Baby Elisabeth leads a pretty sweet life. She gets to wear pajamas in public. She gets toted around all day in a warm, comfy carrier. It is totally socially acceptable for her to cry when she’s hungry. I often feel like crying when I get hungry, but I’m pretty sure that would come off as bad behavior.
Despite this cushy existence, I can’t forget about or ignore the traumatic moments that Baby suffers. Mainly because every traumatic moment she suffers is far, far worse for me. I don’t mean that to sound selfish, and I imagine most moms would agree with me. Let’s take shots, for example. Shots must truly be a horrific experience for an infant, but I’d wager watching her child in pain is much worse for the mom. Babies forget those distressing moments. Moms remember.
Elisabeth’s two-month check up was pretty much the worse day known to man. Or at least to me. I dreaded that day. I agonized over that day. I lost sleep over that day. Eventually it came time to face the inevitable, and so I took Elisabeth – my sweet, happy Elisabeth – into the torture chamber. I stripped her down. I held her body down while she looked up at me, cooing and smiling, completely unaware of what was to come. The corpsman administered the first shot. And then it happened: the shocked expression, the lip quiver, followed at last by the all-out wail. Then behind the tears, the look of despair, abandonment –Why are you letting this happen to me?
I choked back my own tears. Two more shots to go. Time seemed to stand still as I watched Elisabeth scream, unable to comfort her. Why are you taking so long! I wanted to shout to the corpsman, but decided that that would be unproductive. At last he finished and I hurriedly picked up my baby to comfort her, turning away from the evil, needle-wielding man to hide my own tears.
And like that, Elisabeth was fine.
I was not. I cried more than the baby did.
And then we got to repeat it all again at four months. Literally within seconds of her shots, Elisabeth was laughing and blowing razzies while I was left a quivering mess. Does she not realize she’s supposed to be in pain right now?
Last week I got to experience a whole other kind of mama trauma – leaving the baby for the first time. Well, leaving the baby for the first time with someone other than a blood relative. Upon arriving in Japan and on-base, Damon and I had to take a base orientation class as well as an intercultural relations class that lasted a week. Babies were not allowed. I vehemently protested this policy but to no avail, and thus reluctantly took Elisabeth to daycare.
There were tears, of course. Mine. She’s going to hate me! She’s going to think I abandoned her! Yet Elisabeth seemed oblivious to the fact that her mom was going to vanish for the next several hours and leave her with STRANGERS. I handed her off, waiting for some sign of distress. Separation anxiety? Anything?
Nope, nothing. So I left, a pit in my stomach. It won’t take long. She’s going to meltdown as soon as she realizes I’m not coming back. And maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. I popped in every afternoon at lunch to check on her and feed her, and sure, there had been tears, but because she missed me or because she was tired or because she was hungry, I’ll never know. But still there were tears! And I couldn’t be there to comfort her! The thought was heartbreaking.
The last day of daycare, at my noon-time visit, Elisabeth seemed disinterested in me. Oh, I’ve done it! She’s totally pissed at me! I’d be pissed, too, if I kept getting unexpectedly dropped off in an alien playroom. So I sadly put her down and began to leave to return to my class, crushed that at 5-months, I had so traumatized Elisabeth by my desertion of her that she had turned against me.
But then she cried.
Yesss! She still loves me! I tried to stifle my smile (because smiling at a crying child is cruel) as I rushed to hold my baby, knowing that through her trauma or mine, a good hug is a pretty good cure-all.
What are your mama-trauma moments?Read More