Tuesday, May 08, 2007

claustrophobia

I feel really bad writing this; I mean, the poor kid is still suffering the effects of his illness (apparently NOT an ear infection but something viral that is now causing a rash all over his body, which I THOUGHT was a reaction to the antiobiotic -- not only unnecessary but way stronger than would have been necessary if he HAD had an ear infection and the worst one for antiobiotic resistance -- but that's a whole other post) or at the very least the effects of really bad sleep for several days and nights caused by the illness (bad sleep, which, it needs to be said, I am also suffering from), BUT.

Swee'pea is really getting on my tits, literally and figuratively.

Since he's been sick, he's started putting his hands down my shirt and just holding onto my boob. Or lifting up my shirt and rubbing. It started with my belly before he got sick, which I thought was kinda cute, except that he started scratching me and poking me quite hard. But I guess with the closure of the all-night breastaurant, now he figures he'll just hold onto them instead of nursing, whether during the day or night. It feels like he's of the mind that he is just making use of what is rightfully his.

And I don't particularly like that attitude. On the one hand, I know he needs more comfort than usual since he's feeling so rotten, but on the other, I AM GOING CRAZY.

It appears that the doughy contours of my upper body are his blankie... and he can't get enough right now. He screams bloody murder if I go to the bathroom. He screams if his daddy tries to get him to sleep. If he's having a cuddle with me (and when has he not in the last several days?) and Sugar Daddy approaches, he shrinks away as if about to be struck. He screams if, having gotten him to sleep, I try to put him in his crib, then it takes another hour or two to realize that he will not fall asleep anywhere but in our bed. The other night when we finally exhausted ourselves and retired to bed at 9:30, Swee'pea's smile illuminated the space above the stairs and into the upstairs hallway, and we couldn't help but concede victory to his greater stamina. It does not feel good to be so defeated by one who has been on this earth for such a relatively short time.

Once we go to bed, the nights are hell. It's actually gotten worse since Swee'pea's fever broke early Sunday morning. Before he writhed and grunted and woke up a lot, always having to have his head on my chest or my shoulder. Now he just screams continuously for several minutes (like 10 at least) every time he wakes up. Last night was a slight improvement: he only woke up twice, although he screamed and screamed and screamed, and I just laid there with him on top of me, trying not to scream myself or thrust him harshly away from me onto the mattress. Nothing we could do would comfort him.

But the night before was way way worse. He screamed like that just about every hour or two all night long. He's been screaming inconsolably so much that I'm starting to become immune. I can't do anything to fix it, so I've stopped trying.

We adults are not doing well with this arrangement. Not only have we lost that precious evening time that replenished our resources so successfully every day, but Sugar Daddy is dealing with almost constant and loud rejection, being treated like some kind of abuser, and I am dealing with having to do absolutely everything with a 30-pound toddler in my arms who may or may not be screaming in my ear. Right now he is sleeping on my lap while I type this... it's the closest I'll get to a break, so I'm making full use of it.

Well, ok, I got a bit of a break yesterday when I went to work and put him in daycare. I felt badly, because I knew even though he was over the worst of it, he was still really tired and probably a little under the weather. But here's what I felt the worst about: the main reason I did it was because I didn't want to be with him by myself. Yes, I don't really have any sick days left to take and yes I had meetings in the afternoon to attend, but mostly, I didn't want to be with my son.

Friday, one of my normal days off, was awful. The morning was fine, we went downtown and got some stuff for Sugar Daddy's birthday. But when we got home, I expected him to go down for a nap like always and then I would eat my lunch. He wouldn't go down in the crib. It's really bad if that happens when I'm hungry. And I was hungry. We got through it and he woke up and I ate and he melted down while I ate but I finished my lunch and then he slept, although not as much as he needed. And it was because of that awful moment of feeling trapped, having to choose between his needs and mine, that I really didn't want to be with him yesterday.

Oh God. I just know I'm gonna get my first troll for this. Just when I really couldn't handle it. (To the trolls: he was fine at daycare, not himself but still lovely as usual as his daycare provider said. Of course, as soon as we got home, he had the biggest meltdown ever, screaming and screaming and screaming, until finally he settled down and we ate some cheese.)

I really feel like a bad mother. When I feel good, I don't need any reassurance... I don't really need the community of the blogosphere, so I don't bother blogging about those times... but at times like these, when I feel like it would be cruel to bring another child into this family where the mother cannot cope with all the demands, where the mother regularly wants and needs her own space and goes crazy if she doesn't get even a little bit... this is when I need some support, some reassurance that I'm not THAT bad. Am I?

