I will never forget one of the first times we left the house with Austen. We didn't even make it out of the neighborhood. Not two blocks down the road, I shouted at John to stop the car, ran around to her side, swung open the door, unstrapped her as quickly as I could, and pulled her hot, stiff, gasping and screaming, bright red-and-purple body out of the carseat. She had begun screaming instantly when I put her in, and didn't stop. The screams became worse until they were high-pitched, frantic, as though she were in pain, and she started holding her breath for a longer than what was comfortable. Her entire body was rigid. I had never seen such a young infant so upset. She was one week old. I started crying because it scared me. I didn't know what was wrong, and felt horrible that whatever it was ailing her, my tiny newborn had to experience this amount of emotional or physical pain. She hadn't been pinched by the buckle. The straps weren't too tight. She wasn't too hot or too cold. She nursed on-demand and often, so I know she wasn't hungry. She let out exhausted little sob-hiccups as we nursed in the front seat. I stroked her hair and tried to reassure her with a soothing voice that mommy was there and everything was okay. Ten minutes later I put her back in the carseat and we were on our way -- and she was fine. This type of crying from her became so frequent, by the time she was a few weeks old, it hardly phased me.
Austen has always been like this. There is so much intensity and emotion in her tiny body.
She is extremely particular. When she was a baby, I'm talking two to six months, she had to be held a certain way. Not just on the hip, or in a cradle hold. She had to be twisted between arms, held by her chest, on people's shoulders, swung like a carnival ride. She didn't have bad colic, but there were a few days when she would cry for 45 minutes to an hour and I didn't know what to do with her. A handful of times I had to let her cry for a few minutes while I left the room and regained my composure. I'm surprised it wasn't ever worse than this. It usually just came down to finding a position she really liked, or swinging her swiftly. My arms and emotions would be worn.
One time when she was about three months old, she was playing with a toy that fell out of her reach. She screached and screamed in anger as she grasped for it, and wasn't happy until someone handed it to her again. That is the exact moment I knew -- my child is going to be very strong-willed. Toddler Austen might be a little scary.
Distraction did not work with Austen. When she was about 7 months old and became increasingly more mobile and began pulling up and crawling, once she had her mind fixed on something, she was not giving up. Taking the object away, removing her from the situation, and giving her something else to play with quickly became a non-option. She would not fall for that, as most babies would. She would go back again and again. Nothing I offered would top what she really wanted. I might hold out something for her to grab and speak in my most enticing baby voice, and she would glance at it, unamused, and turn her attention back to the object she wanted. Her focus was impressive. She's smart, my family would chuckle.
She hated be surprised or scared and she was easily overwhelmed. Popping up from nowhere and saying, "Peekaboo!" only made her cry. Stacking blocks and toppling them over made her cry. Loud noises, crowds, new places, and new situations made her cry.
The ages of sevenish to 16 months were rather pleasant. Once she was more mobile and could entertain herself (and retrieve her own toys), she didn't cry as much. She threw passionate mini-fits from time to time, but they never lasted more than a few minutes and all I had to do to calm her down was pick her up and stroke her back. She would melt into me and forget about being angry.
Lately, however, she has become increasingly difficult. Some days, all day long I hear high-pitched ear piercing screams, from something as simple as River taking a toy away. Just a couple weeks ago, when I put her in time-out in her room, she would get distracted and play and come out happily when her timer went off. Now she screams bloody murder and pounds at the door with all her might. I have decided I can't do this to discipline her anymore; it's too much of a strain on the both of us, and she exhausts herself. It is not a "gentle" parenting method that works for her. I can't go to the bathroom without her screaming outside the door, or sit at teh computer without her screaming to sit on my lap.
Most of the time I am emotionally, mentally exhausted. When she is by herself, she can be an angel. No brother to fight with, no sharing required, no older influence. She listens well and is happy. But when the two of them are together, it brings out the worst in her, and all I do is count down the hours until they can go to bed, and I don't have to listen to her scream any more. I don't know what to do. I feel like a failure as a parent. This is the one thing I've always known I want to do: be a mother. Since I was tiny. I've always wanted a houseful of children, I've always wanted to homeschool and devote all my time and energy into raising kids, and I feel like I can't even do that well.
My patience is worn thin enough, and I feel like Austen's intensity plucks away at the strings holding me together. I love her so much. I get so much joy out of holding her, kissing her little upturned nose, nursing her, chomping on her toes. I love watching her, reading to her, spending time with her. But the screaming and constant out-pour of emotion does me in.
My husband is a patient person. He doesn't yell or loose his patience. He can put our daughter to bed in five minutes. He can stay home with the kids all day and have the entire house clean, both kids bathed and in bed, and dinner waiting on the stove. He is a better stay-at-home-parent than I am, and that's supposed to be my job description!
I wish being a mom came easier to me. Often, I think my children deserve better. I wish constant talking, questions, screaming, bickering, arguing, and being ignored didn't phase me. I wish I had an endless supply of patience. I wish I didn't snap and yell. It seems that as my patience increases with one child, the other starts giving me another issue. Sometimes I do believe being a mother brings out the worst in me. I don't feel worthy of raising these two precious souls. I have one chance to do it right, and I don't think I'm doing a very good job.
I have recently realized that the thing about having a blog with a modest audience is that you seem to have to have an answer for what you're writing about. You can go through a trying time, and then write this how-to blog post for how other moms can get through it. But you can't be in the middle of a journey. Well, I don't have an answer for this one.