“It’s all very well for you”, people say to me sometimes about my philosophies, “you are self-employed / confident / you know how to do this stuff… I have to listen to my boss, deal with my spouse’s demands, I have crippling anxiety / depression / a learning disorder…”
Sometimes it feels like life has us trapped; that we are at the mercy of our circumstance and it feels cramped and powerless and scary. We can’t move, we can’t change how it is…
Or so we believe.
I remember when my first child was born and I was in a total state of overwhelm. Sleep-deprived, space deprived and time deprived. My post-natal hormones were causing havoc with my mood, I was anxious, couldn’t think clearly (though if you’d DARED to suggest it was because I was hormonal I would have killed you just to silence that nonsense – so basically I was mildly unstable.) I was essentially surviving from one moment to the next, not knowing what I was doing, being anxious and depressed and burdened with the huge responsibility of being ok for a new-born and keeping us both alive…
My first born had a bit of a scare at birth so he needed to feel especially safe in the world (a lil’ bit like his Mama). From the start he sought to be in constant physical contact. I remember lying next to him when he was one day old. I wanted to sleep but didn’t want to squash him by mistake so I left a gap between us. I thought that would work but within seconds he had wriggled his tiny little body so that it was pressed against my side. I moved him away again but he wriggled right back. At one day old! I was amazed.
I was even more amazed by how bloody difficult it was to sleep with a small baby pasted onto my side! I mean he didn’t just snuggle gently, he glued himself to me like a tight pressure bandage. I worried he couldn’t breathe! We used attachment parenting methods and kept him in constant physical contact with us during the day and then at night he independently applied his pressure bandage approach to me. Like a heat-seeking missile he found my body wherever I sneakily snuck it – behind pillows, at the other end of the bed… As if that’s not enough to disturb my sleep, he was extremely movement-sensitive so if I moved him in any way while he slept (like by turning my aching body over for example) he would wake and cry for a really long time. So, for my sanity, I would lie glued to him perfectly still for hours, longing for sleep but awake. All I wanted was some space on my own. Some sleep, to move freely, no-one touching me all the time…
I remember lying stock still between my tightly applied baby who was twitching and snoring and my partner, who was twitching and snoring and feeling trapped, trapped, TRAPPED! Angry, frustrated, wretched, despairing… burning up with feeling and lying still, still, still.
I could have done it differently but during the many moments I considered heading for the hills, I knew that it was my choice to lie there still, it was my choice not to put him in another room and let him cry (shudder), it was my choice to stay there rather than run away or mainline hard drugs just to make it all stop.
And then one night, letting go into the dark hole of despair – ah, the gifts of surrender – I had a realisation that I suspect saves the sanity of many a conscious prisoner.
I became aware that