The Courage To Be Gentle

Sometimes, a day is so hard that I just can’t turn my brain off at the end of the night. I sit in bed amongst my three sleeping children and my husband and always end up writing. Tonight is one of those nights.

It started with Inara waking up at 5am. My 10 month old unicorn baby wakes up happy with snuggles and a smile and laughter every single morning. It’s just most mornings she wakes before the sun rises.

Both of my older children, River and Serenity, woke early and with an intense “I didn’t get enough sleep” attitude. My husband woke up feeling not so great either.

It was a trashed day before my coffee was brewed.

I fell asleep after that. Woke an hour later with drool sexily dripping out of the corner of my mouth. My phone on my chest. A crick in my neck. A baby asking to nurse.

I put my phone down, took down my propped pillow, snuggled her up, and latched her on. We were both back to sleep before I could even register to remember I had been writing.

There are a lot of things about parenting that are exhausting. Breastfeeding on demand 24/7 is definitely way up there in the list. But there’s one thing in particular that I find the most mentally exhausting of all…and it’s not what most would think.

The way we are raised matters. The things we experience in childhood has a huge impact on what kind of person we become, what tools we have in our toolbox to interact with others, the relationships we choose, the reactions we have.

So, it’s not a huge leap to understand that adults who had abusive, neglected, or damaged childhoods enter the adult world with far fewer tools and abilities to navigate life than those with well rounded healthy upbringings.

My childhood was not the latter of those descriptions. Physical and verbal abuse…emotional neglect…unstable parents and the constant use of love as a threat and tool for compliance has left me with a very deserted tool box.

So, since I escaped their abuse in 2009, I have worked tirelessly to add to my tool box. I did pretty damn well! After some trial and error with abusive relationships, I found an incredible and wonderful man I now call my husband. I have built an awesome network of supportive and loving mom’s with epic kids to surround my kids with. But it was in having those kids that showed me just how far I still had to go and how empty my toolbox still was.

It is finding the daily courage to be gentle that requires the most intricate and intensive tools. And it is having that thrown in my face daily that shows me just how much courage that takes.

Having courage to be gentle means overriding your triggers. I don’t mean the over used obnoxious definition of “triggers” that mom Facebook groups use for just about freaking EVERYTHING. A trigger is a neurological response of the amygdala in the brain. It’s when someone has PTSD from being raped, beaten, war, or similar experiences. The brain takes in something that reminds it of the experience like a sound, smell, etc and believes the experience is happening again.

You know the fight or flight experience when you get scared or something dangerous happens? It’s like that on steroids.

Triggers can cause flashbacks, disassociation, panic attacks, body sensations, hyperventilating, uncontrollable crying, shaking, extreme fear, aggression, and more. It’s definitely not a matter of “it offends me and I don’t want to hear about it.” ūüôĄ

So, let’s get really real for a minute.

When you’ve battled through a broken childhood, your children trigger you. It isn’t their fault. It isn’t your fault. But it happens. Also, when you’re faced with a parenting situation, often you have no tools to draw from. The brain back draws to situations in your childhood and how your parents responded to you. This is your knee jerk response.

So, courage is being able to interrupt and stop that knee jerk response and often respond in a way that usually makes you feel at best uncomfortable let and at worst triggered.

It’s not freaking easy.

In fact, it’s so hard, there are entire books about it. There’s entire branches of therapy specifically for it. Building tools as a kid is easy. But building them as an adult is so very difficult.

It’s hard. But I work hard to do it. Why? Because my kids deserve a childhood they don’t need to recover from. That is my only goal as a parent.

Have the courage to be gentle.

Shower those people with broken child selves in your life with deep and honest love because their everyday lives raising their children are riddled with scenarios that call upon incredible and selfless strength and grit.

This has taken me so long to write. Another night sitting in bed amongst three sleeping children. Another night I feel totally and utterly exhausted at the end of it.

But today, I watched my three girls play with one another. They giggled and cooperated and hugged and snuggled each other. They endlessly asked for hugs and snuggles. They said “I love you” SO many times. They helped cook, helped clean, and the bigs went stomping in the puddles all by themselves.

And I am far from the perfect mother. And I may or may not have dozed off mid story reading because I was up until 3am with Inara (ūüėā). And I may have needed extra coffee and had some really intense “holy cannoli please give my body space for a minute” moments.

