It's been a long time since I've written a blog. I've been incredibly, indescribably busy. I'm starting to think that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but it's too late now. I usually enjoy being busy, because when I'm not going 100 miles an hour, I feel unproductive. The last few days have been unproductive at best. Yesterday I didn't change out of my pajamas until 4 p.m. I've eaten irregularly, spent a lot of time laying on the couch, and haven't done much of anything. No, I'm not sick. My daughter is. We've seen 3 doctors in 4 days. It's been terribly exhausting, even though we haven't really done anything. The exhaustion comes from the stress of seeing my child sick, crying, and in distress, and being helpless to do anything about it.
A phenomenon occurs when our children cry, especially the legitimate "I'm hurt" cries, the cries while in the throes of sickness, and the cries of real fear and confusion. Our bodies respond to their stress. It's a vicarious phenom; an absorption of our child's emotions that are almost totally out of our control. I think it's an epic feeling of helplessness that causes this vicarious pain. Do children know how to cope with their stress? When they are vomiting helplessly, do they know relaxation techniques to help them breathe deeply to postpone the next heave? When they can't stop coughing, do they have the clarity to drink a few sips of water and sit in a room full of steam and try to catch their breaths? Of course not. They are in the throes of the moment. Their tiny bodies, when overcome with sickness, pain, or fear, stop responding to cues and sort of fall apart. Their tears are the only thing they have control over, so they let them fall, usually uncontrollably.
When my daughter cries, I typically have one of two reactions. If I can tell that she is 'faking it' I will gently comfort her, then ignore. If she needs help but wants me to do it for her, I try to encourage her to do it herself, then help her if necessary. I can usually just let it go, offer her a tissue, encourage her, and she's just dandy. However, when she is truly crying, whether it be from pain, sickness, or fear - I totally lose it. It's as if I forget that there is a whole world that is spinning and I just want to make sure that my daughter is alright. I want every tear to dry up and I want all to be right with her world again. This is, of course, impossible, as what she's experiencing is legitimate and this is the only reaction she knows. As I try to comfort her, she continues crying, and the above phenomenon starts to happen. I feel my eyes start to sting and there's that familiar lump in my throat. I forget how to be a grown-up and succumb to crying with my daughter, because I can't fix her and that's one of the most difficult feelings that comes hand-in-hand with parenting. Suddenly her stress is my stress and now we're both total wrecks.
I can't put my finger on why this happens, but I'm thinking it is somehow connected to maternal instinct, although I am sure that there are some fathers who experience this same reaction. I can keep it together in many other circumstances, and I can hold in my own tears, even if I'm having a really hard day. Yet, when it comes to my child and her health and well-being, I just lose it.
That's why the past few days have been so difficult. I haven't been sick, but my daughter has, and I've absorbed all of her stress and all of her pain and all of her fear over what's happening to her body when everything is out of her control. It's a helplessness that parents can't name or fix, so we cling to our babies and take on their stress because we can't go in and take out the sickness and make it our own. We have to do something - we're driven to do something - so we sit and cry with our children to feel like we have some control. We don't. Our children will get sick. Our children will get lost. Our children will get scared. We can't prevent those things from happening, but we can sit and cry with our kids and let them know that they don't have to experience the painful things in life alone.
Brooke + JuneBug