Monday, October 09, 2006

Rage

Yesterday’s jeans lie where they were tossed, so casually, last night (that is, on top of the day before’s jeans), wallet and change still heavy in the pocket.

The entrance to the basement storage area is blocked by a barricade made up of the infant swing (borrowed and never returned), exersaucer, empty diaper boxes, and a full garbage bag that has been stowed there hastily, eliminating access to the empty spaces that lie behind this row of awkward, hard-to-move stuff.

This morning, I picked up four pieces of fossilized cat poo in the areas of my basement to which I could achieve access.

This morning, the Pie reached, pointed, and cried for the following out-of-reach-items: a roll of paper towels, Play-doh, my cell phone, Bub’s crayons, Bub’s half-finished drawing, the iron.

*****

I remember being this person, this woman who changes diapers just a little less gently than usual, with no games of "Pizza, Pickle, Pumpernickel" or "This Little Piggy," unsmiling because the effort of cracking a smile might let loose all those bottled-up words, the "Go ahead and cry, then, see if I care," the "Here you go, you can have them, I don’t care what you do with them," the "I quit. I quit I quit I quit." Does it count that I don’t say these words aloud, to children who wouldn’t understand them nearly as well as they read the meaning of my stiff expression, my unbending posture? I am fooling no one, here.

I remember the day when Bub was maybe seven months old; all day he had been his bored-and-angry, don’t-put-me-down-for-a-second self, and then, 45 minutes into his nap, he woke up screaming. I put him to my breast, thinking of all the poison he was drinking in with his mother’s milk: rage, resentment, self-hatred. And then, for the first time in months, he fell asleep as he nursed, letting the nipple slip out of his soft, relaxed mouth. As we cuddled in the old afghan-covered armchair by the window, I watched the sparrows plopping worms into the wide-open squawking mouths of their babies, barely visible in the nest, and I prayed for love, joy, peace, and patience. I looked around Bub’s room, noticing the cross-stitched Blue Jean Teddy quilt hanging on the wall, enjoying the three turtles stacked up, one on top of the other, on the diaper sorter hanging on the change table. With every exhalation (mine and his), I felt my rage dissipate.

And then he woke up, crying, and I wanted to shake him or hurl him to the ground, to lock him in this room and just walk away, and I was scared by my rage, its sneakiness, the way it lies in wait so imperceptibly, before it strikes.

*****

They’re funny, some of the things that have enraged me today. It’s tempting to joke about the massive thighs that appear, as if by magic, when I sit down in front of a full-length mirror (I stand up quickly, and they disappear). Or about the tightly coiled grey hairs that stick straight up when my hair is parted, regrowth from that day a couple of weeks ago when I plucked out as much of the grey as I could find, permanently dispelling the myth that there are only six of them. I can relish the absurdity of my irritation with the clear, sunny fall weather we’re having today – perfect weather for the family nature walk we had planned, before I wasted the morning dusting and vacuuming because I’m a slave to my routines and too grouchy to have fun.

Joking about that might distract me from the way the Pie keeps pulling at her right ear, confirming that her ear infection is back (if it ever left), which would be good news (in that a treatable infection is preferable to a permanent personality change) if it weren’t for the way that the words "antibiotic-resistant super-infection" keep making me feel like I want to throw up (because like it or not, I did this to her – I did it each time I scheduled her doses of amoxicillin six hours apart instead of eight so I wouldn’t have to wake her, each time I got her up at 11 pm to pour a tablespoon of the sticky banana-flavoured liquid into her slackened mouth, only to watch it dribble down her neck and into her chin where I’d find it, crusted, the next morning).

*****

It’s been a week now, I guess, since I’ve had a four-hour block of sleep, uninterrupted by the Bub’s nighttime visits. I am reminded of those baby-care books that sternly admonish the reader to consider whether her infant’s night-waking could be the result of her own wish to continue nighttime breastfeeding. I was never one to cherish those quiet hours – I spent them half-awake, desperately longing to crawl back under the covers and return to sleep. So I always read those admonishments with disbelief, knowing that whatever the reasons were for my baby’s night-waking habit, my desire to get up several times a night was not one of them.

And yet I can see that logic now. Bub is so sweet and malleable in the middle of the night – his cries are quieted instantly as I take him by the hand to lead him back to his room; he scrambles obediently back into his bed and settles with such evident satisfaction into the cozy warmth of his blankets, clutching doggy and blankie to his chest. From beginning to end, these nocturnal wanderings take no more than 60 seconds. But then it’s a half hour before I can return to sleep. Or, if it’s later than 5:00, I don’t return to sleep at all. Hubby can go back to bed for an extra hour or two on weekends, but once I’m up, I’m up (unless, that is, I have a milky newborn baby nestled on top of me, showing me how to breathe with the soft rise-and-fall of her own sweet chest). I don’t need a nap, in any case – what I need is a four-hour block of sleep, and for that sleep to occur sometime between 11 pm and 5 am.