It's not just that I have no personal or mental space; I'm also convinced that he will never sleep in his crib again, that we will never again enjoy two hours in the evening to recharge, that we are right back where we were a couple of months ago, only now we know exactly what sweetness we're missing. Sugar Daddy tries to tell me that it'll probably improve when he's feeling better, but I'm not buying it. I find myself crying in self-pity, wondering, "Why me? Why don't we get to enjoy the rest that parents of independent-sleeping babies have?"

I know rationally, this self-pity is absurd. This is no tragedy. Our child is experiencing a normal, relatively mild illness; he is generally well. We are all well. We are lucky. We have enough to eat and a roof over our heads and lots of good things in our lives. Things could be so much worse.

But I am not capable of much rational thought. And last night I remembered that people die without enough sleep.

I try to regain some perspective and count my blessings. And that's when I really start to worry about my ability as a mother. If I can't ride out this small storm, how will I manage the really big stuff? I've always figured myself a coper, generally resilient with a positive outlook on life and how I can handle its bumps and falls. But this motherhood gig has really shaken that perception.

I still love Swee'pea dearly, I still have moments when I stroke his hair, or his neck or cheek and feel overwhelmed with love. I still feel a thrill when he wraps his hand around my finger, once in a while. But if I try to extricate myself, he starts to feel like an octopus, always more tentacles than I have ways of removing them, and I feel claustrophobic and intensely hopeless. I am so not coping.

18 comments:

Jozet said...

W'ere teething here, and I had a complete breakdown yesterday after 48 hours on non-stop "I need to be pressed against mommy so I can howl into her cheest."

BTW, we also went through 3 days of high fever, antibiotics, and then a rash. Was it allergy to the antibiotics, or was the fever due to roseola? We bet on roseola this time, continued the antibiotics, and no further rash. With my younger daughter, she got roseola while on ABX, and now has an amoxicillin allergy noted on her chart. I still think it was just the roseola, but who wants to bet on that?

Jozet said...

chest, not cheest. Although, I'm sure he howled into that, too, lol.

Suz said...

I'm so sorry. I've had moments like this with the twins where I couldn't wait to hand them to the nanny and scuttle out of the house, amid dual tsunamis of guilt and relief. These are moments, though, and they'll pass. You are a good mom, even though it doesn't feel like it now.

Her Bad Mother said...

You are not BAD. You know this. EVERY mother has days when she feels that she just doesn't want to be grabbed/slurped/hollered at anymore. When she's all loved out, when she needs an intermission to get her love back on. We've all been there. We'll all be there again.

Hope that everyone starts feeling much, much better soon!

bubandpie said...

Octopus tentacles - that's a scary-good analogy. ANY SANE PERSON would feel the way you're feeling right now. It's like a switch gets thrown when your kid is in pain and suddenly life takes on the nightmarish perspective where your only goal from minute to minute is not to be totally miserable. I remember when Bub had his really bad ear infection/ruptured ear drum I felt terrible leaving him at day-care, knowing that he just wanted to be on my lap as much as possible - but then there would be that little lifting of pressure, that slight alleviation of the darkness as I walked away and actually concentrated on something else. And then it would be time to go back into the nightmare.

I hope he's better soon.

I was thinking yesterday, we feel like good mothers when in fact we're just having a pleasant, easy time. We look at our happy, well-behaved children and tell ourselves look! I can do this. It's when we're feeling like bad mothers - angry, overwhelmed, exhausted - that we're actually being good mothers, doing the hard work, dealing with all the crap.

Mad Hatter said...

The cling? Lord almighty I know the cling and the claustrophobia it brings. Every single one of my despairing posts has been about the cling and the sleeplessness it fosters. I have been to exactly the place of despair you describe on more occasions than I care to recount.

And then the fog clears. It will clear, Sin. He will get over this bug. There will be a new normal. You will feel brave and strong in your mothering again.

NotSoSage said...

This, I found, was the hardest part about figuring out sleep habits. You just get it to a place that you think is manageable and then something (teething, an infection, a change in routine) sets off what feels like a setback and you are sleepless and frustrated and worry, "Will we ever get back to where we were?"

But you will. And that doesn't help you right now with what you're dealing with, but I promise, you will. And if you need to hand him over to a daycare provider every now and then so that you have the energy to face it at night, that's the best thing you could possibly do for both of you.

