I love parenting most of the time. I have been very public about my ideals, including gentle, responsive parenting, child-led weaning, baby-wearing and cosleeping. I'm no martyr--most of the time I really enjoy those aspects of being a mom. The last few days, however, I've felt it creeping up on me: a growing sense of claustrophobia, a sensation of being touched-out.
My love language is touch, and it takes a lot to get me to think that it is too much. However, between wearing the baby, nursing three, and sleeping next to a couple of them, I could probably count on my fingers, with only a few toes, the number of minutes that no one else is making physical contact with me some days.
And while I expect to be up a lot in the night with a baby (who, funnily enough, has been sleeping 5 hours stretches since she was a couple of weeks old), our two year old has been trying to cope with some major disruptions in routine by nursing every hour and a half in the night. Our six year old is going through a very sensitive time where anything less than a whole-hearted embrace and showers of affection result in tears and sobs of not being loved as much as the babies. Last night when I gently but firmly told them both that I needed space there was great weeping.
I've been here before. While certainly not a place I enjoy, I've visited a few times in the last few years. I know that both their neediness and my discomfort are temporary. So, while I could choose to wean, or at least restrict nursing, and change our sleeping arrangements, etc, I am making the choice to ride it out. For one thing, even if I refused to let her nurse at night or to let them sleep with us, it wouldn't result in more sleep for any of us.
The real issues behind the insecurity--adjusting to a new baby, a new schedule, me working significantly more, and other things--are just things to ride out. In fact, adding a new change on top of them would likely just exacerbate the problem. But while gritting my teeth and going with the flow may work up to a point, I have some other tried and true strategies:
* Drinking lots of water. I learned when nursing while pregnant that hydration makes a huge difference!
* Seize the moment. There are so many things going on right now that my options are limited, but I plan to grab any moments I can for time alone. That includes savoring the fleeting moments in the night when all is quiet. It may also include locking myself in the bathroom with an iced coffee, a bar of chocolate and humming loudly with my fingers in my ears.
* Remember that it is my choice, and that it can be changed. Mentally acknowledging that I have the power to change this situation makes a difference. I am not a victim and I am not trapped. If it doesn't work, I can try something else.
* Grace. I give grace to my myself as well as my children. It is OK to feel irritated, angry, impatient or any other feeling. I won't live in that feeling--just let it go.
* Set boundaries when needed. Despite the tears, I didn't feel any guilt over telling the kids that I needed space. During the day, they can handle that calmly. The problem is that I am most likely to need that when we are all tired and less able to process things rationally.
* Remember. Remember how sweet they are and how quickly this goes by. Remember the times we have gone through this before and it passed.
* Get help. This is tacked on because it isn't always an option. Carlos is wonderful with the kids when he is home. (Of course, we are outnumbered two to one at this point...) I know that babysitters, MDO programs or other things are possibilities, too, but I don't feel it necessary for us right now.
For now, we'll just hold on tight to each other (perhaps a bit more literally than I would like) and know (and hope)that the ride will be over in a week or two.