Sunday, March 24, 2013

My epic struggle

People ask me whether I have a preference for one of the JED kids over the other two. It's a hard question to answer. I once said, who I preferred at any given time, often had to do with who was behaving best at that moment. But if I thought about it, each child is special in their own way to me and they touch different parts of my heart.

Take for instance Jordan.

Jordan will always be special to me because she was my first born, along with Evan, and she is my only daughter. But more than that, Jordan is special because it took a long time to get to where our relationship is today.

When Jordan was born, I was very overwhelmed by the fact that I had to care for twins as my first children. I was nursing on average 20 times a day and wrestling with post-natal hormones. It caused me to feel very distant from the twins. I loved them because I was their mother but I truly did.not.know. what to do with them. As a result, our helper, Packrat, the nanny, the twins' grandparents hung a lot more with them than I did. I hid in the room, on pretext of needing to express milk. And when they did that, I was racked with guilt. What mother would want to distance herself away from her children? So naturally, the twins developed a preference for them over myself.

With Evan, it wasn't so bad. He was a smiley, cheery baby who laughed a lot, slept easily and even in my ambivalence, was easy to care for. It was Jordan who posed the challenge. She rejected my boob, went on a hunger strike and cried for hours straight if I even dared to try to get her to sleep. This didn't disappear till she was past one. And it made me think she hated me. In my mind, it was her revenge, exacted on me for letting other people care for her. And it made me doubt myself and withdraw from her even more.

Unfortunately, that perpetuated a vicious cycle. Because I was scared of making her cry, she would sense it and cry, causing me to tense up and the cycle would then rinse and repeat. It was then easier to just look after Evan and leave the helper or our aunt to look after Jordan. Practically, it was the right thing to do. We divided and conquered. But emotionally, it killed me.

We had tried so hard to have kids and we were blessed with the twins. So I should have been happy. I should have embraced motherhood, the very thing that I had been dying for. But when it was in front of me, I withdrew and often felt that I wanted to run far away from them. At the same time,  I felt that by feeling like that and having a daughter who cried every time I was within line of sight, I was an epic failure of a mother.

Part of me knew to not take it personally and that I would come to love and enjoy my children. After all, that is how all relationships begin. And she was after all an infant. But for an entire year, this continued and it had me constantly self-flagellating like I belonged to the Opus Dei.

Did it come to pass? That is part of the wisest advice I got as I embarked on this journey of motherhood; that everything shall pass. And it did. It was as if someone had flipped the switch in her after she turned one. And then it was Mommy this and Mommy that and Mommy became her best friend. She was the last to wean off the boob; her earlier reticence to the boob tossed out the window. Only Mommy could soothe her at 3 in the morning. Her favourite place to fall asleep is now in my arms and many a morning, I am woken by her clambering atop me to sleep on my chest. One would never have guessed that she had had any other kind of relationship with me.

I have told her, jokingly, that she didn't like Mommy very much when she was a baby. She said sorry and went off to explain her infant actions. In response to that, I tell her I love her and I hug her tight.

So, the reason why she is special to me, is because of the long journey filled with tears all around that was filled with dark and twisty thoughts about myself as a mother. The counsellor I was seeing assured me that despite the early conflicts and battles I was having with Jordan, that we had the makings of what would be a close connection. And he was right.

People have hinted that perhaps I had post natal depression after the twins were born. I have no doubt about that and I don't pretend to hide it. And I am certain it played a part in causing the somewhat schizophrenic relationship that I had with them. But I think it was also a lot of pressure and expectations that others as well as myself put on me. The idea that bonding and loving being a mother come instantly. The idea that I will miss the children the minute they are out of sight. And the idea that any time I wanted time away from the children, I was a bad mother.

It took a year of counselling for me to come to terms with motherhood and to understand that my need to get some air and be away from the children at times didn't necessarily translate into me not loving them or being a bad mother. I haven't learned to fully switch off the voices of the all powerful OTHERS in my head but I've had a lot more practice with motherhood now and that helps blunt the words of others. Plus, my 'thought-bubble' retorts are violently loud and aggressive at those who even imply that I am a bad mother.

It most definitely does not compare to what other mothers go through. I know moms whom I would give an arm and a leg to, if it would help lessen their pain and burden with their children. But for the time that I had to battle these dark doubts, it did feel like I was being tested.

Linking up with Rachel's

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  1. Wow thank you for sharing this. I also went through a bout of PND and wish I had gone though counseling like you. About being away from them and missing them, then wanting to be away when with them AND feeling like a bad mum about it : DITTO!!

    I could help but laugh at your Opus Dei reference :)

  2. Adora,
    I'm glad you got the reference! Hubs was like 'so obscure!' :) I read about your PND too. I think people need to acknowledge it happens and not talk about the 'joys and wonderment' of motherhood. I kept wondering whether I was weird because I just didn't feel it.

  3. Hahaha I laughed at the Opus Dei too :p

    Didn't know J & D were twins :) We're a blessed breed to have twins. But yes, the first year was the toughest. So draining! Hubbs and I were saying we're lucky the twins was our second pregnancy, coz it is certainly not easy for first time parents to have to handle twins.

  4. @p2me1a
    Strangely enough, I know quite a few people with sets of twins. But it's actually J and E that are twins. D is the baby. Anyway, I think having twins, regardless of which child/ children they are have their own challenges. I couldn't imagine caring for twins and looking after an older one either! :)

  5. Thank you for sharing this. i'm going through the exact same thing right now and it is comforting to know this too shall pass. i really cannot imagine the day when things suddenly turn around and change for the better.