17 October 2006

The Beast Within

[This post was inspired by Emmie's "Mother Rage" post at All This/Better Make It a Double, which was in turn inspired by this post on the same subject at Bub and Pie.]

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Africa for three years in the mid-late 90s. It was the amazing, life-changing experience you imagine Peace Corps to be, so much so that I stayed a an extra year once my initial two-year round was over.

By about halfway through my third year, I knew it was time for me to go home. I knew this because all of the cultural differences and daily adventures that I had previously found funny or entertaining or educational or charming became TOTALLY EFFING ANNOYING. It got to the point where I truly believed that if I physically harmed the woman at the post office that told me they were out of stamps (the post office! out of stamps! what gives?!), I would feel better. The desire to hurt someone else, that deepest form of anger, was something I had never experienced and it scared the living daylights out of me.

So I came home. I went back to normal. I did not want to hurt people. I bought stamps and ate a different kind of breakfast cereal every day. The feelings of rage went away, and I thought they went away for good.

Fast-forward ten years. I become a parent. The first twelve weeks were very hard, harder than I had ever imagined they would be. But they were also magical and life-changing and wonderful. I was full of adrenaline and patience. Nighttime feedings were infused with awe and joy. And besides, everyone said that the sleeping thing got better after twelve weeks, so I could see light at the end of the tunnel when I started to feel impatient or annoyed.

Twelve weeks came and went. Things didn't get better. They actually got worse. The twins started to sleep less rather than more. They got up early, really early. They were harder to put back to sleep after feedings. The sleep deprivation started to catch up with me. When I would hear them stir in the night, I would feel annoyance and anger rather than the desire to nurture, care, and protect. But I would grit my teeth and feed the babies, and as I watched them eat in the dark and quiet of my living room, my anger would usually dissipate. "It's only a phase. It won't last forever."

We're at sixteen weeks now. As the sleeping gets no better and maybe worse, the anger gets more intense. Not too long ago, I yelled at Maddie when she wouldn't stop crying. Gone are the days of whispered "I love yous" while I change them or swaddle them in the night. It's a silent operation now, during which I count the seconds until I can be back in bed. My body is tense, hunched as I nurse. I've started to clench my teeth again and get migraines. I lash out at my husband knowing that even though it's inappropriate, at least he's an adult, not a baby.

I cry as I feed them, angry tears that come from being frustrated and unsure that I can keep doing this. I dread bedtime, dread the thought of being awakened by crying, dread the feelings of anger that flood me when I hear the babies stir. I feel defeated, defeated by my anger and by lack of sleep. I haven't slept more than two hours in a row in at least two weeks.

I hate being controlled by rage. I hate feeling angry at my children for doing no more than being babies. I hate that all of this makes me petty and small. I hate that I feel jealous when my husband can trundle back to bed as I finish feeding the babies. He has cancer, for crying out loud! Can't I be more charitable? Especially given all the things he does for me. All of this anger makes me feel like a bad parent, an inferior mother, like I've made all the wrong choices along the way.

It's comforting to know that, as scary as they are, I'm not alone in these feelings. I wish none of us had to go through this. I wish that my "This, too, shall pass" mantra wasn't sounding so trite, wearing so thin. I'm ready for this to pass. Every night I think this will be my night. I have to be right someday, don't I?


bg's Little Sis said...

Snick, I know I'll get bashed for this one, so sorry up front for that, I'm not an advocate either way on breast or bottle, whatever works for someone is my firm belief. I agree on the benefits of breast feeding, but for some folks it doesn't work forever, life happens and makes our best intentions not the way that we can function.

So here it goes...when I started to cry during feedings is when my doctor told me to move to a bottle, this was with my son. My second child, and I didn't have twins so I know it's worlds apart from what your going through. I was back to work, he wanted more food, it was so very hard, it was me feeling like I had to do it all, be it all, and the guilt and anger were immense for me. I was slpping into a depression the likes of which I never want to know. I made the change and for me it's what I needed, the night time feeding with bottles helped so much and then I made the move altogether for many many reasons, personal reasons. It worked for me. I know someone suggested to you in a previous post about doing the evening feeding with a bottle, it does stay with a baby a bit longer, maybe that will help on several levels, most of all getting you some sleep.

