When my first born was seven weeks old he was colic and, after trying for many years to conceive, I was crumbling during the first months of motherhood. Everything seemed to be falling apart. I couldn't believe that this is what I had spent countless fertility treatments trying to obtain. It was awful. And, due to a tendency toward perfectionism, I was not about to admit that I wasn't loving every second of it.
Then the morning came when I carelessly left him on the couch and walked into the other room to get something. I didn't see him fall but I heard the thud. And by the time I grabbed him off the floor just a few seconds later, his tiny head already had a golf ball sized bump.
No no no no no this can't be happening...
In hindsight, I realize I should have called an ambulance but instead, alone, I put him in the car seat, and rushed to the hospital, panicked and driving erratically. I ran with him into the emergency room. And I watched them, now in slow motion memory, check him. They put his little body, strapped down, flailing, into an MRI machine. The whole day is a blur but there are moments that stand out. Like his brain image on the screen when I found out he had fractured his skull...
He is fine now and, like the doctors predicted that day, shows no evidence of the accident. I have since forgiven myself for that but at first it was a shameful secret of my motherhood. Looking back, I made a terrible, mindless mistake. He is fine. I am blessed it wasn't worse. Beating myself up about the past doesn't help the present. And that notion is something I hope to instill in my children.
As mothers there seems to be an inherent culture of self doubt, of potential regret over the big stuff and all the little stuff too. Is the child stimulated enough? Overstimulated? Eaten too much sugar? Has enough independence? Disciplined correctly? Did he sleep well? Is he happy? Does he feel safe?
The idea that this tiny being is going to become a man one day and carry the scars of my mistakes into future decision making and relationship is almost terrifying. That he might learn how to feel guilt and regret and self hatred because I have mirrored it for him, that he may be damaged because I was damaged, and the cycle of psychological patterns repeat generation upon generation, can be a debilitating thought.
But in reality, most mothers are doing the best they can given the circumstances of life up until that point. And most children survive, thrive, and succeed beyond expectations. Nothing good comes from self criticism, regret, shame. Choosing gentleness of mind, body, and spirit is the only way heal and be truly happy, in life in general, and motherhood especially.