July 1, 2013
We openly talk about being angry at our teenagers, our mothers and our partners but how many of us openly admit to being angry at our babies?
I recall late on night, or was it early one morning? This was in the summer of 1995. New to parenthood, Rob and I were trying to figure out how to integrate a new baby into our lives. Phoebe kept waking and crying. We were still at that point of reading books and not our baby.
The newborn cries impaled my body and I understood the story that my mother repeated often about the eighteen-hour drive up I95 from North Carolina to Massachusetts when I was a six-weeks old. She described a constant bloodcurdling cry and openly said she wanted to throw me out the window. I now knew that feeling, that longing to dispose of ones precious newborn.
Just as I was trying to figure out how to quit my job as Phoebe’s mom, Rob threw the sheets off himself and I thought he was going to hurdle her into the neighbor’s house. I immediately shifted gears into protective mama bear. I scooped Phoebe into my arms and put her to my breast for the millionth time that day and I wept.
How could I be so angry at my sweet baby girl? Didn’t I love her? Hadn’t I signed onto this job? Did I really want to give her back?
A few days later I attended at La Leche League Meeting. Lucta, the Leader, was a transplant from South Carolina. I loved listening to her deep drawl. I loved how everything that flowed from her mouth was like reading a Fannie Flagg novel. She was funny, self-deprecating, maudlin and full of wisdom.
A mother of five, Lucta spoke of how her vanity saved her first born child. When she wanted to hit him or throw him out of the window she would walk outside onto the sidewalk and hold him out for all to see.
“Ah was vain. I would never do somethin’ regretful in front of anyone,” she proclaimed. “Mah vanity saved that poor child.”
And then she said it, out loud. “Ah was angry.”
The guilt I had about my feelings of anger at Phoebe began to fade with her words. Then she said it was normal to mourn your old life. Normal. I was normal.
I have learned to respect those words in my life.
Grief is real and it is a process. Once you have a baby, one chapter of your life is closed, forever. No matter how much you love motherhood you have lost the innocence of childlessness.
One brave mother brought it up at my support group the other day. She said out loud that she gets angry at her adorable baby. Relief permeated the room. Acknowledgement that it is normal to have all different feelings as a new parent is priceless.
It is taboo to talk about anger towards a baby. New parents suppress these feelings because we romanticize babies and new parenthood.
Parenthood is wonderful – some of the time. Parenthood is challenging – some of the time. As long as you do not actually throw your baby out the window or into the neighbors yard you are pretty normal.
One game I have played with myself when I am either out with my three children or if I am feeling on the edge of losing my mother cool is, I pretend I am the subject of a documentary. I pretend that I am being filmed and I want to set a good example. Silly? Yes, but this little game has gotten me through hard moments in my mothering.
Love your baby. Remember, you have a relationship with this little person. Do you ever get angry at your best friend or your spouse? And so you ever just have the best time ever with these people? It is the same with your child.
And, if you ever feel like you want to act on your anger let your vanity step in. Go out and stand on the sidewalk with your baby.