the world is too much with us

I think we need to escape to some mountain hideaway.

Today we ventured out to return a gift I received and then to go to Cos.tco. We thought it would be just fine, since I had planned to wear the baby in a wrap, and because we knew there would be ample locations to feed and change him. The day went really well. I wore the baby in the department store, and when I went to try on the clothes I was getting in exchange for the gift, J held the baby, and then I fed him, and we changed him all there in the fitting room. I have become a big fan of fitting rooms.

We then ventured on to Cos.tco, and we were both nervous. It’s a place that stresses J and I out. The parking lot stresses us out. The countless people making beelines to the sample carts stress us out. The people who are obliviously speaking on their cell phones and nearly running us over with their mammoth shopping carts stress us out. It’s always an exhausting situation for us, but we were determined to go in with zen attitudes, get our necessary items, and get the hell out.

And we did amazingly well with that too. Baby Genius woke up toward the end of our time in the store, and he charmed the socks off of countless employees and patrons with his cuteness as he was nestled in his wrap. When we left, I nursed him again in the car, changed him again, and we were on our way home, patting ourselves on the backs. We had thirty minutes to drive though, and within five minutes, BG started melting down. We kept the screams at bay with a loud Jack Johnson sing-along, but soon I had to pull over, and J had to get in the back seat to help BG calm down. It took a few minutes, but ultimately, it worked well, and by the time we got home, Baby Genius was ready to eat, but he wasn’t miserable. After I fed him, and he fell asleep, I attempted to put him down, and then the crying began in earnest. This was around 3:30. For the next three and  a half hours, he fell asleep three more times only to wake up crying when we tried to put him down. The boy was exhausted and overwhelmed. We were exhausted too. It was hard.

I know that to some of you this sounds like a piece of cake. Believe me, I’ve cared for much more fussy babies, so I know that we’ve got a relatively easy-going boy on our hands, but this was out of character for our son. We have had this need lately to get out, to be a part of the world, to have experiences, so we’ve been going out almost every day to do something, whether that’s going for a walk, going to farmer’s market, doing some shopping, etc. It has done  us some good, but we both began to realize that it has all been a bit much for our son and that we’ve got to dial it back a bit. Lesson learned. We don’t want to overwhelm our boy just so that we can entertain ourselves. That isn’t fair to him.

The thing is, our son is not the only person in our family who is overwhelmed by outside influences these days. J and I have been struggling lately to stay afloat in our relationship. When we went to visit my family and stayed at my parents’ house, we suffered some trauma. My step-dad pulled some weird shit. The first day and a half we were there, he was great, and he held the baby and doted on him tons, but then when my sixteen-month-old niece spent the night (because my sister selfishly decided this would be a good time for her to have a party night), he decided to ignore the baby (he even said, “He has to learn to be a man somehow,” after refusing to hold him), take cheap shots at us, and then ignore us too. It was a whole lot of bullshit that caused a whole lot of strife, and it led J to never want to be around him again. It’s all so complicated, and there is so much more to this, but for several days we were a disaster. My mom was a mess and was placing the blame not just on her husband but J too. It was such a strain trying to talk to her. And then she came to visit again, all too soon, which was even more of a mess. Because my family refuses to talk about issues, and because my step-dad is often emotionally crippled and unwilling to acknowledge when he’s hurt people’s feelings, we are sort of left to our own devices to sort things like this out. It seems that things with J and my mom are smoothed over, but we’re still struggling with the aftermath in our household. We’re trying to make compromises about our visits to see them, but it’s not been easy, not at all.

Through all of this, though, we realized that even though we have been home, we haven’t taken that opportunity to cocoon ourselves as a new family, to work on strengthening ourselves before facing the world, and that world includes extended family. My family seems to have bled all over us once again, and J and I, the only emotionally mature people in the family, are left to clean it all up. I’m not one to cut family out of my life, but I also don’t want us to endure this sort of pain as a family again. I want to be able to protect us from my step-dad’s moodiness or my mom’s overbearing need to control, control, control. I love my parents–I really do–but they’re wreaking havoc on my wife and I, and on our son by proxy.

This year, we have two more visits planned, both holiday-related. Fortunately, my brother and his wife will be there with us one night, helping to distract and deflect. The next day is a huge family reunion Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s house, so we have lots of people we haven’t seen in a long time to help insulate us too. The following day, we’ll get up extraordinarily early in the morning and drive home to avoid any potential alone time with my step-dad. The visit after that will be for Christmas, but Christmas about twelve days early since the whole family is going on a cruise for the holiday, and we’re staying behind. We will likely stay one night at my brother’s house–which is half-way between here and my parents’ place–and one night at the parents’ place, again in an effort to avoid too much alone time or over-staying our welcome with my step-father. These are the sorts of compromises that we have been working on for two weeks now.

