Sunday, March 15, 2009

What is Normal?

The following was written on Friday night
I am 32 and having my fourth and fifth child.  I was 24 when I had my first.  In Utah, people wonder what took me so long.  Outside of Utah, I'm an anomaly...a phenomenon...and obviously mis-informed on how to actually use birth control.  I blame the latter on my parents who never had "the talk" with me.  

On my trip to Texas, I had several people ask me about my bulging belly.  I actually had a very thoughtful airline worker move me to an aisle seat instead of a middle seat when she saw my tummy.  I was extremely grateful!  Everybody was very nice, but the questions started with the first plane ride and ended with our arrival in Salt Lake.  The conversation always went like this:

Them: "How far along are you?" 

Me (calculating in my head): "Six months."

Them: "Oh, is this your first?"

Me: "No...It is actually my fourth and fifth."

Them: Speechless.  

I realize that I look younger than my age.  This is a gift bestowed to me by my mother which was given to her by her mother.  I hated this gift when I was a teenager, but I quickly embraced it around "28."  Even my doctor said that I only looked "22" and way too young to have five children.  I nearly kissed him on the lips right in front of my own husband.  I don't think I look quite a decade younger, but I do know that I look younger (my shortness helps in that assumption - as if I haven't had my "growth spurt" yet).  

Quite frankly, I don't blame people for their reactions.  I'm speechless when I think about it.  I don't have a clue how I am going to do this.  When I came home from Texas, I really did miss my kids terribly.  I was rejuvenated and so patient and loving last week.  I just relished my time with them, and I was able to have sincere empathy for them when they struggled.  It was extremely short lived.  The last few nights, I haven't been sleeping very well, and I have been ultra-irritable and completely without compassion toward my kids during the day.  I wake up in the night with hot flashes and horrible dreams.  I have been exhausted, weepy, and overwhelmed.  Just the simple task of shopping for two car seats was more than I could bear.  

One of my problems is anticipation.  Whenever my kids act out, I fast forward a few months to the chaos of having two new babies in the home, and I panic.  My heart literally starts pounding harder, and I immediately become depressed, anxious, and scared to death.  Macy's brattiness and selfishness are only going to increase when I can't give her my undivided attention.  Paige's tantrums are only going to get worse.  She deliberately disobeys us now, just imagine the destruction she can cause when I am preoccupied with two babies!  So, the problems of today become the imaginary problems of tomorrow which makes today's problems completely overwhelming and impossible to deal with in a calm, rational manner.  

Another problem is the belief that I have in agency, and yet, I have a love/hate relationship with agency.  I get (what seems like) weekly phone calls from Austin's school about different problems.  Last week, he learned that girls fight with their fingernails, and has a large gash in his neck to prove it.  This week...well, it's still quite fresh and I haven't stopped fuming about it.  Plus, it is just too mortifying and embarrassing to even mention.  Even the secretary, when she called me, was completely fed up with his behavior.  She wanted to schedule (another) conference with us, Austin, the principal, and the janitor.  I told her that I could not do it...not today...and I would call on Monday.  I sent Austin to his room and told him that I was too angry with him, so it was best that I not even speak to him.  I would let him know when I was calm enough for him to be in my presence.  

Austin should learn from his mistakes - or downright idiotic behavior (Agency), but it isn't like we allow that type of behavior in our home.  Greg and I are teaching him manners and acceptable behavior, but he gets out of our sight and it is like he becomes a different person.  Every time the school calls, I feel like I am getting in I am being reprimanded and judged for bringing up such a horrible kid.  These are the moments when I despise agency.  These are the moments when I want to force him to behave so I don't have to be embarrassed anymore.  When people ask me whose mom I am, I don't want to look at the ground, shuffle my feet, and mumble my son's name because I know there are already negative, preconceived notions about who he is.  I want to believe that he's a good kid, but on days like today, I wonder if he is just a little creep who sneaks and lies and does rotten things.  Today, I had him in Juvenile Detention by age 13.  

My third problem is hormones and the entire third trimester.  Enough said.

My question to you is: What is normal?  I had a good friend call me today needing to vent a little about her day/week.  She asked, "Do you think I need professional help?"  I may have been too quick in answering her question.  But, it really is serious.  I want to believe that my kids are "normal," but judging from other people's reactions to them, I wonder if something is wrong with them...or me.  What do you do when you are completely out of ideas?  What do you do when it seems like you've done everything possible as a parent, but nothing is working?  What do you do when you need help?  

President Hinckley said: "My brothers and sisters, we must work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.  If we fail in our homes, we fail in our lives.  No man is truly successful who has failed in his home.  Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting."

I feel like I'm failing in my home and in my life.  

Post-Edit: Sunday Night
I'm feeling much better after a few days to clear my head.  I wasn't even going to post this, but I wanted to follow up a bit.  I have such a problem: I completely shut down when Austin is struggling - and I mean completely.  I become irrational, I can't sleep, my head starts aching, and I cry...A LOT.  After the despair, the guilt sets in.  After all, there are thousands of people that would love to trade trials with me.  Are my problems really problems, and why can't I deal with them?  There are so many people struggling with things so much bigger and more important, and I can't even handle these small, day-to-day occurrences.  I feel so ungrateful and weak.  

I am grateful for my good husband who silently, patiently, and lovingly picked up the pieces when I fell apart for a solid 24 hours.  Then, he forgave me when I entered back into the "Land of the Rational."  He is a good man who loves me in spite of these obvious weaknesses.

