Knowing that something might happen and having it actually happen are two incredibly different things. Yeah, probably not new info for most people, but every now and then it rises up to bite me in the rump.
These days my life seems to revolve around the twins. I never would have believed how much they can change, and have changed my life. Sure, you know going in that children are going to change your life and your priorities, but somehow I thought that it would be an easy adjustment. In some ways it has been, but in a number of other ways it has been very difficult for me.
For example, I have always had problems with crying babies. My reaction to crying babies is akin to the typical reaction most people have to fingernails on a chalkboard. I knew I had this issue and told Sarah about it while she was still pregnant with the twins. I love children, but the crying just rips into me. So being aware of my issue I tried to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable, because babies cry. That is what they do, so my only course of action was to get used to it and not react to it.
Being aware of this issue I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable, and to some degree I think I was successful. I can actually not cringe when the twins start crying! However, if it goes on, and nothing I try seems to work in calming them down my tension levels start to rise. I get tense and frustrated, and in turn the babies pick up on this, making them cry all the more until it turns into a vicious cycle that I just can’t seem to break. The only recourse at that point is to hand them over to Sarah to calm.
So I have identified the issue, and I know how to break out of the cycle of tension, but emotionally it just rips me up inside. First there is the emotional pain of not being able to calm your child. I had no idea how deep that could rip into me emotionally. Then there is this strange sense of failure that I always seem to feel whenever I hand one of the children over to Sarah when they get to the point where I can’t calm them. I am supposed to be there to help Sarah, to help take some of the burden off of her, and here I am handing an inconsolable child over to her, thus adding to her burden. So I feel like a failure for adding to her burden, and I feel like a failure because I couldn’t fix the problem.
Yep, there it is, the typical “I man; I fix” psychosis that we all seem to run into no matter how hard we try to be different. I have never before felt that urge to solve all problems as intensely as I do with the children. That is part of my “Daddy” role, and when I can’t even calm a crying child…
But people told me to expect this. I even read about it in books. So I should have been prepared. I shouldn’t be taking it so hard since I know that this is an inevitable situation. Nice theory Jeff. Too bad it is faulty!
So here I am, trying to deal with these feelings of failure because I can’t seem to help Sarah in calming the children, only to have it really kick me in the teeth last night. Sarah came home late in the evening after being out at a spinning guild event and Tiernan was crying like the world was coming to an end. Mind you I have a harder time trying to calm Tiernan than I do Caulla, but Sarah was busy with other tasks so I decided to try to calm him. Once more nothing I tried worked. I changed him because he needed it, and then I tried to feed him because Sarah said that he was probably hungry. But Tiernan was already in that special place he goes to and he refused to eat, actively pushing the bottle away and crying even harder because he wanted to eat.
Mind you, to my mind this makes absolutely no sense at all! If you are hungry, and somebody is providing you with food, then you eat. That simple! But he would reject the food. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity Sarah took him from me. And you know what happened? Yeah, within seconds, seconds he was calm and taking his bottle. Almost as soon as he was in her arms the cries stopped, and he made these cute little gulping sounds.
Yay! Tiernan had stopped crying and was now eating. I couldn’t calm him, but all Sarah had to do was hold him and he calmed almost immediately. I should have rejoiced, but instead I felt like I had been kicked in the head.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely moments of fulfillment. I absolutely crave those times when I have Caulla in my arms, and seeing the complete trust on her face. Feeding her, comforting her, holding her as she sleeps… Those things just warm my heart in ways I never would have imagined before.
So here I am, dealing with frustration and feelings of failure only to have yet another emotion creep in and attempt to set up house in my heart. Creeping tendrils of jealousy have been trying to gain hold lately… Last night I was watching Sarah calm the babies as we were settling in for the night. Watching her gentle strokes of fingers on brows, calming them with every stroke…I looked at her graceful hands lovingly caressing the babies and it suddenly struck me: when was the last time she gave me a loving caress?
Suddenly I found myself jealous of the attention that the twins were getting. This is my wife, the woman that I love so much that it hurts, but her entire being is completely devoted to the children now. On the rare occasion when we sit down and have a conversation it never seems to be about anything other than the serious issues that we are facing. Opportunities to sit back and joke with her seem to have vanished, and the times when I try to spark a conversation I get monosyllabic responses and a failure to engage.
Yeah, I know that taking care of the twins is a demanding task. I am all too aware of the physical and emotional drain that this is taking on her. But that doesn’t stop me from having these feelings of resentment and loss, and to some extent grief. The life we had before is dead, and I find myself grieving the carefree times we used to share. Those may eventually return, but not for many years to come.
I crave being able to simply converse with her, to see the fire of her intellect as we are actively involved in stimulating conversation. I miss the casual caresses and loving glances that she used to give me, but now lavishes upon the children.
Intellectually I know that this stage will pass, and as we both better adjust to the demands of raising the children we will once more find time for each other. But right now we aren’t there yet, and right now I am feeling an incredible amount of emotional pain. No amount of reading about this could prepare me for it.
So here I sit, weltering in an emotional storm that is raging in my heart, doing my best to be strong for my wife and children, to provide Sarah with the support that I know she needs. Doing my best to hold it all together and not collapse… So I wrote about all of this, hoping that by at least getting my thoughts and feelings open and out there it will make it easier to deal with. A cathartic release of sorts… and perhaps there are those out there who have gone through this themselves who might offer words of advice to help me ride out this phase of my life…