Gratefulness and Guilt

I have read a lot of infertility blogs over the past few years, and a theme that comes up time and time again is one I am beginning to relate to in my own life. Mothers who are parenting after struggling with infertility often feel guilt when the child they fought so hard for frustrates and exhausts them, and they just want to escape for awhile. Some feel pressure to be grateful every minute of every day that they have this miracle child, and somehow not enjoying and reveling in even the extremely hard moments is a self-imposed sin.

I get it, I really do. My miracle baby- my surprise blessing, whose very presence makes life brighter, more fun, and most of the time a complete joy- nearly gave me a nervous breakdown this weekend.

Friday night was awful.  Charlotte, whose fever from Thursday was gone, went to bed with a minor cough and some sniffles, but was otherwise seemingly on the mend. But starting at about 11:00 pm, she was awake every hour, screaming. She wouldn’t nurse, wouldn’t take a bottle, and worst of all, absolutely refused to go to her daddy. Oh and she wouldn’t get in bed with us. (What is it with my children not wanting to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed? Grayson never would as a baby either. Even if we wanted to co-sleep, which we don’t unless it means SLEEP on nights like this, our kids are staunchly opposed to the idea).

At one point, I felt complete and utter desperation and hopelessness and told my husband that I had absolutely no idea what to do with this pitiful creature arching her back and screaming in my ear.

After a few hours of screaming and Charlotte slapping at her ear, I determined she must have an earache. I dragged poor Ryan into the kitchen at 2:00 am and gave him step by step instructions to chop fresh garlic and heat it with olive oil on the stove to make ear drops (yes, people, I am becoming crunchier by the day). Thankfully, the drops worked their magic and we were able to get a few hours of sleep, except for the 2 or 3 times we were up with Grayson, whose own cold and stuffy nose is making him throw up more than usual.

Under the best of circumstances, I do not do well when I haven’t slept (I also think I require more sleep than the average person to function).  After days of being sick myself and caring for a sick baby and chronically sick kid, I was just done. Physically hurting and emotionally checked out. I just wanted to escape somewhere, preferably buried under about ten layers of covers in a dark, dark room.

Charlotte is also testing me with her behavior. She will go over to Grayson, look at me and grin, and pull on his tube. I know she’s wanting a reaction from me, which she gets in this case. She’s also started this oh-so-fun phase of throwing almost every bit of food I offer her on the floor. My as-of-a-week-ago excellent eater has now only eaten waffles, blueberries and cheese the past few days. Everything else gets tossed on the floor (where’s a dog when we need one?!). Since I truly believe I have PTSD when it comes to infant feeding, my mind of course jumps to She will never eat again. That’s it, she’s going to need a feeding tube. I mean, so ridiculous I KNOW but that’s what Grayson’s ordeal has done to me.

I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and I need a break. But just like a survivor of infertility, I feel guilty. I’ve survived (so far) parenting a child with severe eating problems, complicated medical needs, and severe physical limitations. And now I have this gift, this perfectly healthy, normal almost-toddler, doing perfectly normal things, and testing boundaries. And I feel like I should feel nothing but gratitude, embracing her normalness. But normal is not always easy, is it?

Logically, I know that my brain is being irrational. All parents get frustrated, tired and need a break. But should I hold myself to a higher standard and set the bar of patience higher with Charlotte because of what I’ve been through with Grayson? Or because they are such completely different creatures and caring for them requires completely different skill sets should I not base my patience with one on my experience with the other?

I don’t know if I’ll every completely answer these questions, but maybe for now, since they are both in bed asleep, I should go bury myself under those covers in my own dark room. Tomorrow is a new day.


  1. thenelipotmommy on February 18, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Oh wow. I hope you got some sleep! I think I agree… they are so different, and they require different types of patience and mothering. It's much easier *for me* to be patient with my kids when they are sick and pitiful, than it is when they are naughty and willful. And throwing food on the floor… I swear I sweep up 80 times a day, and it still looks like it hasn't been done in years. I'd love a dog… but I'd also rather pick up our food than a dog's poop. 🙂 And hooray for garlic ear drops! I don't know that trick, I'll have to learn it!

  2. Reagan Leigh on February 18, 2014 at 5:02 am

    I totally know where you're coming from! Ryan has had some illnesses where he has been more needy than imaginable and he's also doing that not wanting to eat thing right now too!

  3. Esperanza on February 18, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Oh Elizabeth. First of all, I need to tell you that I read this post in little stints, as I took “time outs” from my daughter during bedtime. Every. Single. Part. of. Bedtime. was a HUGE battle. I needed to leave the room THREE TIMES because I just couldn't keep from starting to yell. That girl was driving me totally crazy. So I feel you on the being just DONE with your kid. I get it. I really do.

    I think that it must be really hard to come to a challenging toddler relationship (and it sounds like Charlotte is absolutely a toddler already, and that she has been for a while now) when you are emotionally exhausted from managing everything that is involved in the caring of Grayson. I just think that would be impossibly hard. We can't always be grateful for what we have, sometimes we are just DONE and I think you have SO MUCH going on, I imagine it would be even harder to come to the parenting-a-toddler table with the patience needed to hold it together. At least I know I wouldn't be coming to the table with much patience or understanding if I were you, that's for sure.

    I hope you can find a way to patient and understanding with yourself, because you are dealing with so, so much.

    Abiding with you, now and always.

  4. J o s e y on February 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Oh hon, hang in there. You're okay – you're exhausted, and you're parenting two complicated children – a medically needy child and a precocious toddler. Give yourself a break, allow yourself to feel the frustration, and the remind yourself that this is just a phase with Charlotte. She will eat again. She will learn when it's important for not to mean no (like with the feeding tube). Your patience level will increase again, and you'll be okay. Being frustrated with a child doesn't mean you don't love him/her. Big hugs to you today – you are NOT alone.

  5. Karen on February 18, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Tomorrow is a new day, for sure. Sending you love and hugs. Wished we lived closer together…I would SO babysit and give you a break!!!

  6. Becky on February 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Praying you got some sleep. Lord knows I lose my mind at the drop of a hat when I haven't had any. Also, the testing (her) , the wanting to scream at her (you)… both totally normal.

  7. SRB on March 3, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I just wanted to tell you how brave I think this was to say, and that I completely understand. You have said many things here that bother me every day and I don't really have the courage to actually say “out loud” on my blog. Discussing the challenges we face with our children and wondering how we can do better is *never* “complaining” in my book, and has nothing to do with gratitude. You are human – and a good egg. 🙂

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