His scream pierced the night. “Mommy! Mommy! My mommy!” Before I could move my heavy form off the mattress, Gruff was up and out our door. I heard Smooch’s voice louder – hitching sobs and cries for me. Gruff soothed and whispered and patted, but Smooch only got more upset.
“That’s enough.” Tired and frustrated at not being able to comfort our son, Gruff’s voice got a wee bit sharper. “Smooch, that’s enough.”
My mama-heart clenched to hear the refrain that -it seems in my memory- was lobbed at me so often in my childhood. My parents meant well, they meant only the best. Looking back on it, I think they were often overwhelmed by the ferocity of my storms of emotion. I was generally a happy, pleasant kid; but when I felt something, I felt it. Big, loud, unrestrained tears and long, wistful sighs and elaborate huffs and stomps. Those were my canvas, my oils. I wanted the whole world to know how I FELT. I think my parents were trying, in their way, to teach me the art of restraint – of discretion – of knowing how, and when, and where it was appropriate and safe to vent my feelings. But as a kid, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that my emotions were inconveniencing them (they probably were) and that they just wanted me to go away and come back when I could ‘behave’ (they probably did) – and, more importantly, I felt that their attempt to add a little temperance to my tempers was a rejection of ME.
Whew, did you hear all that? Don’t I sound well-balanced, to be able to reflect on all of that so clearly? It took my marriage nearly imploding and subsequent therapy to reach those realizations. Our therapist helped me to see that the pattern I learned (or assumed) as a kid – that my feelings needed to be bottled, and filtered, and made potable before being aired, or else I might be rejected – had become very unhealthy for me as an adult.
But back to Saturday night.
I joined my husband in our boy’s room, and I scooped his long body from his bed. He’s a toucher, my little guy – he seeks out skin contact nearly all day. It’s his thing, his love language, his coping comfort. He stretched his little arms as far around me as he could and started rubbing and patting my back as I patted his, and slowly his sobs quieted down. It was a long night, though. His tears flared up again and again as we tried to figure out what had upset him so, what would help him fall back to sleep. My emotions (and hormones) were close to the surface, and I cried a bit myself. Finally, around 2:00, we were all ready for bed again. Smooch had been able to tell us that he wanted to come to our bed, and we finally settled him down on his mattress on our floor – a compromise, since Mama’s ever-expanding girth makes it hard for me to get comfortable just sharing with Gruff, much less if we added a squirmy two year old to the bed.
As I laid there in the dark, quiet surrounding me once more, I wondered: am I really ready to add another babe to this mix? I want to be ready – I deeply love this little girl-child inside me, and I can’t wait to see her face to face. But there were moments, facing my son’s tears, upset with my husband, and wrestling with my own childhood ghosts, that I felt utterly incapable of the family I already have. How then can I handle one more human being, one who needs me completely and desperately and wholly?
I know I’m not the only expectant mom to worry and wonder. I read Mrs. Chicken’s blog while she was expecting Shaggy, and I loved the way she wrote about both the joy and the anxiety of bringing home the second baby. I know that we’ll find our way, as she is finding hers, and that somehow I will make room in our lives for Doodlebug. That I’ll manage, as millions of mothers before me can testify, to handle the new needs of our bigger family.
And my first step toward managing? On Sunday evening, fueled by a whole day’s worth of coffee and rest and food and time together, I approached Gruff about his words to Smooch. We talked about our expectations of our oldest – who is really not so very old, at 33 months – and how we can handle another outburst like that one. I talked about my need to be supported, even comforted and consoled, when I become emotional in the face of Smooch’s upsets. I talked about my childhood, and not wanting to communicate the same undercurrent to our kids. And then I listened – to his feelings and fears, and bless his heart!, to his apology. We ended our conversation in that best of ways, by meandering around a hundred unrelated topics, laughing and giggling, reminiscing, and cuddling.