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Crucible

June 3, 2009

The inevitable finally happened this week as my wife returned to work. Our many months of trying to get the baby to take a bottle culminated in… nada. She took about three bottles along the way, but now seems to have lost her suck reflex, so she’s only shouting and screaming and kicking at the sight of the bottle. Which is a problem, since she kinda needs to eat, especially when my wife is away from home for 14 hour stretches.

All of which has put me into a very stressful place, and one where I keep thinking about a Richard Rohr quote I heard a couple of years back. Reflecting on the lack of places for people to accept and embrace their own powerlessness, and in consideration of his work in the area of cultural rites of initiation, he said, “Male initiation rites are training in the area of male powerlessness.” Suggesting, I think, that initiation rites like those of the First Nations in North America provided a place for young men to not only be empowered as adults, but to learn the limitations of their power. It might sound unkind and unAmerican, but all of us need to learn all that we’re capable of, and to accept all that we’re not capable of.

So a few ‘highlights’ of the past couple of days:

  • Offering a bottle– the very thing that she desperately needs– time and again, and being rejected.
  • Holding her while she wails– sometimes for an hour at a time– during which time she randomly and inexplicably takes in huge gulps of air. Which she then screams about for the pain in her belly, and which she is unable or unwilling to burp out. So her agony is only prolonged.
  • Swaying her to the point of comfort, then restless sleep, then a startled wakefulness. And, repeat.
  • The frustration of a (so-called) bedtime, when both girls will holler at me from different ends of our small home. Of course, they are both obviously exhausted, but are unable to sleep.

My other meditations have been on some rudimentary anger management tips that a dear friend has passed along. Stuff that is obvious, but which is easy to miss in the heat of the moment:

  • Anger is often a secondary emotion. It masks our true hurts, and in fact inflames and enrages them.
  • Our underlying emotions are much more messy, and petty: powerlessness, rejection, frustration, desperation, inadequacy, guilt, and feeling disregarded and unloved.
  • It is embarrassing to face our underlying emotions.
  • Giving in to anger only justifies it all the more.

I should conclude with something pithy, wise, or ambiguous, but my dear Lucia is waking up now, and is hungry. I think I’ll try the eyedropper this time…

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7 Responses to “Crucible”

  1. maria says:

    Dang. Hang in there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would like to take this opportunity to offer all the best, most wise advice I can….

    Tom D.M.

  3. Maggie says:

    Oh Mike, that sucks. I was thinking holding a screaming baby for a couple of hours and not being able to stop it was hard, but all day? And knowing she's hungry, but you can't help. I'm not exaggerating when I say that sounds like torture. I'm sorry and I'll be thinking of you. I hope things get better fast.

  4. John E. says:

    Oh, man… Nothing like a child's irrationality and/or wailing to rip away one's sanity… When I've experienced (glimpses of) this with my boys, I've wondered whether this was the true purpose of those nearly-forgotten Lamaze classes. Grace and peace (and sleep) to you.

  5. Jon says:

    I remember with our first one (anastasia), actually feeling the urge to shake her when she wouldn't stop wailing the first night I was alone with her. Suddenly I had flashes of video snippets of those terrible parents on Hard Copy or Jerry Springer and I came to a similar conclusion that it was the 'powerlessness' that was the most frustrating. On a hopeful note, we discovered that night (after a late night trip to the ER) the wondeful cause of hysteria… gas. $4 Mylicon did the trick.

  6. Danielle says:

    Oh, that so sucks!!! I'm so sorry! I TOTALLY get the anger thing–never thought about what the underlying emotions were/are. I'll send up some prayers for a strong sucking reflex and a new addiction to the bottle!

  7. this really is making me wonder about parenthood.

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