Breaking In Front of Baby

Yesterday I broke.

I knew it was coming. I could feel myself getting rougher around the edges. Edgier, more impulsive, more inclined to sudden fits of rage. I’m weaning off of my mood stabilizing medication in preparation for childbirth in five weeks and the new, breastfeeding safe, medication that will start after that. I’m beginning to learn I don’t wean off of things very well.

I knew I was going to break. I told people I was feeling “not okay.” It’s a hard thing to describe, the sense that you are losing control and you’re not quite sure when it’s going to happen or what it’s going to look like. “Not okay” is the closest I’ve come to being able to put it into words.

And then I did. I lost it. I lost it while I was alone with my two and a half year old. I felt it coming, like a sneeze, growing and unavoidable. I posted about it on Facebook. I sent a message to my husband at work. I did what I could to reach out.

And then I broke. I broke and I screamed at my all-day-fussing-and-clinging two year old to “NOT FUCKING TOUCH ME RIGHT NOW. DO. NOT. FUCKING. TOUCH. ME.” And she cried and looked scared and shook a little. And I crumpled into a sobbing pile of out-of-control-not-okayness. And we sat on the floor and cried together.

And then I gathered her to me and told her I was sorry I had yelled. I told her that it was wrong of me to scare her like that and that my losing my temper did not, in any way, mean that I was mad at her or that I didn’t love her. I told her that I loved her very much and that sometimes Mommy just has an extra hard day and that she should never, ever think I don’t love her and that she should never, ever be afraid of me because I would never, ever hurt her.

I hugged her and she told me I should try harder to watch my temper next time. I told her she was right. We ate fudge and read books and I reminded her a couple more times throughout the day that I loved her and we talked about when Mommy lost her temper and yelled.

It’s an awful feeling scaring your own child when you lose control of yourself that way. It’s a hard thing to admit to anyone, never mind to everyone. And I probably wouldn’t be telling everyone like this except that I confided this moment of utter failure and weakness to a friend today and she said,

“You did *not* say that!”

“Yes,” I said, “I did.” And tears filled my eyes at her look, at her tone. I began to haltingly defend myself by telling her how I had made sure to talk about it with her and how we had revisited it as needed later in the day.

“Yeah but that doesn’t make it okay,” she said. And then, maybe because she saw the look on my face, she softened her words to, “I mean, it doesn’t make you feel better.”

And that exchange made me realize that I needed to tell all of you about this break of mine. Because my friend was wrong. Sitting with my daughter and explaining, as best you can to someone of that age, what had happened and why and then letting her ask her questions freely and without repercussion and allowing her to bring it up as often as she needed as the day went on DID make me feel better. And it made her feel better. And it allowed me to be a human. And it will teach her how to be human, too.

I am a devoted mom. I love that little girl more than I have ever loved anything else, ever. I spend my life trying to grow stronger and wiser and smarter and funnier and craftier and healthier for her. We spend our days learning and playing and just being.

And, as our days together grow, I’ve realized I can’t hide the fact that I’m bipolar from her. I cannot expect that I will suddenly and magically and always forever be okay. And I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to hide myself from her. I want the liberty to be human. I want to teach her how to manage her emotions, and her failures, as she watches me learn to manage my own.

I don’t want to be the mom that is screaming at her daughter. Gratefully, I seldom am. But I have to believe that when these failures happen, for me as they happen for every parent on some level, it is the way I manage the break that matters and not the break itself.

It is important that we strive every minute of every day to be our best selves, especially where our children are involved. But if one thing is certain it is that we will eventually fail and our children will likely be there to see it. And so, in the end, it is how we handle our moments of failure that really matters.


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