But every moment of today, and everyday, I draw from the depths of myself my courage to be gentle.

Because they truly deserve every ounce of energy it takes.

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4 Reasons NOT to Arrive Unannounced at a Stay-At-Home Mom’s House

For three hours you have been fighting a teething, growth spurting, angry at life child down for a nap. ¬†When you finally transfer the now sleeping little and shake off the stress of the battle, gazing lovingly at their little sleeping face……THE DOORBELL RINGS.

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That tiny sleeping face contorts and their body squirms and you not only have someone impatiently waiting at the door (or not because yay delivery people who ding dong ditch when leaving a package) but you also have a crying baby who is now beyond over tired and just as frustrated as you that they are awake again.

I think it’s safe to say that every stay-at-home parent has experienced this exact scenario. ¬†Some have a dog that barks in response to the doorbell or knock. ¬†All usually respond with a bunch of words that are typically seen in a blog like this, “$&%#”

For me, that scenario is with TWO children since I have twins. ¬†The battle is almost always epic and I feel victorious and accomplished when I finally get them both down for a nap and somehow scoot away from their nursing sucker lips. ¬†So, seeing as I currently at this moment have napping twins, here are some reasons NOT to arrive unannounced at someone’s home when they have kids.

  1. The above scenario is not a joke: ¬†I cannot tell you how many times a delivery man has left a package and rung the doorbell before skipping off back to their truck. ¬†Not only does it make often freak out the dogs, scare the crap out of me, and wake the babies, but I have NO idea it is a delivery man leaving a package and not someone who actually needs my attention. ¬†So I end up opening the door with a crying child, boob usually out, to find no one there. ¬†I cannot tell you how infuriating that is. ¬†Even more infuriating is when that person wants to come in and hang out or “just drop something off” or “just wants to chat”. ¬†Love you. ¬†Love the thought. ¬†You should have called first. ¬†No. ¬†Texted. ¬†Because I can’t answer your phone call with a sleeping baby leech either. ūüôā
  2. More than likely, I am at least partially naked: ¬†Breastfeeding, especially in the early days, and ESPECIALLY with twins, means that my boobs are out….a lot. ¬†Newborns often stay latched 20 out of 24 hours each day or more and that is normal and necessary and right. ¬†Growth spurts and cluster feeding are pretty intense throughout infancy and toddlerhood. ¬†And quite frankly, it gets old having your shirt pulled on or fighting with it for breast access all the damn time. ¬†My solution? ¬†There is absolutely no need for a shirt when it’s warm in the house and you’re home alone with your nursling(s). ¬†Don’t arrive unannounced because boobs are most likely out and I don’t have an “oh s***” shirt laying out preparing for your arrival.
  3. On top of being naked, there’s a good chance I can’t physically get up: ¬†Take this scenario right here. This is the first time we got the girls latched tandem since they image1 (3)were in the nicu with specialists to help. They were over a month old already. If I were alone and someone knocked on the door or rang the doorbell I literally would not be able to get to the door. I have a burp cloth propping up my breasts to the right height, two pillows under each side of the My BreastFriend Pillow, at least two rolled up receiving blankets to prop the girls sideways, and two pillows to keep them in place. Plus a pillow or two behind my back and one under my butt. It took so much effort to get here. If someone rang my doorbell when I got here and disturbed the nursing session I would be a very very angry Mama Bear.
  4. My home is a disaster: ¬†I play with my kids. ¬†I cook food for them. ¬†I try to cook food for myself. ¬†We make messes. ¬†We make dishes. ¬†They throw food on the floor. ¬†They decorate the home with toys. ¬†I probably haven’t vacuumed in a week because it requires two people to do so. ¬†My life is about taking care of the kids, not cleaning. ¬†That usually means my home looks horrible to anyone who doesn’t have young kids and as much as I have confidence in my above statements, I don’t really want unannounced guests to SEE that disaster. ¬†It causes me all sorts of unnecessary feelings that I don’t need to give energy to.

So, next time you are thinking about just dropping in on a stay-at-home Mom, shoot her a text first.¬† I am sure that she will appreciate the heads up and opportunity to say “thanks but next time” if it’s been a particularly tough day.¬† Even more so, she may just ask you to bring a coffee on your way over. ūüėČ