This is for all the moms…
So many people ask, “How do you do it with three?” Sometimes not very well is the honest answer. While looking up “what to do when triplets cry,” I came across a triplet mom blogger who said she feels like a failure on a daily basis. When I was teaching, I got to a place where I felt pretty competent at my job. Not that I was perfect, because there’s always room for improvement as I used to tell my students, but that I knew what I was doing and could generally do it well.
My rational brain knows that there are things beyond my control (reflux, gas, tired babies, etc.). I can handle most crying most days. But some episodes reduce me to an irrational hysterical mess.
Last week, twice in one day all three woke up screaming. Sometimes they set each other off, sometimes they’re all genuinely unhappy simultaneously. On one of those occasions, I ended up sitting on the floor holding one baby while trying to soothe the one in the bouncy chair, sobbing while Maya tried to soothe the third.
I felt horrible because I was frustrated at this tiny baby who clearly was freaked out by something: gastrointestinal distress, siblings’ screaming, overtiredness, whatever. No matter what I did, she couldn’t calm down. This, of course, does not last for hours or days, but in the moment feels like an eternity. And I told the baby to just stop crying. Mom of the Year, right there. Afterward, when the baby had recovered herself, she smiled at me. Which made me feel even worse, that I had spoken to her out of irritation rather than compassion.
In the past few days, there have been what Alan calls “scream feeds”–a baby just doesn’t want to / can’t eat and screams while we try to feed her. If she were three, I could say, “Sure, you don’t need to eat now. But you don’t get any snacks later.” But she is four months old, and it is my job to make sure she is fed. What do you do when a baby screams whenever the bottle touches her lips? She may have a bit of head congestion. She hasn’t burped well in a couple of days. I have tried every trick I know and she screams herself purple after a few frantic sucks.
That kind of painful, panicked screaming inevitably gives me a physical as well as emotional pain. If I am, as the mom, the one who can console this child, then often I am inadequate because I am nursing or trying to soothe someone else. If I cannot, as the mom, console this child, then I am inadequate because if I can’t, who can? Isn’t that my main function?
Sometimes a baby refuses to breastfeed but will take a bottle, which also feels like a mom-fail–another one of my main functions deemed inadequate by the four-month-old.
All of these reactions are completely ridiculous. My logical voice tells me so. I’m doing as much as I can for these babies. Still, whatever drives the emotional reaction–hormones, fatigue, powerlessness–is powerful. At least the overreactions don’t happen on a daily basis; that might be enough to drive Alan over the edge.
So this is for all the moms who feel like failures on a daily basis. But especially me. It’s probably normal to feel this way, that if I were a really good mom I would never get frustrated. We are fully adequate. We are successful. We are powerful. We are Good Moms.