I have two wonderful sons whom I love dearly. Each night as I check on them before going to bed, I kiss each one and even though they're 4 and 5 1/2, 1 still marvel at their existence in my life. However, as I walk to my own room, I am aware of a feeling that something - someone - is missing. I should be tucking in more than these two. It isn't a painful feeling because I'm still in awe that I have living children in my life. Rather, it's a presence around me that signifies the absence of my first four babies and my youngest son's identical twin. It's as if I'm having a dream with the dream being my life with two healthy sons - a dream that was ten years in the making - and I'm afraid when I wake up, they'll be gone and the grief will engulf me once again.
Obviously, I'm not dreaming and on those days when my boys are acting like typical preschoolers and aggressive siblings, I KNOW I'm not dreaming. But in this love affair and joy I have with parenting, I'm often flooded with self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. What if I'm overprotective? Will my boys grow up with the Vulnerable Child Syndrome as I did as a child? Will they feel smothered and hate me for it as they grow up? What it I'm not protective enough? What it something happens to one of them? What it they get sick, and I don't get them to the doctor soon enough? What it, what it, what if?????
Paranoid mother? Yes, that's me. However, I refuse to apologize for it anymore. I don't feel like a normal parent - but what exactly is a normal parent? Since I didn't have any living children before experiencing my losses, I didn't have any parenting skills to fall back on. Not only was I coping with the typical new parent adjustments, I was finding myself grieving for my babies (I finally knew firsthand what I had missed as I cared for Eric) and adjusting to a baby who cried constantly.
I attended a class for new moms after Eric was born. I wanted to see what 'normal' everyday moms were like. I felt like an outsider and definitely different. They complained openly and often about sleepless nights, crying, sore nipples, deadbeat dads, and even what they termed "unsuccessful deliveries" meaning they had to have a cesarean, episiotomy, or epidural. Boy, could I tell them a thing or two about what an unsuccessful delivery really means! I was tired from sleepless nights and a baby who cried the first 4+ months of his life from hyperstimulation and neurological immaturity but me complain? Goodness no!! I had to be the perfect parent or someone might take this baby away! I had worked too hard to get him. I couldn't have handled the guilt if I had complained. It would have been a case of getting what I desperately wanted but wasn't happy with it!
I've since learned in the last five years that I am anything but the perfect parent and my sons are anything but the perfect children - BUT - we are normal in our definition of the word. We're happy and healthy for us and our history, and that is what is important. I still beat myself up a lot for having those 'normal' parenting feelings, but I can recognize them for what they are - normal and healthy. We simply aren't going to like our kids 24 hours a day and they definitely aren't going to like us all the time either. But we always love them and my children KNOW that. I shouldn't belittle my parenting skills with that accomplishment on my shoulders!
Parenting subsequent babies is a lot like a roller coaster ride that can be wilder than subsequent pregnancy! I'm still in awe that I have these miracles in my life, and I'm afraid that I might make them feel vulnerable because they are so precious to me. However, anyone who knows my boys knows that they feel anything but vulnerable despite their paranoid mother! I have learned to set limits for them and myself, to be as consistent and patient as possible, and most of all, loving. I've also learned that they're growing up far too fast for me to be preoccupied with my fears. I would simply miss too much. Are they overprotected? In today's crime-infested society, you betcha! Are they spoiled? Well . . . as our pediatrician says, 'they're not spoiled, just loved an extra lot!"
Copyright March 1993 by Maribeth Doerr
PS (April 2001) . . . Eric and Chad are now 13 1/2 and 12. Most of the time, I feel like the average parent of adolescents; however, I use my early parenting experiences to remind me of how special the gift of parenting is. My boys are still overprotected in this day of school shootings and other horrific crimes. But they don't seem to feel a bit vulnerable or resentful. They're happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids despite their paranoid mother (and father!), and I still rejoice everyday that I've been SO blessed. If going through so many losses and heartache is what it took to get me to this place, then it was indeed, worth every second.
Maribeth's Parenting Tips
A wonderful book is The Long-Awaited Stork: A Guide to Parenting After Infertility by Ellen Sarasohn Glazer. Even though it focuses on parenting after infertility, any parent who has experienced a rough road to parenthood can relate. Ms. Glazer discusses parenting from the pre-pregnancy stage on up to adolescence and includes parenting after adoption, donor insemination, surrogacy, multiple births, only children and special needs children. It's definitely worth reading! Published by Jossey-Bass, 2nd edition, 1998. ISBN: 0-7879-4053-4W01
- Children need limits - don't be afraid to discipline
- Listen to the multitude of advice thrown at you with a deaf ear. You're the parent. Follow your instincts.
- You simply can't spoil a newborn baby. They need love and affection - and lots of it!
- Don't forget about your marriage by becoming completely engrossed in your new baby to the point of ignoring your mate. The rest of the family loves and needs you too.
- Allow your child the opportunity to explore, to make mistakes and find her own individuality.
- Establish an open relationship with your pediatrician as soon as possible. Explain your history and what type of medical care you expect. You may need to shop for the kind of pediatrician you feel most comfortable with. You're bound to feel anxious when your child is ill but you shouldn't have to explain that each time you go the doctor.
- Relax! And Enjoy! The more nervous you are, the more you'll miss of the most exciting time in your life!