Remembering To Breathe When You’re A Toddler Parent…
I’ve recently started doing an online hypnobirthing class. At almost 8 months pregnant, I’ve been wanting to learn the techniques to relax as D-Day approaches. It’s with the hope that I can stay calm and not panic this time around when things really get going.
So, when my husband took Mr Two to the park for a little father & son time on Saturday, I thought I would use the time to run myself a bath, listen to one of the course’s affirmation tracks and practice my breathing techniques to get into a happy zone.
As I relaxed down and started to clear my ever-racing mind of the millions of thoughts that circulate around, I focused strongly on the power of my breathing to hush out the world.
I release all fear as I prepare for the birth of my baby
I choose calmness and positivity
I take the time to connect with my baby
I look forward to meeting my baby with calmness and joy
I maybe get 10 minutes through before I hear the faint voice of my husband from a distance…followed by the screaming wails of my toddler.
Ok, Abbey, calm, breathe, focus.
I am focused on a safe and comfortable birth.
My surges cannot be stronger than me, because they are me.
The screams of my toddler and stern voice of my husband continues to progressively grow louder. Eye twitches start.
I enjoy the energy and power of birth
I give myself the time and space I need to relax
I note the hilarious irony of this statement as I hear the front door open and slam as my husband berates our son for being mean to a boy in the park.
*Takes staggered breath in*
My baby is in the perfect position for an easy and comfortable birth
*Loses count, breathes out*
I hear footsteps on the stairs and the hysterical screams getting louder and louder
*Breathing deep deep breath in*
I trust myself and my inner wisdom
*Breathing long breathe out*
I am preparing for the birth of a calm baby, and a confident mother
I silently pray that the baby is a calm one unlike my first child. I sense a presence at the bathroom door.
All is calm, all is well, I am safe
I open my eyes and see a distressed looking husband and bright red blotchy toddler in tears in his arms.
“Mummy! We had to leave the park again! This one just doesn’t want to play nicely with others and I’m at my wits end. I am really envious of all the other parents whose kids just want to sit and be pushed nicely on the swing!”
*Forgets breathing rhythm*
I am completely, deeply and wonderfully relaxed
Husband, registering what I am doing…
”Oh, sorry! We’ll leave you to it.”
“I WANT a BATH with MAMA!! I WANT a BATH with MAMA.”
*Toddler strips off and gets in as I turn off the track*
So yeah, the hypnobirthing has been going really well so far. Really well in that I have watched some of the modules, learnt a lot about the importance of keeping adrenaline at bay in the run up to and during birth, and have started to consciously register how much adrenaline courses through my veins on a daily basis. Oh god!
I keep wondering how I am ever going to be relaxed enough to achieve a zen state for baby girl’s arrival?! I think I feel more stressed with each passing day!
As our son’s primary caregiver, I am with him most of the time. And it’s lovely…errrr, a large proportion of the time (like when he is asleep). But the thing is, he is a toddler. Toddler parents know EXACTLY what this means. Our days wildly flit between hysterical meltdowns because the cat left the room, or because I won’t carry him down the stairs, to beautiful moments of snuggles and calm and hilarious toddler chit-chat.
So with each day, each hour even, being as unpredictable as the next, I have to admit, I do forget to breathe. It is near impossible to relax!
Stood at the supermarket till the other day, I consciously registered how bad this has become. After what should have been a quick in-and-out shop turned into an exasperating 40 minute trauma of him not following me, picking up random items, playing with washing machine doors, insisting on a new toy car, and touching a dead-fish eyeball and throwing ice at the seafood stand, I noticed just how little air I felt I had in me. I had been holding my breath. My body felt tense, my lungs felt tight, and I was really quite dizzy. Not good!
I know I know I know, it’s a phase, it’s all age-related, but seriously, WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE SO HARD?!
I try to be the “fun Mum” – to plan nice activities, to go to the park, do crafty projects, and visit soft play, but it always turns into a trauma somehow. From sitting in the park, holding my breath as I silently pray he doesn’t thump another kid, to colouring and painting when inevitably more colour lands on his clothes and floor than the actual paper. Or, like today, having to listen to hysterical screaming in the car for a full 30 minutes following what seemed like a happy trip to the Mall where we enjoyed a ride on a train, a bomb around the play area, and a babyccino with Daddy on his lunch break…
Throw in the fact that we’re an expat family living away from family and the so called “village”. Nursery went tits up and our nanny just left. When I say “I am the primary caregiver”, I really mean it, until Daddy gets home at 6pm.
Is there any wonder then that sometimes it honestly feels like there is NO TIME TO JUST BREATHE.
It can’t be healthy…
But I’m a Mum. This is what I signed up for. Granted I didn’t know it would be this emotionally exhausting sometimes. But it’s been awesome enough in the sweeter moments to decide to have another one, so it can’t be all bad, right? (Damn those cute babies and those hormones…)
I love my son, more than life itself. BUT MY GOD, TODDLERS!!! I often feel like I’m about to lose my goddamn mind if I don’t get some space from mine! (only to then miss him terribly when I actually do…) They literally drive you to the brink of insanity and then back again on repeat until you collapse in a quivering heap at the end of the day!
But there’s nothing really to do is there, except ride the wave of toddlerhood and enjoy the sweet moments where you can (there are plenty after all, it’s just the bad moments tend to have an overwhelming shadow when you’re knackered and emotionally drained).
So what am I going to do to get through these next 10 weeks of pregnancy (let alone baby girl’s actual arrival…)?
Well, first of all, I am going to admit my shortcomings. That no matter how much of a “fun Mum” I want to be. No matter how attentive or crafty or well organised I would like to be. I’m just not. I love being a Mummy, but it doesn’t define me. I need my space. I need my creative zone. I need to look at childcare options so I can stay sane! Or call in reinforcements at the very least…
Secondly, I will continue my hypno practice. I’ve learnt so much already, and while it’s certainly brought to attention to level of adrenaline-invoking moments in my day-to-day life, it’s also teaching me how to breathe, how to calm down fast, and how to not let negative emotions get the better of me.
Thirdly, we’re sending the cat to live with my parents in the UK. I always judged people who got rid of their pets because of kids, but trust me, it’s for his benefit as much as mine. Zachy is SO rough with him, and we’re just not getting through the absolute need to be gentle with the poor thing. I’ve identified this as a key area of stress while at home, and I just can’t have the ongoing upset with my son over it (who, yes, I’ve considered sending over the cat many times now!)
Fourthly, I am going to stop blaming my inability to relax on my son. Yes, he is a large cause of it. But he is only a baby himself. He’s still learning. It’s not his fault. And with baby sister soon on her way, he needs me more than ever and I need to be strong, no matter how tough some days are.
Fifthly, we’re going to exercise. Together! I’ve found a fantastic Mummy & Child fitness group, and I hope to share more details over the coming weeks! As the weather warms up we’ll also visit the pool more. The crazy needs to be let out and the calm let in somehow!
Sixthly and finally, I am going to make sure we get daily downtime. Look away now sanctimonious Mummies, as yes, this means more screen time! I do not have the physical or emotional strength to plan and facilitate activities all day, every day. I just can’t (refer to point one about my shortcomings…and the fact I am increasingly pregnant). Maybe he’ll never be an Einstein because of this, but who cares. All I know is that he is not screaming, or hurting the cat, or destroying the house when the TV is on, so that is good enough for me right now.
Bottom line, as a parents, you need to find what works for you, stop forcefully doing things that don’t, and admit that you are not perfect, and neither is your child. Survival is key, and you need to BREATHE to survive.
Let’s see what the next 10 weeks (and beyond!) bring for us in the madhouse…