[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?