We were trying to watch a movie.
We were trying to watch a movie, just the two of us, after the kids were in bed. David had brought home a projector from the office and set it up in our (finished) attic for the girls’ sleepover, so we thought we’d take advantage of having a “movie theater” in our home and watch a movie.
We were trying to watch a movie. Just the two of us. But Olive kept waking up. And waking up. And waking up.
We were trying to watch a movie so I finally brought her up to the attic, thinking I could hold her, but she was then WIDE AWAKE and squirmy and fussing and not going back to sleep.
We were trying to watch a movie, but we couldn’t hear it over the baby.
I put her back to sleep 3, 4, 6 times. I put her back to bed, crept up the attic stairs, turned the movie back on… and BAM. Fussing again.
We were trying to watch a movie, but after about two hours, we’d only seen twenty minutes of the movie.
Finally I just laid down with Olive. She refused to nurse. She just wanted to squirm and fuss and flail around. I tried swaddling her. I tried unswaddling her, thinking it was pissing her off to be wrapped up. I tried shushing her, rocking her, rubbing her little cheek. I tried nursing her again. Singing to her. Patting her butt, just the way that usually soothes her.
Meanwhile, David was waiting for me. Because, you see, we were trying to watch a movie.
But she wouldn’t just settle down. She was fed. Warm. Dry. Being cuddled, for Christ’s sake! She wasn’t sick. She USUALLY was asleep at that time of night. But she WOULDN’T SLEEP. We were trying to watch a movie, just one single little movie, and she wouldn’t let us.
And that’s when it happened. I got so frustrated and angry that for a brief moment, I really wanted to hurt my baby. I want to hit her. Or push her off the side of the bed. Or throw her.
I’ve had plenty of those bizzar-o mothering thoughts; you know, like not wanting to stand on a balcony for fear that you might just suddenly drop your baby over the edge. Or being near a body of water and thinking calmly “…if I just dropped her… would she… float?” Those thoughts are troublesome and weird and (thankfully) very, very fleeting. But they also come to me in moments of calm. Like, they just pop into my head. And they are rare. RARE. I think with each of my babies, I’ve had them only a couple of times. They just happen. And then they are gone.
But this? This was anger. This was temper. This was why they teach you over and OVER “Don’t shake your baby!” Because? I wanted to shake my baby. We were trying to watch a movie, see, and we were trying and trying and TRYING, and she kept interrupting us.
Is it so much to ask to have less than two hours, just my husband and me, in a different room from the baby, to watch a movie? TWO EFFING HOURS. That’s all. I’ll nurse you all goddamn night, and HAVE– every night of your life, for the past 4.5 months– but I just want TWO HOURS. I felt myself, teetering there, on the edge, deciding should I or shouldn’t I. I felt myself WANTING to hurt my baby, wanting the satisfaction of giving in to the impulse. I imagined myself doing it, and in that dark, dark moment… IT FELT GOOD, imagining it.
I didn’t hurt my baby. I did pull out her paci and yell/growl at her “What do you WANT, Olive?” and I did sigh a ton, and I did feel very, very sorry for myself. But the moment of wanting to hurt her passed quickly, and David came in and took her and rocked her in a different room.
I didn’t hurt her because I know better. Or because I have a husband who was there, who was willing to help in any way I needed. Or because God stepped in and put his hand on my shoulder and whispered peace across my body. I don’t know why I didn’t hurt her, honestly. But I didn’t.
I didn’t hurt her. But I wanted to. I’m a good mother. I am an educated person. I have an excellent support system. I live in an emotionally healthy household, with an emotionally healthy relationship with my husband. I am not depressed or anxious or suffering from any kind of mental illness. We have the financial means to seek help (babysitting, therapy or drugs if needed, etc) and provide for ourselves (plenty of food, clothing, entertainment, a nice place to live etc). I am very bonded with my baby. I have resources I can rely on to help me in times of need. And yet, I wanted to hurt my baby. Briefly. In passing. A flash, a flare, then it was over. But still. I felt it.
I wanted to hurt my baby because she was interrupting me. She was interrupting my MOVIE. She wasn’t screaming for hours on end. She wasn’t doing anything all that “hard” to parent, really. There was only ONE of her, unlike when her twin sisters were this age. But I still wanted to hurt her for ruining my plans for the evening.
The next morning. The sun streaming in the windows. The baby awake in the crook of my arm. Wiggling with smiles. Squirming with glee at the sight of me. Hi! Hi, hi, hi Mommy! I’m awake! You’re awake! HI! Hi, hi, hi, hi! I’m so happy to see you! We’re both awake! Hi!
The emotions of the night before seems so silly, in the sunshine. Seem so silly with this impossibly cute, impossibly happy, double-chinned little cherub. How could I have wanted to hurt her?
The sunlight that comes into our bedroom in the morning is all-illuminating, filling all the space, leaving no corner unlit. My baby’s smiles are the same way; when she looks at you and grins, it fills all the cells of your body with its light and joy.
In the morning, in the sunlight, darkness seems impossible. Cuddling my cooing baby, kissing her squishy cheeks, I can barely remember wanting to hurt her. Was it a dream? A vision? Something I made up?
It was darkness. Because no matter how much light is coming in the window now, no matter how much I have to blink my eyes because of its brightness, no matter how warm it is on my skin, there is still darkness in motherhood.
There is darkness in motherhood. But thankfully, there is also so, so, so much light.