I remember when parenting was new. I felt 100% empowered by breastfeeding, by co-sleeping, and sling-wearing. I was tired, and sometimes cranky, but overall I felt like I could do ANYTHING. Like, have another child. And another. And shoot, why not one more?
And then that one more came and he BROKE ME. Not just physically, although that pregnancy was rough, but emotionally. All the other kids were toddlers and babies together and they all napped at roughly the same time, but when I had Mr. F he was 7 years younger than the oldest and 3 years younger than the youngest and they all ran completely wild while I nursed this kid for HOURS. All winter long he would only sleep if my body was pressed against his. He would fall into a deep sleep, and I would inch away, and he would awake, screaming. EVERY TIME. I could either let him scream in the crib or keep my body against his (and for some reason I forgot about baby-wearing this entire time, probably because the lack of sleep had carved rather deep holes in my brain.) Either one left me stressed. Because if I was giving my attention to my little guy, the rest of the house was Lord of the Flies.
Peeing on the floor, stealing ALL the food, drawing on the walls. A pigs head on a pike! (OK, maybe not that. Yet.) Did I mention I was supposed to be homeschooling? Not to mention cleaning this pigsty, which I would do, sometimes thoroughly, just to have someone come right behind and tear up what I had worked so hard on. I was losing it. I have always struggled with depression, and slovenliness, and sloth, but now no matter how hard I worked I always wound up right at square one.
I never, ever wanted to have another baby. EVER. Breastfeeding? Nooooooo. Uh-uh. Pregnancy and Birth? Yuck. This coming from a serious lactivist and birth advocate. I LOVED breastfeeding. But the idea of ever going through this again made me feel like running my skimpy little fingernails down my fat cheeks.
I had hit a wall. And I realized I was DONE. And that was something I had never, ever felt before. Ever. I had met other people who had hit their own wall. I pitied them. Had they forgotten the softness of baby skin...how NOTHING feels quite like a newborn's arm? Or that smell? Or the funny faces they make? Or the joy that rises in your heart when they learn something new? Or the bizarre things that come out of their sweet little mouths when they are learning to talk? Silly people.
And then it happened to me. I knew it when my friend gave birth to one of the world's most beautiful baby girls, with soft red hair like a baby orangutan. Nothing. I forgot to hold her because I just didn't need to. I have held two baby boys, and neither of them make my ovaries ache. They are all sweet, lovely babies, but I just don't need one anymore.
It's strange, this stage of life. Confusing. I am not out of child-bearing years, but my heart and mind have shut down to the possibility. And so my husband and I followed what our heart was telling us and "took care of it," so to speak. We know that if we change our minds there are children out there that might need us someday, but we have no yearning to grow our own any more.
I tried to figure out a way to articulate it, and then it occurred to me. The Peter Principle states that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that people tend to get promoted until they reach a point which they can no longer do an adequate job. Thank you, forward to the Dilbert collection that I read 10 years ago for that analogy. With Felix, I have risen to the level of my parenting incompetence. Everything was going to hell in a handbasket. Coping was impossible. I tried decluttering ,schedules, and all kind of stuff to make my life run smoothly. And it just couldn't be sustained. Not the way it was.
So, I can no longer be "promoted" parentally. No more babies. But I don't want to stay incompetent either. So, in the year of Kate I am taking some drastic steps. Public school for the older boys. Preschool and Mother's Morning Out for the younger kiddos. I am raising the white flag! I give up! I can't do it all! I can't even do 1/4 of it all! So I'm giving up the unnecessary stuff to make room for the stuff that can't be moved.
I remember when my parent's made the decision to not have more than four. "Concentrate on the family you have" was my mom's motto. I have my family. They aren't going anywhere. For some reason I have been chosen to be the mother of these four kids, despite my incompetence. Here's to rising above!