It does suck that we all go through this, and that when we're going through it we feel so very alone, I'm glad you know that you're not alone. I hope that it turns for the better for you all soon.

Love the PeaceCorps story...my husband and I wanted to do it so badly when we had finished college, 6 weeks after we were married he was diagnosed with cancer and we never did go. All is well now, but I love hearing PC stories:)

bg's Little Sis said...

Thanks for posting it and the links to your inspirations for the post. I hate the rage, sometimes I feel like I can't escape it, then I do.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Aw, Snick, I hear you loud and clear on hating the rage. One of my children can send me into a total fit of rage that stays with me all day, if I think about it. I go to work, I walk through the door, and I smile. I have fun. I can put up with amazing amounts of bullshit (I'm in human resources) from crybabies and scatterbrains and irresponsible people, but the sound of my child's voice can send me through the roof. You are NOT a bad mother. Neither inferior, nor one of poor choices. You are stretched to the max.
My baby experience was ridiculously easy, but what I've been through with the one I adopted as a toddler would curl your hair. It's so important to know that you are not alone, and you're not. Most parents at one point or another (or several) would gladly put their kid on the sidewalk with a sign "Free to a home." Not even necessarily a good home.
Email me if I can help in any way.

Yankee, Transferred said...

And, as the experienced parent of a formula-fed baby, go for it if it will help! Older Daughter had no ill effects. I'm just sayin'.

Rev Dr Mom said...


All I can offer is hugs and prayers, but know that you have them both, and that you are a good mother--who is under a lot of stress.

Leggy said...

I hear you. I feel so horrible when I snap at my son over stupid stuff or just get worn down by him. And I hate to say it, but we still have sleep issues with my son. Not getting enough sleep is a major mindf*ck. Is there anyone who can help you- can your mom come back for a visit, friends? Do they bottle feed at all? Even if you could just get one decent night's sleep every few days, I think that would do you a world of good.
You are under incredible stress and I think you are doing amazingly well given the circumstances. But isn't there anyone who could help you out, because I think just a little more rest and sleep would go a long way. Can you afford to hire a night nurse? Anything?

Anonymous said...

When my Bub was a baby, the five weeks starting when he was ten weeks old were the VERY WORST. Like you, I believed that everything would gradually improve if I could just grit my teeth and survive it, and for the first little while that worked - but at ten weeks everything got dramatically worse - nursing became a huge challenge (nursing strikes), the crying during the daytime was terrible (because he was awake so much more during the day). One night I ran out into the rain without a coat and walked down the centre of the road, hoping to get hit by a car. That was at fifteen weeks, and it was the nadir - from there, thing gradually did get better, in that three steps forward, two steps back way.

This was an intense post - it took me back. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh...I so remember how you feel and still do funnily enough..my kids STILL don't sleep...I am still sleep deprived and so get the silent changes, etc...

I used to feel that if I didn't speak i would be able to stay sleepy enough to get back to sleep right away.....rarely worked though and now Caity talks to me!

Not pushing the bottle thing....we all have our limits....I just remember the abject and guilt ridden relief when i let my dh feed my first born with a bottle while I stayed in bed and cried myself to sleep.

Fun huh?

You are going through a tough time we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we can only do so much....don't be a martyr.....ask for help and get help if you can....

we all have our breaking points....

the rage is telling you something.

soralis said...

You have a lot of things to deal with and and extra challenges with 2 babies. It sounds like you need to try to take some time for yourself every now and again.

Take care and hoping this passes very soon.

Menita said...

Oh how I hear you. And I have it so easy compared to what you are going through. I'm with bg's little sis. I gave up breastfeeding when it was clearly causing more damage than good.
You are not alone, and I hope it does ease up for you soon

Denise said...

Hi, I just found your blog through a link somewhere. I'm also in Massachusetts, also a former PCV, also have a baby (just one!) who doesn't sleep (his older brother didn't, either). I recognize that anger. It's sleep deprivation that puts you in an emotional state that makes the sleep deprivation so hard to deal with. I'm so tired of worrying about my son's horrible sleeping habits and trying to figure out what to do to get him to sleep through the night--I've decided just to try to ride it out for a few months. Eventually, he won't wake every three hours...will he? Or, at least he'll be able to surf the web like other insomniacs.

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Ah! It took me three kids to realize that night time feedings were something to be done quickly, quietly, and FAST. You did well my dear.