It is a strange world I inhabit these days. I am intensely grateful to be the mother of two boys I fought hard – desperately, compulsively, fantastically hard – to conceive, carry and avoid losing amidst eight pregnancies I lost along the way. Yet I find myself committing one parenting failure after another. The guilt, shame and utter loneliness of that fact boggles my mind.
And keeps me awake at night.
The nightmares and middle-of-the-night waking for hours on end (minimum of 1.5 hours, maximum so far 4 hours, average of 2.5-3 hours) continue. Of late my subconscious mind has been traumatizing me with nightmares related to a recent waking anxiety of mine – dry drowning. And as of last night, real drowning. The dreams began with my toddler – the Miracle Toddler (MT) – accidentally (dry) drowning a very young puppy. I woke up before finding out if the puppy ultimately survived though it was conscious by the time I awoke in a cold sweat.
Last night in my final bad dream the MT dropped himself into a moving body of water after he dramatically ran away from me trying to redirect his troublesome behaviour (i.e., he was misbehaving and mad at me for trying to discipline him). In short, it was my fault. Or so it felt. And I couldn’t get into the water immediately to rescue him. I didn’t think to yell back at his dad to call 911. All in all, a monstrous parenting fail.
I woke up gutted emotionally. I hadn’t yet rescued the MT. I watched him sinking. Everyone moved in slow motion. I hated my mind for ever going to this awful place. And I felt – feel (did I mention that my mother’s first son drowned?) – frightened and unhinged. Ashamed. And scared that maybe my dreams are trying to tell new something but I don’t know what.
What on earth is wrong with my mind that it must torment me so?
If I am compassionate and brutally honest with myself (which in my view go hand in hand for how else does one cut through the stories we tell ourselves?) I think there are a few things at play.
1. I am struggling with this job of parenting after recurrent loss. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. That is a challenging place from which to attempt to live a full, meaningful and present-centred life. I wonder if this qualifies as a form of post-traumatic stress?
2. I am not getting quality rest. This likely is both fueled by and exacerbates numbers 1 and 3 in this list.
3. I have bitten off more than I ought to be chewing. For example, I am doing volunteer work, home renovations by myself, providing full time care to a very young baby and part time care for a very spirited, extremely active and sometimes physically combative three year old (he is in a dayhome part of most weekdays), caring for and nursing back to health a chronically diseased 15-year old cat rescued from a close family member with whom I no longer know how to relate or particularly want to (cue guilt, hurt and anger) and wrestling with massive financial anxieties at home and applying for financing to address that, to name a few items on my to-do and worry lists. Oh and I would really love to write a book before I have to return to work. (Call me a pipe dreamer. You won’t be the first.)
4. Speaking of work… I am dreading my return to it. My planned leave is half over and I feel crushed about that. And ripped off; I spent the first eight weeks recovering from two major surgeries that included a ruptured appendix and resulting peritonitis and working my breasts off trying to establish a decent milk supply after the appendicitis fiasco. It feels unfair. The thought of leaving baby Azulito on December 1st makes my heart hurt.
If it weren’t for the financial issues I would tell the LP I want to stay home longer and that we need to figure out a way to make that happen. But in our home I pay for all of our costs of living – which includes our food and other household purchases, mortgage, utilities, childcare, property taxes, insurance, home and my cell phones, Internet, cable that I never watch, yard care because I’m allergic to cut grass so can’t do that job and because in the few waking hours of each day in which the LP is home I want him to spend it with us not the lawnmower, car payments, car maintenance, gas (except on the LPs car) – and the LP cannot afford to take on those costs while I take a longer leave.
I could pull the MT out of his dayhome and save $800 a month. But then I would have to find him and baby Azulito a new caregiver when I go back to work. I like our caregiver at the MTs dayhome. He loves her and the kids there. I want to break down and issue big ugly sobs just thinking about that option so it has never really been an option.
As for cutting other expenses, I already terminated my gym membership to save that monthly expense. The only ones I could really eliminate are the cable and yard work expenses. The yard expenses end after this month anyway so that’s a plus. The LP is a tv addict (in denial) so we have compromised by agreeing to only keep the minimum basic cable and his sports channels. That will save me a couple of hundred dollars per year I think.
I have thought about selling my car to get rid of the payments and buying something much cheaper but it has some hit and run damage and a stupid pregnant exhausted mommy moment’s damage (I scraped the front bumper) and paying to fix all of that would eliminate a good chunk of the profit not to mention requiring cash we don’t have on hand. Plus then I would end up with an older car that in all likelihood would need major repairs eventually and new tires almost immediately when our scary-driving winter hits. So not a great option though I am considering seeing what I could get if I traded it in for a decent used vehicle just to end the payments on it. Then in a couple of years when we got our financial bearings back maybe I could get a newer car again.
I have thought about selling our home and moving into a condo close to either work or the dayhome so I could take public transit and we could reduce to one car but with two small kids, a senior dog and now a geriatric cat (you’d never know either animal was a “senior” if you watched them move or saw them but both need medications every day – another expense I cover 100%) it is hard to imagine how that would work. Selling to buy a home in another location would actually cost us money not save any so that’s not an option.
Is it any wonder I lie awake at night unable to sleep and have terrifying dreams about one or both of my previous boys being taken away from me? Something has to give. Clearly.