If my spouse treated me the way my baby does, it would be considered abusive. But it's my baby, so it's not. I think I experience many similar mental and emotional, sometimes physical, effects though. My baby is constant: draining, needy, whiny, extremely dependent and ever so constant.
It is depleting. She takes all I have and then more sometimes, to the point where I am completely empty. Not frustrated, not angry, not rationalizing or managing mental fatigue anymore, but simply, empty.
As mentioned in previous posts (https://www.charlestonfamilytravel.com/post/my-eleven-year-journey) I like to plan. I have been trying to let that go recently though. She thinks she owns me. I am left with nothing for myself to run on.
She doesn't allow for reset, because if I put her in her crib, she still wakes up 3-4 times a night, furious, scream crying before she even opens her eyes, that she is not in reach of a parent. Allowing her to sleep in the bed with us is just as bad or worse, because then she still wakes up frantic, screaming inches from my face, realizes she is next to me and continues ramping up her yells until I nurse her, which puts her back to sleep, only to flop around and adjust until she is shoved against one or both of us, usually horizontal in the bed with her head shoved into Walter's back and kicking me. After our anything but restful night, she usually dozes off into her deepest sleep in the minutes before the other kids wake up, which means my hopes of drifting off with her are generally ended with one or more older siblings bursting into the room or screaming from the other side of the door as they begin their first fight of the day a minute after waking up.
If I put her down she cries, pushes against me, clings to my leg, occasionally wanders off only to return moments later. If I don't pick her up she sustains a whining, whimpering noise that is only remotely tolerable for a short amount of time. For the most part then, eating, playing, cooking, cleaning, walking and every other activity are done with her on my hip. Once there, she is completely content.
Don't let this post fool you, she is also the sweetest darling in between all this. But I don't need to write about those moments to mentally manage. Those moments I simply settle in, soak them up to their depths, and enjoy.
She cries when I leave and she cries when I return. She keeps me on a strict schedule; I can't leave her side for more than four hours or my body lets me know she needs to nurse. Whenever I go anywhere alone, I always have to calculate and know when I need to be back.
She thinks I belong to her.
If I hold my other children, she cries, climbs on us, tries to hit them and shoves herself between me and them, unhappy until they get up and walk away. I cannot sit with my husband without her needing to climb on us, whimper and demand attention with ever increasing movements and sounds. I know memory tends to leave a rosy haze over things, and I'm sure there where challenging moments, but overall, I don't remember my other children being like this.
I currently bear the marks of her physical treatment of me, a healing scratch beside my nose and one just below my eyebrow. My make up is smudged from my eye watering earlier when she hit me directly in the eye with her toy. A few weeks ago while flinging herself around in the bed, angrily waking up, she slammed her forehead into mine. It was painful! And, of course, created the instant need to console her while ignoring my own pain, still coming out of sleep myself. Frequently I have bruises on the back of my upper arms from where she pinches me. She tries to pull my hair or Willow's sometimes. All of this I redirect, teach her "no", move her hands, tell her "suave" or "soft", and then two seconds later it can all happen again. She has slapped me across the face too many times to count.
My time, location, mood and mental, emotional and physical well-being are determined so frequently and constantly by this tiny human. I do my best to manage. I get outside, I exercise, I take walks, I re-direct her energy, I interest her in something new, I allow her to stir while I cook and sit with me while I eat. She follows me into the bathroom, because if I close the door she dissolves into tears. She climbs on me while in there or reaches for the trash or tries to unroll or shred the toilet paper.
I'm telling you, this baby is constant.
My oldest was not like this. Often I think it is the combination of all four of them that is the challenge. Many times their clutter and fighting can be, but the ever-present, ongoing, never take a break stressor, is my baby.
Ladies, if you have one of these children, if it is any assistance, know that you are seen and you are not alone. In the future, when women talk about how they miss the baby and toddler days, we can sweetly smile, glance over at our "constant baby" and completely disagree! That's my plan anyway!
P.S. Thank you for sharing these moments with me! Share if you enjoyed and subscribe if you want to be informed of future posts!