The twenty-third question for the Q&A section of this blog is: “When were you the strongest that you’ve ever had to be?”
Well, aside from when dealing with some of the stuff outlined in the last Q&A post, I think the strongest I’ve ever had to be was the first few months after my son was born.
My son was…not planned, I suppose you would say, and originally the pregnancy was supposed to be terminated, but so many people wanted the baby that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, despite how little I wanted to have a child. I never, ever in my life wanted a child; I’ve never been comfortable around them, there are loads of societal issues that make me think it’s almost cruel to bring a child into this world, and there are multiple other reasons why having a child was not something I ever wanted or thought I could do (and trust me, we tried very hard to prevent it, he was just determined to exist, I guess), but when the time came to have the abortion, I just couldn’t do it.
So when he was born, I…didn’t connect with him the way mothers usually connect with their babies, I guess. I mean, his father and I were no longer in a relationship by that time, though we were on good terms, I still didn’t want a baby and I absolutely did not think I could handle one (much less be a good mother to one), and I just could not see how life with him was going to work. I had hoped that when he was born I’d have that “moment” where you just fall in love with the baby, but what I’ve learned since then is that infants just aren’t my thing. Some people love infants, some love toddlers, some love children best when they’re older, and I just wasn’t an infant person, so I didn’t get that moment.
In the months that followed his birth, I took care of him as well as I possibly could, but it took until he was able to smile and laugh before I really began to warm to him. I didn’t hate him before that, of course; I thought he was cute, I did what I had to do for him (as I do with anything), and I know on some level I loved him, but I wasn’t in love with him, I guess you could say. So it was a hard adjustment for me to parent a child in the first place, especially with my mother coming down on me any time I’d be upset, saying that I was “just like my father” because I “wanted the child but didn’t want the responsibility”. Except I didn’t want the child. I had the child because they wanted it; the responsibility was the only thing I’d been able to prepare myself for.
What made her comments even harder were that my son had significant issues with eating at that time, and that was most of why I was upset. I had tried to breastfeed him for the first few months, and at first it had gone well, but about 3 months in, he stopped eating altogether, and his weight began to decline rapidly. I took him to multiple appointments with doctors and specialists attempting to find ways to make him feed again, but in the end, it was determined that there was an issue with my breasts that was keeping him from being able to get enough milk out (which I will not go into the details of, as only one person in the world knows the details), and that was discouraging him (because it was a lot of effort for him to try to drink, and the reward for the effort was not enough), so we would have to try formula feeding him.
But he wouldn’t drink formula either, and the doctors could not figure out why. We tried method after method, but he would not eat, and his weight continued to decline, to the point that the doctor told me if he went 24 more hours without eating, he would need to be put in the hospital on an IV to get nutrients into him. So throughout that period, I spent a lot of my time with my son crying, because I knew he was hungry but I could not get him to eat, and it made me feel like I was a failure as a mother already. I felt like this was payback for not wanting a child; I hadn’t wanted him, so now I’d have to watch him die and be unable to do anything about it. I was miserable, and my mother just couldn’t seem to understand that every day that I got up and tried to feed him was another day that I was trying to be strong. Another day that I wasn’t giving up on him or the responsibility.
So many times I did want to give up, though – on him, on myself, on everything. I knew if he died, I was going to kill myself. There was just no question about that. It only seemed fair, and I didn’t know how I could possibly live knowing I hadn’t been able to save him. But still, I thought of running away even if he managed to live…putting him up for adoption in the hopes that another mother could be what he needed that I couldn’t be, killing myself, just…anything to give him a better life than I was giving him. He was a sweet, easy baby aside from his eating issues, and I knew he deserved better than someone who couldn’t even fulfil one of his most basic needs.
But I didn’t run. I stayed with him, and I kept trying to get him to eat until one night – the last night I had with him before he’d need to be admitted to hospital – he finally did. It was a battle to get him to take his formula every time he had to, but after I’d managed to do it once, I knew with perseverance I could do it again, so I didn’t give up until he’d at least had something. And over time, he began to gain weight, and though he’s never reached a “normal” weight for his age/height, doctors said he made it to a safe range.
Now, my son is almost 4 years old, and he’s the most wonderful child you could imagine. He is still a pain to feed, as he is a very picky eater and doesn’t have much of an appetite, but all that means now is that I need to have patience with him during mealtimes, and keep taking him to the nutritionist he sees at the hospital to make sure he’s at least getting what he needs. And now, people (including my mother) say that I am a wonderful mother, and my son is so completely devoted to and in love with me that I couldn’t imagine ever leaving him. He is the light of my life, and I love him to death.
Whenever I get weak, my son is my strength. When I think of giving up, I see his face, and I can’t bear to think that I could ever be the reason he goes through pain. And then I find my strength. So the strongest I ever had to be was in that period, and the strongest I ever am is when he’s with me.
Sorry for the lack of gifs in this post…it just didn’t seem right to add any this time.
Check out Mike’s answer at http://emptystress.wordpress.com, and please feel free to post your own in the comments!
(Next question: “What room of your home do you spend most time in?”)