Something is going to change around here. Because I hate this angry person I’m turning into – I recognize her (we’ve met before) and it’s time for her to go.

Postscript: We got out for our nature walk after all, following an early nap from the Pie, who very nearly drifted off in her high chair at lunchtime. We walked along a muddy, leaf-strewn path that snaked by a little creek, and the Pie played with yellow leaves while the Bub slipped into a mud puddle. With the following results:





And the tornado of rage is gone, for now, so I gave him a hug and a kiss (after taking the appropriate photos, of course), and as we headed for the car he gave a little skip and said, "Go for a walk. Awesome!"

The Original Perfect Post Awards

45 comments:

crazymumma said...

Damn. The Rage. I know it well. My angry me inside of me. So many Mums are afraid to admit to those feelings. You did, and beautifully I might add.
I took up boxing. It really helped. And as they get older, teh rage starts to dissipate...

Mary-LUE said...

Sleep deprivation... My arch-nemesis as my daughter would say. Yes, my six-year old daughter refers to her arch nemeses on a regular basis.

I hope that it helps to know that, like crazymumma said, as they get older and their night schedules more regular, it does get better (unless you have sleep apnea!)

Mary-LUE said...

P.S. The picture of Bub is classic.

Anonymous said...

I love the picture of bub.. I've posted a couple of my favorite "sad" pictures.

I've written about my rage... and the sneaky way it bursts forth taking both me and the children unawares.

It is hard and you are not alone...

Jammer said...

Great, great post. And I also love the picture.

Lady M said...

You expressed both the frustration of caring for a baby and the peaceful joy so well. Good luck with the sleep. The one night that I could have gone to bed early and slept a full night - I've stayed up late reading. Silly me.

Blog Antagonist said...

As the mother of a spirited child, I know the rage. We are old drinking friends, the two us. It scares me, but it purifies me as well, and it redefines the love for my child in its ferocity. If that makes any sense.

metro mama said...

What an honest, moving post. That rage is frightening, indeed.

Momish said...

The rage is scary, indeed. You have described it so well. I have never been so scared of myself or ashamed at my own lack of patience and selfishness as I have been these past two years (I'm including the awful pregnancy). It's comforting to know I am not alone, very human and will survive it all. Sleep is vital! I hope you find some real soon.

Girl con Queso said...

Beautiful honesty. Love it. And I would comment further, but I too haven't had more than 4 hours sleep since the beginning of time, so my brain is dead. Wish we could toast a shot of espresso together.

Mrs. Chicky said...

The rage and I are old friends. No not friends, acquaintances. We are familiar, let's leave it at that. It's amazing how quickly it can come and go and then come right back again. This was a gutsy post, lady. Bravo.

mad_hatter said...

I am no stranger to the rage. Yet, my husband never slips into it. I find that I am always measuring myself against the benchmark of his even-keel and then getting frustrated with myself for coming up short. It is hard to remind myself that I do most of the parenting, that I am the one she wants to carry her around most of the day, that I am the one she clings to and casts off alternately when she is tired, or sick or frustrated. What I can't figure out is why she hasn't noticed that her behaviour drives me to the point of rage but if she were to bug her father more, he would take it in stride as is his nature.

Beautifully written post, btw. Oh, and congrats on your #100. My next post is #100 and I was going to do a list of lists (it's all but finished) but now I am nervous b/c your list was soooo good.

Kristen said...

The rage comes so much more quickly when you're exhausted. And yes, the way it can lie in wait and pounce on you unexpectedly is...well, disturbing.

I can relate. But you know that.

(I'm glad you made it out for your nature walk anyway - every little "step" counts...)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. Have you been inside my house? Inside my head? I know those moments well.

Ariel Gore, in The Mother Trip, says we need to speak the unspeakable about motherhood, so we're not so isolated. Your post does this so eloquently and with such rhythm.

I remember at my mums' group when Swee'pea was about 3 months old I tried to do this, with much less success. I said, "Boy, those first 6 to 8 weeks, those were some crazy times, eh? I remember a couple of times I envisioned throwing the baby against the wall."

And the other mums looked at me in shock and horror, clamouring, "Oh, I never had that."

So I had to take it back, apologizing, explaining, "Oh. Well it was only for a second, not even a second, and obviously I would never act on it..."

Now I think how naive I was to think those moments only happened with the hormonal cocktail of the first eight weeks. I haven't had four hours sleep in a row since Swee'pea was born.

My word verification word is sphpursy, which seems appropriate... like a grumpy mouth.

Kyla said...