On a lighter note: the obsession and ownership of your boobs will continue (although less annoyingly, I imagine) for at least another year, in my experience. It's a strange, strange thing.

ewe are here said...

We all have days where we just want to leave the house and the clinging and the shreiking and the irrational whiny demands and just hide for a while. I don't think this makes us bad parents; it just makes us human.

Don't beat yourself up. This phase, too, shall pass...

Sending happy thoughts your way...

jouette said...

((hugs)) we've all been there. the sleep thing kills me too~i hope he's better soon, lots of happy thoughts your way.

kgirl said...

days like that my mantra becomes, 'this too shall pass... this too shall pass.'
and then i go sleep in the basement.

good luck. this too shall pass. hope the writing 'bout it helps.

Karen said...

I think we ride out whatever we are given at the time. I find that I feel just as desperate with a mild illness as I do with something more scary. It's the same helplessness that attacks me, I may not be just as desperate, but time has separated me from the intimacy of the feelings I had before. All I have is the moment I'm in, all I have to cope with is the moment we're in together.
I get like you, I panic that things won't go back to "normal." Usually, a week later I realized that things are back and I've missed out on a whole week of enjoying it.

slouching mom said...

Oh, hon, this drove me crazy more than anything else. I need my personal space, and being clung to just makes me lose it.

Completely.

With the addition of mean and violent thoughts about the clinging child.

And the need to get away from him.

It does sound like roseola to me. It's been going around (Canada, too, I guess.)

Hugs. This WILL get better.

Beck said...

The Baby has been so clingy the past couple of days that I have a chronic ache in my right arm. Luckily, she's also been cheerful and fun to be around or else I would be burnt out and exhausted right now.
Which is what you are, by the way. Mothers DO GET BURNT OUT BY THEIR KIDS SOMETIMES. It happens. When it does to me, I know that it's time for me to go and spend some time by myself, and that is what you did. Your mothering instincts were right - in order to keep mothering your child, you needed some time away from him to recharge.

Mouse said...

Scooter still stuffs his hand down my shirt from time to time--STILL his security blanket. But it is so much worse when he's stressed out or sick. No real suggestions here, just a lot of sympathy!

Aliki2006 said...

Oh, c.g. I'm so sorry you're dealing with all this. I agree with what B & P said--we probably do our best parenting, twisted though it sounds, when we soldier on through times like that.

Hugs to you...

crazymumma said...

I bet you ten bucks he is about to have a physical or cognitive leap. or sprout a tooth.

My children have always been very attached, but when they were on the verge of change and gawd knows growing up is hard to do, they would turn into little physical and emotional leeches.

I figure it will all be over by the time they move out. Cue hysterical laughter.

But really, try a homeopathic tincture called rescue remedy (ya, you can both use it), or some chamomile pills. Works wonders.

Mary G said...

My daughter's little girl used her mother's arm for a security blankie. She ran her hand up and down and around the arm, and would not let go (go away, Daddy) or be distracted. And clung (clinged? oh well) non stop. And when I baby sat, she did it with me, and octopus tentacles is a perfect description. I was so glad when her mother got home, even though I was delivering my daughter over to the octopus.
And if you are to the screaming point yourself, believe me you are in good company. And so say all of us.
It will pass. He will start sleeping again. You will get your hours back. And in the meantime, there is nothing wrong with detaching the little tentacles from time to time. And ignoring the screaming that results.
I clearly recall sitting on the front steps of my house waiting for my husband to come home from work, holding shrieking child, and when husband appeared I handed him the shrieker, got in the car and went to the library.
When I got back there was perfect peace. And I could breathe normally again.
My granddaughter was taught sign at her daycare from a year old. One of the signs was a hand held out palm forward for 'stop'. When she had a melt down with me one day I did the sign and said 'Stop'. And she did.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

There's a short story by Jane Smiley in which the climax occurs when a small child gets sick and wants only her dada. The Age of Grief. Here's the clincher: "...I walked her for most of those three days. At first I was tired and bored: she was heavy, and the urge to put her off was more pressing than hunger, more like a raging thirst. I would panic at the thought of the hours, even the minutes, before me, of walking and carrying until my whole left side, the side she leaned upon, was numb, and my legs were leaden. After a while, though, say late Sunday night, it was as if Leah and our joining had sunk more deeply into me, so that I only did it, didn't think about it, didn't rebel against it. They say that this happens with the KGB, too."

That's pretty much it, isn't it? You would probably like the whole story, if you can find it.