
Adoptees are trying to find a way to balance their baby selves whenever they were adopted/trafficked/stolen) with their adult selves who now have a baby.
We may not do it the “white” way. Or the way the Center for Pediatrics advise.
We may not do it this way because they were not there for us.
We may not do it the way others do it.
Out of fear?
Out of hope?
Out of pain?
Out of love?
It does not matter. At the end of the day, the way we love our children often reflects how we are trying to not repeat what we went through as children.
I will not let him cry himself to sleep.
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Absolutely this… my son is nearing 3 and when he is sick, cries, gets hurt, os scared… something Visceral awakens in me and the panic sets in.
Did I not come soon enough?
Is this why he prefers daddy?
Did I traumatized him?
Every day it seems to make me realize something new about the trauma and how deep it goes.
I was preemie and in the hospital for months before my adoption. Being mixed race in a racist area, I was only given 5oz A DAY to eat. They said they didn’t want to “waste the resources”. I cried from starvation. I cried from horrible nurses intentionally abusing me. By the time I got out of the hospital my shoulders and wrists had been dislocated and healed, and I was nearly gone from starvation…. and I didn’t cry.
When my adopters got me they thought I was a sweet calm baby, because I never cried. Not for hunger, not to be changed, not to be held or loved or kissed or cuddled.
I was already used to the pain of starvation, I was used to pain in general from the abuse, I was used to being left in my own filth for days until skin rash turned to infection.
My son? He pretend falls down and momma makes a hoopla about it asking him if he is okay and kissing his pretend boo boos.
He even makes a peep at night and I’m right there checking.
He wasn’t able to sleep in bed with me, he is his mother’s child and he wants the whole bed to himself! So we did let him complain for a minute or 2. But if he seems genuinely upset, I will stay there all night if I have to.
I totally relate to everything you wrote because I did the same myself and felt those same triggers too. I refused to parent the way the west tells us because it instinctively felt so awful .. so I co-slept for years, i breastfed for years .. I parent from a place of ensuring my child feels / knows love and nurturing .. we are so connected .. it’s beautiful. It’s healing to give our child what our inner one never got. I know you will have years of a beautiful relationship with your son that will make up for the years of hell you lived as a child. You’re a great mum and only we adoptees truly understand what it’s like to parent from this perspective. Keep up the great job!
First, let me just say that I love digesting your post. The words you use. The way you expressed and put them into writing. The way you made me laugh and felt your every emotion and thoughts. It just was awesome. May I say, you are a born writer. A story-teller.
This post is a mind-opening one, for me at least. I have an adoptive brother in my family. When we were young, he had so much aches from the heart that he couldn’t properly express as a child. I only knew he was being stubborn and I didn’t like it. I think that explains how much he wanted so much attention from my mother. He would get into trouble or fights. He was the stubborn one among all of us. or so we thought. He chose to be that way. Now that we’re both adults and have a family of our own, plus reading this post, I can now say, I am understanding where my brother is coming from. I want to give you both a big warm hug!
Like you, I am a mother myself. I advocate on hugging a child for as long as they want it. It is what they need to learn trust and security most especially from their mothers. So, why would I deprive my child that? I won’t ever let my child cry herself to sleep.
So, thank you for this post. I’ve learned so much from it. Be reading more from your blog.
Not a mother (and won’t be, at 64!), but I related to this as an adoptee and can understand how triggering your son’s crying could be for you. Plus, your analysis just makes sense. No one should be left alone to cry themselves to sleep unless that’s what they want.