Grumpy is clingy. Not inordinately so. I am sure Sunshine was just as clingy as an infant and toddler, but Grumpy needs me far more than Sleepy.
Grumpy comes over to wherever I might be, and he places his hand on my thigh, just to feel my presence. He demands to be held. If I am sitting on the couch reading or writing or watching reruns of The Office after dinner, he begs for me to pick him up so he can sit next to me and suck his thumb in peace with his momma near him. He is curious, but he is not adventurous. He is content to watch as Sleepy takes on the world.
Neither of my sons really calls me Momma. They use “dad” to mean parent, and refer to both Saint Daddy and me as “dad.” If questioned, they will point to the correctly named parent, so they understand that we have different titles, but “dad” works for them.
For a while, because of this dad thing, I had absolutely convinced myself that both of my sons were entirely indifferent to me. I thought about all that I had done as their mother up to that point. The hard pregnancy, the C-section, my attempts to nurse them, months of pumping so they could have my milk for a year, working with them as they fell behind in their gross motor skills, and I felt as though I had been robbed. I cried a lot about it.
Saint Daddy was both sympathetic and a little happy that, finally, he ranked evenly with me. Sunshine was fairly indifferent to Saint Daddy. As a baby, she would sometimes cry for the floor if he was holding her. We have the video to prove it. Poor Saint Daddy…
The reasons were obvious to me. Nursing went well with Sunshine. She took to it from birth, and we had no major issues. She self-weaned at eighteen months. So while I worked outside of the home during her infancy as well, she knew I was the one with the best food. That paltry stuff Saint Daddy was offering was okay, but it was a poor substitute.
Grumpy and Sleepy were breastfed through bottles. I had to do it. It was my best choice. I saw five lactation consultants. I cried a lot. I prayed my hardest. They were not gaining weight. That fifth consultant got me on the path to exclusive pumping, and I never deviated from that path. I worked hard to maintain my supply. I hooked up to a machine for 4-6 hours a day for eleven months, until I knew, without a doubt, that I had the necessary freezer stash to see them through their first birthday. It was complicated and difficult, and I feel strongly about my experience. It will warrant its own post at some point.
So I convinced myself that they did not know me, did not love me, did not want me. It was a middle of the night thought. Everyone with anxiety knows what I mean by that. In the middle of the night, I am not kind to me. In the middle of the night, I convince myself of atrocious things. I convince myself that my friendships are a lie, that my husband does not love me, and that I am unworthy of any amount of happiness.
It is not my sons’ job to convince me of anything. As a mother, I have vowed to myself that I will work out my thoughts without putting the burden on my children to prove to me that those thoughts are not real. Saint Daddy has reassured me a thousand times before. He will reassure me a thousand times more. But my children do not need to reassure me. That is not their job.
Grumpy adores me. I know he does. I have often said, “No one has ever loved his Momma the way that he loves me.” Even when I was dealing with those pervasive middle of the night thoughts, I still claimed that notion. Only my closest friends knew what my brain was actually saying. I turned to them for that reassurance. Saint Daddy and my best friend helped see me through it.
What I have learned about my anxiety over the last decade and a half is that talking about it, sharing my thoughts out loud, and trusting people with those thoughts are instrumental in getting through it. Early in my relationship with Saint Daddy, I was not open enough with him about what my brain was telling me. I saw it as a weakness, and I worried he would not love me the same way if he knew how weak I was. Opening up to him and letting him see my messier side strengthened our relationship while helping me to overcome the burden of my thoughts.
I refer to it as my Inner Circle. Depending on the particular thoughts that are plaguing me, that inner circle can shift around. Saint Daddy is always in it. I believe that is part what makes our relationship strong. But work thoughts call upon one inner circle and parenting thoughts call on another. My BFFL and best friend participate in all of my inner circles. I trust them with all of my thoughts. I am grateful for them in ways I could never express.
After sharing those thoughts, working through them, finding reassurance, establishing a plan to overcome them, I take the steps necessary to move on from them. I do my thing. No one actually fixes anything for me. I am not actually weak.
But I would never be able to do it alone. Living with anxiety makes it absolutely necessary to be trusting and be trustworthy. Living with anxiety means finding people who will love you through your darkness so you can revel in the light together. Living with anxiety requires bravery when the last thing you feel is the confidence to take a step, to say a word, to keep going.
That fear about Grumpy and Sleepy not loving me is behind me. I moved on from it as I inevitably move on from each of those terribly atrocious middle of the night thoughts.
Today, as has happened many times, I was sitting on the floor reading my book, and Sleepy walked over to me and sat on my lap. I began to read aloud to him. Grumpy was all the way at the other end of the room, and as if he could sense that Sleepy was encroaching on his Momma space, he toddled quickly to us and wiggled his little self between his brother and me, knocking Sleepy onto the floor. Sleepy whined and tried to find his place on my lap. They argued over who was allowed to sit on my lap for a few moments until I situated them so that they were both sitting on my lap, which meant that I had to give up on reading my book in favor of snuggling my two boys. Not a bad trade off.
As this was happening, I said to Grumpy exactly what I have said to him plenty of times before. “You are quite selfish in your love of Momma. Perhaps you should have thought of your need for attention before you decided to become a twin.”
The thought makes me giggle. As though my first tiny blastocyst made the decision to have another tiny blastocyst join him.
My sons love me. No matter what my middle of the night thoughts told me a few months ago. My middle of the night thoughts may tell me something similar again. Sometimes they repeat themselves. But I always know that, with the help of my Inner Circle and time, I am more than capable of overcoming them again and again and again.
Anxiety can be debilitating. I am currently experiencing what I call “high alert anxiety.” My anxiety is telling me that something horrible is on the horizon. I do not know what that horrible thing is, but my anxiety is convinced.
What my anxiety does not know is that my spirit is indomitable. And I do not fight alone.