Wow. Great post. You did a wonderful job of explaining that feeling. I've experienced it, too...probably more so when BubTar was a little one, but I still remember it well. I think all moms have felt it, even though nobody talks about it. Brave post. Excellent.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I remember an uncomfortable bruise on my hand for a week after Sweetpea woke me in the middle of the night again. I was so angry I struck the wall and roared. Everybody feels it. I have learned to notice the unexpected note of hysteria in my voice, and plan some time away as soon as possible.

OddMix said...

Your Rage is kin to my Grouch. I like him no more than you like Rage. I am working on evicting him as permanently as possible, but it is a hard thing we attempt.

Rock the Cradle said...

With motherhood came a sudden understanding of those mothers who give up. That intense rage, amplified by innumerable sleepless nights, is a terror. For me it always seems to stem from a feeling of being unfulfilled, whether just from a lack of sleep, or from squandering my time with unnecessary cleaning, or not writing or creating in some way, or jealousy at my Hub for having that feeling of competancy in his work that I no longer have.

Brave posting, B&P. Here's to that 4 hour stretch. I hope it happens for you soon. In the meantime...DEEP breathes. Screaming into a pillow is also a very good thing.

Lili said...

so i was googling for navy blue nail polish because i am desperate to have some. i decided that it would be very cute so i began my quest and apparently, no one carries navy blue! well i saw some comment you left on another person's blog saying you had some and i was wondering what brand it was and where you got it. i really want some and it's impossible to find some!

by the way, my email is lilibish@gmail.com because i don't have a blogger account and that'd be the only way to contact me.

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

WHY don't we talk about this more? At the risk of trying to tell you what to do on your own lovely blog, how about asking for more posts on the topic of maternal rage and posting them a la Kateri ( http://wetfeet.typepad.com/wet_feet/2006/07/boobie_talk.html )with the breastfeeding pics or Her Bad Mother ( http://badladies.blogspot.com/2006/08/speaking-joy-which-cant-be-words.html )with the posts about eros and mother love? I'd certainly have something to say on the topic, and I'm sure other readers would too. I'm a little scared at the thought of all that writing about rage, actually!

Beck said...

Great posts. I think that was going around on Monday, really. I hate that crazy maternal fury, the stuff that really puts to bed any ideas I may have had about my being a decent, nice person. Even though I've never descended into anything like Joan Crawford-esque depths, the fact that I can get THAT angry is awful.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I didn't have a chance to read all the comments -- but I tell you, I could have written this post. My rage was brought on by me being sick (the kids were mostly fine) and my husband leaving town for a week. I didn't need sleep but I did need at least 1/2 an hour in which I was not touching or somehow "fixing" a child. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. I was scary. I was scaring myself.

All better now that my husband's back.

I hope you get the sleep you need. Hang on!

Anonymous said...

How well I remember this.
Excellent post. Man, it took me right back.

bubandpie said...

I should have known better than to be nervous about posting this.

And "honest" is only partially true: I changed "out the window" to "on the floor," and I obfuscated the "you can have them" (ambiguous pronoun references) and eliminated the follow-up sentence that I'm too scared to write down, or say aloud, in case it comes true.

And I thought about adding the obligatory "I love my children desperately and would never do anything to hurt them," but then I thought: you guys know that already. And I can trust you.

gingajoy said...

love this post--it sums up so much that i can empathize with. i've been holding back on a post of my own--related to the growing fear i have of becoming that woman again. the angry unrecognizable one. my son is 4, but now we're starting again. jack had colic, and i think for the first 5 months i was someone who i do not know. someone who just tried to function, who fantasized about more than 2 hours of sleep at one time. hateful, tear-ridden, barely coping.

i reassure myself that with #2 i will be less scared, that we will be seasoned, that we will know that *this* time we'll know what we're doing. but i still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking i can hear a baby cry.

dear God, that sounded a bit gothic. but it's true.

thanks for this post.

sunshine scribe said...

We've all felt that rage but didn't know how to admit it without being hauled away. Your honesty is brilliant and clearly ressonnates with your readers. Especially myself.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is such a beautiful post. I think this rage is part of the reason my husband and I are having such a difficult time: he comes home, and all that rage unleashes on him. The incredible frustration of it all. And then the horrible guilt. Double whammy.

Her Bad Mother said...

I've been there, with the rage. Right now, tho', it's more angry confusion. Not enough energy to be enraged, I guess. But I know it. Know it well.

(Love the picture of Bub. Too rare, those pics!)

Anonymous said...

I am almost without words...it is as though we are living the same life.

I am in the same boat.

It appears to be leaky, no?

Jill said...

Sleep deprivation SUCKS! My younger daughter had sleep apnea and I am surprised she is still alive (meaning that we PARENTS didn't kill her!). She was diagnosed when she was 2 1/2 and had her tonsils and adenoids removed shortly thereafter. Thank god she was not possessed....