We had a really good Sacrament Meeting today, and even though Paige acted like I was her personal jungle gym, I was able to hear most of the talks.  I started crying when President Kerr told a story about an experience that he had with faith.  I realized that I did not have enough faith: I lack faith in myself to really be able to teach and love all of these children that I've been given; I lack faith in my children and the fact that they come to me with full-grown, mature spirits that are most likely more valiant than myself; I lack faith in the wisdom of my Heavenly Father for sending me all of these children; I lack faith in Christ that He can help me through whatever trial may come my way.  It was incredibly humbling.

Then, came the closing song.  We sang Hymn #45 "Lead Me Into Life Eternal."  

Lead me into life eternal
By the gospel's holy call.
Let they promise rest upon me; 
Grant me ready strength for all.

Father, all my heart I give thee;
All my service shall be thine.
Guide me as I search in weakness;
Let they loving light be mine.

Hear me as I pray in meekness;
Let my strength be as they day.
Give me faith, the greater knowledge;
Father, bless me as I pray.

The tears started at the end of the first verse and continued to the end of the song.  It is my greatest desire to give the Lord my heart, and yet I am incredibly weak.  I do pray in meekness and in anger and in sorrow and in complete humility.  I try to be very honest in my prayers, and I need faith and knowledge to get me through this life.   Now, I need to get to work to acquire these two things so I can better serve my family.

After church, and after all of Greg's meetings, I called Jen and asked if I could come over and play with Chase.  All of my feelings of dread and panic that I've been feeling about having twins went away when I held that beautiful 4-day-old baby.  I remembered and felt what a strong, sweet, healing, and peaceful spirit babies bring with them when they enter this world, and I drank it up as if I were spiritually dehydrated.  We are going to be okay, and I really am anxious to have the spirits of these two little boys fill our home and our lives.   

Sorry for the length of this post (if you actually stuck it out and read every word).  This is one of the reasons why blogging is so therapeutic for me.  I'd still like to know what you find normal, and are there situations that occur that cause you to "shut down"?  If so, how do you deal with that and come out of it?


Lindsay said...

Oh Em, I absolutely do not have your gift of words and great advice. In fact that is one of my problems - when I shut down, I literally shut down. I don't speak and I keep it all in - I don't like to talk about it. Feelings of guilt and inadequecy are what cause me to shut down - that and the awful feeling that Heavenly Father is so dissappointed in me - I can't handle that feeling (which I know is Satan!!!)

I know how you feel though, the cycle of motherhood ebbs and flows. I have no doubt you will come through on top.

One thing that helps me is constantly asking myself, Am I doing Heavenly Fathers will? This question goes a lot deeper than just reading scriptures and being obedient. It's treating my family in the way Heavenly Father would want me to, making sure my interests are in accordance with His will, and above all losing myself in His service, which right now, is serving my children and my hubby and it is not easy wanting to serve them all day when you usually get nothing in return!

I hope you feel better, and never forget that I have a true butt-headed child too! You are NOT alone in that!


Matt and Lisa said...

People must think I am a "freak" as I am 31 and on my first child!!!! I guess I will be to old to care or even notice how they are acting - how can someone going through menopause care for children???

Jackie said...

Emily- I love reading your posts. You are so open and honest and you have such a way with writing. I am sorry that you had some bad days. You are so normal though. We all have those feelings of inadequacy when it comes to motherhood. I wish I could've been at church to hear that talk. Sounds like it was a great one. I hope you are doing better. I am not good at advice either- I am better at just quietly listening. :-)

Valerie said...

Normal? Who knows what normal is??! I wonder that myself all the time. I can't help thinking that we're not "normal" at our house, but who really knows? I think there is no normal, and we each have our own unique circumstances. And no matter how much we want to, or how much we try, we can't possibly understand someone else's circumstances. I guess that's why judging others is off limits! And why we can't compare ourselves to others.

Troy and Alie said...

I don't usually comment on your posts because I don't have any kids and I always feel young and inexperienced, but I have experienced this "shut down" feeling lots and lots! have you done any research on anxiety or panic disorder? I started to see a psychologist at school when panic attacks started getting in the way of regular life. If it's getting in the way of regular functioning life, I think it would be good to see someone. It's helped me so much! Sorry.

Cherise Davies said...

hmm... I feel kinda like Alie because I'm also pretty new at the marriage thing and certainly haven't started in the parenting dept.
But I totally know the Shutting down feeling too. I get to a point when I feel like I'm so far spent emotionally that instead of crying or doing ... anything, I just want to completely shut down-not talk not cry not move not sleep. Just be without beING. That probably doesn't make a lot of sense and it might not be exactly like you but as for that being Normal....
I've seen counselors on and off since I graduated High School and now wish I had gone way way earlier. I deal with depression and anxiety on and off....I usually can't tell which is which when it's actually happening. ANYWAY, actually coming out of my "shutting down" moments...I think the best thing for me is to actually Do what I don't want to do or what I'm dreading OR what I feel like i CANT do or what feels too overwhelming. (THat's usually the cause, i think....I start feeling like it's just Too hard or Too big for me to handle)
so...yeah. making myself do what I feel like I can't do.
BAH! sorry that was way long! I hope you're doing better!!!

Jen-ben said... I saw this when you first posted it, but didn't know what to write...all I KNOW, is that you are a fantastic mother. A really really great Mom. So, I have no advice or words of wisdom concerning this, except that sometimes shutting down is the only way to get through something with a sane mind. And that's that. You are fabulous.

Kristy said...

YOU are normal. I swear there isn't a thought or feeling you've posted about that I haven't felt myself. I'm with Linds, guilt and inadequacy cause me to shut down. Completely.
You are a fantastic mother, and a first-rate human being. Eat some girl scout cookies! There's magic in them!