Use Your Words

2.11.08: The final chapter of the Charlie Chronicles


This is my last entry in the Charlie Chronicles. And as I sit down to write it, I'm coming off of what feels like one of my worst weeks as a mother.

It's been a week of puking, pink eye, sore throats, ear infections, coughing, and wheezing. There's been an explosion of molars in Charlie's mouth, which has kept him up screaming every night for hours on end. No one's gotten much sleep. Julia's been acting up at home and at school. I took on a new job which has left me questioning whether I'm doing the right thing by my family. I've been snapping at everyone, feeling weighed down by the sheer exhaustion of our everyday lives. Not exactly mother-of-the-year material.

We're all so wiped out, it's like none of us are even speaking the same language anymore. Charlie, who communicates with us so well now, can only writhe and scream and arch his back when we try to comfort him in the middle of the night. Unable to soothe him, or even keep a good grip on him, I end up laying him back down in his crib crying, sneaking back to bed convinced that I am the worst mother in the world. Or, I send Will in to help, and then lie in bed convinced that I am the worst mother in the world. Every morning, we've had 45-minute battles with Julia over underwear and socks and breakfast and boots. I end up snapping, threatening, time-outing, huffing, and puffing. Julia ends up in a meltdown of tears. After I've dropped her off at school (late again) and climbed back into the car with Charlie, I end up having my own meltdown of tears, convinced that I am the worst mother in the world.

This past week has been a blur of crying, whining, screaming, flailing, and temper-tantrum-throwing—some of it Julia's and Charlie's. All week, Will and I have been repeating the phrase: "Use your words. Use your words. We can't help you if you don't use your words."

As I uttered that phrase for the umpteenth time this week, I realized how much I needed to take my own advice. Using my words has been the only thing that's helped me through the week: a chat with a girlfriend, a talk with Will, an e-mail exchange with a friend. They've all listened patiently and said: "I've been there," or "We're going through that, too," or even just "That's totally normal."

It's all I really needed.

It occurred to me that this is exactly why I go online to read parenting blogs myself: for the virtual sounding board, for the reality check—for the chance to buoy myself up by the shared experiences of others. Especially during the rough times, the infuriating days—the utter exhaustion of these baby years—it helps to know that somewhere out there, there's someone going through the exact same thing. And there's someone else who's lived to tell about it.

Next week, we at Fit Pregnancy begin to welcome the voices of new women starting out on their own paths to motherhood. As they share their joys and hardships, I'll be reading along wistfully, empathizing with them in the hard times, appreciating the sweetness of the good times, and knowing how very much they have to look forward to. Because even on the bad days, I wouldn't trade the experience of being a mother for anything.

Check back next week for the first installment of Dana's new Crib Notes blog—our Editor's take on the latest news, trends, information and issues that matter most to new mothers.

Photo courtesy of Tom Underwood photography