This is Day 4 of my 30-day writing challenge. It is a couple of minutes past 4AM as I type this. The stillness of the night blends easily with the darkness of the same. The distant barking of a lone dog. The crowing of the roosters in our chicken coop. I peer through the curtains (no idea why I do that, anyone else in the same boat? 🙂 ), and the dew glistens in the dim outdoor lighting. This peace and quiet is what endears me to morning ‘rituals’, i.e morning devotion, catching up on my reading, journalling and exercise (sometimes). This particular morning however, I hadn’t planned to be up at 4AM, too much fatigue. I am up anyway, thanks to potty chronicles.
My son is fully potty trained (Thank God, who knew pre motherhood that diapers are so damn expensive?), but this does not mean that there aren’t any accidental slips from time to time. And today was one of those days. Heard him whimper in a groggy sleep-filled manner, “Mom, susu” meaning he’d peed on himself. Now, waking up to ammonia-soaked sheets and clothes is not my idea of starting my day. But moms gotta do what she has to do. Thank god for protective plastic sheet cover whihc means the mattress does not reek of pee. That, however, does not absolve me of the task to change him, and his clothing. So I do that, but today something is different.
I am not upset. I will admit, this has, in recent times gotten me pissed (no puns intended :D) off. I mean, there’s nothing exciting about washing sheets in cold water, in the wee hours of the AM. Many times I’d do this grudgingly, muttering under my voice to no one in particular. In retrospect, I realized part of the reason I’d get so disoriented when this happened was because sleep deprivation/ erratic sleeping patterns were a major trigger in my Postpartum Depression (PPD) journey. And so when it happened, I’d get mini flashbacks of my worst moments. I’d wake up at odd times like 2:37AM to change wet sheets, and I’d feel my hair rising, I’d feel my defenses scale up to high heavens, I’d get flashes, sometimes, I’d be shaking trying to hold myself together…
One particular instance stands out at the onset of potty training. Jayden had gotten the gist of day potty training, so he’d alert me when the need to arose. Except this one time he figured, I presume, he might as well find out what it is like to do floor pooping. Now, not systematic floor number 2, say after every two tiles. Nop, small mounds of the brown stuff, in an erratic pattern, like the nuclear energy he is. So when I did show up, I find an amused toddler who just discovered, wait, why is this brown stuff following me? Wait, so if I run to the left, then right, then back, then left again this is what happens?
“You want that mom, huh?” Toasty Baby
I cringed when I saw him, complete with blotches of you-know-what on his feet, face and hands. Then I lost it. Who’s gonna clean this shit? (of course me, I just mean, who was gonna collect little Mount Sinais scattered across the living room?) Before I knew it, I was whacking him, I pulled his ears, I smacked him, I was outraged. It’s what depression does to you when baby does something that’s a little off, but perfectly fine for their age. He was shocked, he
cried wailed, because he didn’t see it coming. His eyes were so damn swollen by the time I finished cleaning him up.
When he slept, the guilt came flooding in. My heart scrambled. This was all too familiar. Toddler Act/tantrum – Thwacking – Teary sessions – Guilt. These flashbacks are what I got changing bed sheets at random times in the night. During healing, I made strides, not instantaneous ones, slow, sometimes invisible strides. Over the past year, I noticed a stultifying pattern I was slipping in: making the love for my son dependent on conditions. Conditional love. When he did something ‘good’, I’d applaud him, go into celebratory mood and shout it from the roof tops. When he did something ‘bad’ (which was often typical of toddlers in the terrible twos, tryna push boundaries), this celebratory mood was supplanted by an alchemy of manic behavior. I’d shout at and to him, I’d thwack him so bad I feared for myself, the mom I was becoming, I’d lose it, and when he cried himself to sleep, my own torrential tears would come in floods.
Early this year, I read James Dobson’s book, Bringing Up Boys and his words would leap from the book to my eyes! I was creating conditional love for my son, he’d eventually learn to seek for approval because that’s what he saw. When I celebrated his ‘good’ behaviors, and punished him for what was flippant in my eyes, I was entrenching in him that I only loved him at his best, and detested him on any other day – conditional love-. Sooner or later, I’d have a belligerent pre-teen son in my hands. Even in my depression, I knew this was not what I wanted for my son, I just wasn’t sure how I’d get out of that place.
Over the months, I made a choice to do away with conditional love. Not easy because healing from PPD is not instant, or at the click of a button. On many days, I did slip, fall off, but it did not escape my mind that I needed to get to a place where my son could feel secure in mama’s love. Doing my morning devotion the other day brought to remembrance God’s love for me. An unconditional kind of love that is present, at my best, and at my worst; in my strengths and in my weaknesses, at my mountaintop experience, and in the shadow of the valleys. II Timothy 2:9 is a gentle reminder of this, that it ain by my works or good deeds that God has called us and loves us, it is by grace, unconditional grace:
He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
So today, as I did the whole changing sheets thing, this gentle reminder helped me NOT complain. I hugged the little guy, and kissed him goodnight, a second time. Because even in 4AM changing sessions, he is still good enough for mama’s love.
Good Enough? Yes.
Featured Image Photo Credits: Olga S.