Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Other Mother

This morning I have been thinking about Bubandpie's query for posts about rage and motherhood. I think she's right that it's not the kind of post that can come out of intellectual interest or on demand; it's the kind of writing that can only come about in the heat of the moment. So I don't want to write about it unless I find myself enraged in the next few weeks. She did it so well too, it's hard to think of words other than hers.

But the dark side of motherhood, as Andi Buchanan calls it in Mother Shock, is complex and made up of many colours, not just the fiery red and deepest black of rage.

When I was about 7, I saw some footage of a tornado at night; it was all red and black. For many years those colours were how I thought of tornadoes. That image, along with the Wizard of Oz, must have made quite an impression because I developed a phobia of tornadoes; my nightmares in adolescence and my early twenties always featured me seeing a twister on the horizon and panicking while I waited to see if it would hit us or our neighbours. I knew I turned a corner when I dreamed that I wasn't scared; I just went down to the basement calmly waited. I don't have nightmares about tornadoes anymore. But still the image of a red and black twisty thing with awesome power that may or may not cause damage to you personally -- that image seems to fit how I think of rage. But I'm not writing about rage today. I'm writing about another part of the dark side of motherhood.

The colours of the dark side of my day so far are pale blues and mauves - the colours of new bruises and bad eye shadow. The day started with Swee'pea sleeping in (and therefore Sugar Daddy and I) until 9, making Sugar Daddy late for work, and putting the rhythm of our day just slightly off, like an unfamiliar jazzed up version of a song we usually know well. Usually Swee'pea is ready for a nap between 9 and 10, when I put him in the sling, walk him to sleep, then settle down for an hour-ish of blogging. When he wakes up, I usually put him in his exersaucer in the kitchen, wash last night's dishes and have a second cup of tea. Then I typically wolf down some lunch and get ready for his second nap, which usually starts between noon and 1.

Today, the cleaning woman was coming at noon. So I had to get the dishes done and clean the clutter off the bathroom vanity to make her time more efficient. Swee'pea, however, when he woke up from his nap around 11:20ish, wasn't having any of it. For some reason, he would not let me put him down; not in his exersaucer to do the dishes, not in his crib so I could go to the bathroom and not in our bed so I could put clean clothes and a bra on for the cleaning woman's arrival. He just cried every time I put him down (he has definitely been grumpier than usual for the last few days; I don't know why; maybe it's teeth?). I finally did get clothes on and he immediately puked on them, both shirt and pants.

Bubandpie's rage post was really going through my head now. I wasn't enraged, but I was frustrated that I couldn't get the damn dishes done and worrying about what the cleaning woman would think of me for not being able to get such a simple task done. It just seemed that everything was a struggle. I was thinking of all our inadequacies as parents: that we can't stay on top of the clutter, that we still haven't unpacked our bags from the weekend, that I haven't put the book I referenced two weeks ago back on the shelf, that having a cleaning woman come every two weeks is not the cure-all I'd hoped for, that letting Swee'pea sleep in the sling makes me a failure as a mother because I couldn't do anything but blog while he napped. I needed to pee but couldn't put him down. I was dying for a cuppa but couldn't put him down and didn't want to chance spilling hot liquid on him.

Then I tried to put socks on Swee'pea. He's so squirmy these days it's always a battle to get socks, shoes and pants on him, and today was no exception. And one of those things happened that I thought only happened to other mothers; it would never happen to me:

I dropped Swee'pea on his head.

I had him across my lap, one foot in both hands, and he squirmed onto his tummy and then somehow just slipped out of my grasp, landing on his head then coming to rest face down. I. FELT. AWFUL. Like my frustration had caused his fall, like my feelings had risen up and pushed him off my lap, like I'm Carrie. There were a few long seconds between his mouth opening for an angry, sorrowful howl at gravity and his mother, and the first scratchy screech. I don't know how much of his screaming was caused by physical pain and how much by emotional pain and fear. I just held him to me, trying to comfort him, trying to comfort myself, our tears falling in unison. He stopped sobbing after a few minutes and nursed, but it didn't remotely alleviate the ache and heaviness in my chest.

The cleaning woman showed up a few minutes later and Swee'pea seemed his usual charming happy self. Apparently it only costs $5 extra for her to do the dishes. So I think I'll just go with that.

I have been studying Swee'pea's head and face for evidence of the fall. It looks like there could be a hint of swelling around his left eyebrow, and perhaps a dusting of that bad blue eyeshadow across the bridge of his nose. But it could just be the light. Luckily he fell onto the interlocking foam floor mats we bought a few weeks ago at Home Depot, and not the wood floor beneath them. I love those foam pads. It could be that I'm more damaged by his fall than he is.


bubandpie said...

I feel sure I have lived this post. Especially the "I don't know why; maybe it's teeth?" part, and the book-referenced-two-weeks-ago-and-not-yet-put-away part, and - oh yes - the Carrie part. For me, it was the day the Pie rolled off the bed (this, apparently, happens to everyone within a week of the baby learning how to roll over - they don't give you any warning of their new powers of velocity, those babies). I'm sure Swee'pea is fine - I hope you are too.

Her Bad Mother said...

Like Bubandpie, I've lived this post. I once caught WonderBaby mid-fall - mid BIG FALL - from the change-table, after she pitched herself off while I looked away for a moment. The feeling in my gut... impossible to describe other than black, a thousand pounds of black. This on a day that had gone much as you described - not bad, just... frustrating.

On days like those, you feel that you've willed every bad thing into being. You feel dark. It's not rage, it's just... dark.

Heavy stuff, but we all go through it.

mad_hatter said...

I'm sorry but I can't help but be struck by how much Sweet Pea naps. Miss M was anti-nap almost from the get go. Waves of green envy are emanating for me right now which is a terrible thing to say in the face of your mauve day. I hope things go better tomorrow.

cinnamon gurl said...

Yes, he does nap a lot. Probably because he doesn't really go to bed at night until 10 or 11. So we don't get any quiet time to ourselves at night. Pluses and Minuses.

mad_hatter said...

Ya, Miss M has had only one nap a day since she was 9 months old and she STILL goes to bed at 10 each night. Whenever I look in books (which is seldom these days) she is at the absolute minimal end on the sleep-need scale. In 24 hours, she sleeps 10.5-11.5 hours. I read blogs that debate the merits of TV shows like Gray's Anatomy and House and I think to myself, "TV, what's that? Is it the box from which Baby Einstein emmanates?"

sunshine scribe said...

Oh I felt this. We always feel the hurt more than our kids do ... I am sure he is fine.

We have all been there. Sending hugs your way.