And after that? After that, and all of the days in between, we’re cocooning ourselves. Sure we’ll go on some family outings just the three of us, but we learned this week not to overdo it with those. As far as family visits go, however, we’ll be staying home for a good long time, isolating ourselves from their drama as much as possible, learning to be a family, and so on. J and I need this, or we’re going to fall apart.

Few people ever talk about just how hard having a baby is with regard to relationships–relationships between the new parents, between the new parents and the new grandparents, between the new parents and their old friends–but it’s all fucking hard, and I have so few words to describe the hurricane that is my life right now. I always knew having a baby would change things. I guess I didn’t know it would change things this much.

1285 words, and I still haven’t come close to explaining what this has really been like for me, for us, but I’ll keep trying. You know I will.

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11 Comments

Filed under Baby Genius, blogtherapy, family

11 responses to “the world is too much with us

  1. What a thoughtful post T. I love your writing and appreciate how honest you are. I’m sorry for the drama and difficulty you’ve suffered. The insensitivity of your parents must have hurt and made unthinkable questions need to be addressed. I know you and J are strong and your compromises sound promising. I hope your visits over the holidays are a positive shift.

    You know about my trials to get pregnant and the breakdown of my marriage. The two were terribly intertwined. And we didn’t even have a little one! Even the possibility of a child together and the life that would require was more than my ex and I could handle together. Lately, I’ve been witnessing couples breaking up after ttc and even after the arrival of a much wanted child. It breaks my heart so much because I know how hard it is to choose between love and motherhood. I believe the difference for you and J is that your choice lies elsewhere, outside of your relationship. If your instinctual solution is to pull together, isolate, and protect your family, I believe you two are so much wiser and stronger than many of the rest of us. Now you are a family of three and the extended family must respect your priority.

    I adore you and hope I haven’t gone on too long. All my love to you and J and C. xo

  2. That’s one thing you never expect in the early glow of parenthood… having to face how much it changes you and the way that you interact with the world. I especially remember resenting the intrusions of the world on our little family unit.

    I appreciate the time and energy that you’re putting into writing through this, and I’m sending you good thoughts.

  3. Thanks T- for giving the dream of motherhood a reality check. I too have seen couples come apart after wanting a baby so long. It just never made sense and now you’ve explained at least some of what happens or could happen to cause relationships to fail.

    IMO it might be a good idea to engage a family therapist as we begin this TTC journey to help hold things together before and after. When I was contemplating moving to Raleigh, NC gay couples moving from Cali to NC often asked for referrals for a family therapist. I asked one privately why and he explained just as you’ve said. The strain on queer relationships is more intense because of homophbia from the world. They found that professional help helped them deal with it all from planning a family all the way through the teen years of their kids.

    I took what those guys are doing to heart and plan the same.

  4. Jen

    Your posts are always so enlightening and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. I worry about many of these same issues with our family and how to balance being a daughter, step-daughter, wife, mother and sister.

  5. I am sorry about your family stuff. It sounds REALLY hard. I was on leave after the birth of my son for 4.5 months and I hardly went anywhere during that time. I couldn’t deal with him being overwhelmed. It destroyed me. It got easier after a while and things are so much different now. He LOVES being out among people. There is a balance that we are learning. I hope you are able to find that, too.

  6. You keep doing what you have to do to keep your family together. When I say ‘your family’, I mean you, J, and BG. Thank you for sharing this post with us. I hope you both make it through the Holidays without family drama. Just stay focused on the cocooning afterwards and you two will do fine.

  7. gypsygrrl

    no words to add to the other replies ~ just sending you three lots of love and hugs to bolster you for the holiday season crap you have to wade thru. i admire your putting this all out there to share with us, and also for knowing what you and J and BG needs and being dedicated to making those your priorities. family drama stuff sucks.

  8. Oof. I’m sorry your family stuff is such a pain. It sounds like y’all are doing some good strategizing on compromises that work for your little 3-person family, and really that’s what’s most important. Good for you.
    Thank you for being so honest with everything, too, and for writing out your experiences so thoughtfully. I think I have a lot to learn from you.

  9. Thank you for sharing! I’m so sorry you are having a rough go of things with the family and you are having to bare the load of the emotional turmoil for everyone. Sounds like you are taking positive steps to look after you and your family.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing again about the changes with your family relationships. It is helping me to get ready to stumble my way through this rocky path.

    Having the time to cocoon sounds so important. You also had very little time off work. I would imagine that leaves you feeling even a little more stretched and with less time to glue together as a family.

    Hugs for you and J as you figure this out.

  11. poppycat

    Oh family, they can be the best gift in the world or the most destructive force known to man and sometimes both at the same time. This is such a very tough place to be for you and I feel for you all, I really do. I know the stresses of family are some of the worst I have ever had to endure.

    T, you are always so good about being self aware and introspective. I know this is difficult, especially with the holidays nearing, but I am always amazed at you and your ability to work things though and I know this will be no different. The plans you have made are wise and well thought out and I hope they are just what you need to make this managable.

    Sending strength and peace to all of you. xo

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