Good Luck. There is nothing worse than NOT getting a good night sleep!

Anonymous said...

Oh my. That rage, I know too well. I think I'll have to post on it now too, cause the comment I had just typed was way too long...thank you so much for your awesome post!

Ruth Dynamite said...

It's the cumulative lack of sleep that does us in, I'm afraid. (Any wonder sleep deprivation is a torture tactic?) It fuels the rage. Add a few hormones, some laundry, and a couple of kids and whammo! The fuse ignites. We've all been there, and yes, it's scary.

lildb said...

that about sums it up for me.

except for that expression on the Bub's punim. that defies summation.

Denguy said...

If I may add a male perspective:
Sometimes, I feel as though I'm fighting—with all my strength—the inherent desire to kill my children. When the anger builds, sometimes, I want to attack them as if they are the offspring of a rival alpha male.
When the rage comes, I am a caveman.

Shannon said...

Me, too! Me, too! Me, too! I can't tell you how much better I feel after reading your post and all of the comments. My childhood was quite abusive so the angry feelings terrify me and I thought they were mine alone. I've been researching and buying one parenting book after another trying to figure out how to fix what was wrong with me.

Mary P. said...

I think it matters a lot that you don't speak the rage. I grew up in a home where adult tantrums were the norm. I will never do that to my kids. Have they seen me angry? Of course - but I don't use them as my whipping post.

When I'm raging inside, but don't spew it on them, they can probably tell I'm upset, but they don't ned to plumb the depths with me. Plus, I'm modelling a non-destructive way of dealing with anger. As they matured, I began to model other ways, too, including talking about being angry. But venting your rage on your children (even verbally) is only destructive.

I've found the rage ebbs and flows over the span of their childhood. It's there in those intense, demanding, sleep-deprived early years. Then there's that 4 - 11 years span, which my mother called The Golden Years. And then they hit their teens, and - BAM! - there it is again. Then they move out of the house, hit their twenties, and all's right with the world again.

I'm promising myself not to smirk TOO much when they have children of their own... Heh

Anonymous said...

It took me more than three years of parenting to realize that rage and sleep deprivation are nasty allies. I wrote about it last year, too: http://momm-eh.blogspot.com/2005/08/tired-oh-tired-yes-so-very-very-tired.html

Be good to yourself. It does get easier, when you get a decent amount of sleep.

Suzanne said...

I know I'm late commenting, but I just had to let you know that I really identified with this post. REALLY identified. Before I had children, I never would have considered myself short-tempered or angry. Now, I find that no one makes me as angry as my kids do. It scares me sometimes. I don't think I let it spill out too often, but it's often there, just bubbling under the surface.

kfk said...

I was there, am there still. For the most part, it is gone, but catches me by surprise from time to time. It is not all sugar and spice and everything nice, no where near it. Motherhood has brought rage that I never knew existed. We get through it, I don't know how, but we do.
Hope you find your way through this.

ECR said...

I don't trust anyone who won't admit they've felt this way, sometime. I'm glad to see you and your commenters are very trustworthy people, in my book.

PeanutButtersMum said...

Wow. I am so glad that I came across your blog today. I'm sitting here with my laptop, feeling guilty again. Why? Because once again I have lost my temper with my little Bucket of Rage whom I call Peanut Butter. I threw his shoes at the wall this morning and said, "Fine! We're not going to f-ing church. That's just f-ing fine!"

Thanks so much for putting my feelngs into words and thanks to the rest of the commentators for sharing their rage, too.

I needed that!

Queenheroical said...

Words fail me except to say: been there, done that, looking forward to ... doing it less ...

Thanks for putting it out there.

Kelly said...

Got here from HBM.

The intense rage was something I heard about, but when I actually experienced it? Scared the beejesus out of me.

When my second daughter was an infant and breastfeeding like fifteen fucking times a night and I was getting maybe 30 minutes of sleep at a time if I could relax enough to fall asleep, there was one night where she was just so fussy. I did everything I could do, and if my husband took her, she screamed even louder.

So I took her downstairs and walked with her in the living room, practically shouting in her ear, "I hate you I hate you I hate you." To a four-week old.

And there were many more moments, with both kids. It's scary and terrifying and guilt-inducing and a whole lot else, but it is also part of being a parent. Thanks for writing about it.

RLGelber said...

I love this post! The frustration, I know it well. Just yesterday, I thought to myself, what was I thinking - becoming a parent. Three to four hours of consecutive sleep would be heavenly.

The Mad Momma said...

The rage... I am so ashamed of it... wrote this post on it once and almost deleted it after because i was so shocked by myself. but left it to make other mothers realise we all go through it... http://themadmomma.blogspot.com/2006/10/confession-that-i-am-ashamed-of.html#links

fortunately its never happened again.