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When My Little Girl Cries

I find it upsetting when my daughter cries. I find it difficult to see and hear. My instinct is to do what I can, as quickly as I can, to make her feel okay again. I have to stop and look past my discomfort though: babies and toddlers cry. It’s one of their means of communication and expressing how they feel. Therefore stopping a baby or toddler from crying ought not to be the main aim of a parent. Meeting their emotional (and physical) needs is the primary goal and sometimes that means letting them cry a little, whilst supporting them through that crying.

I find this hard to remember sometimes. As a younger baby, my daughter’s episodes of crying were short lived & infrequent. I couldn’t believe what a relaxed and jolly baby she was. More than that though, I took pride in the fact that I could settle her almost instantly. As a breastfeeding mum (that’s a story for another day), I coeuld sooth her any place any time with the magic of instant milk! Instant milk! Ready served at the perfect temperature with no electricity or equipment needed. Needing confidence in my those early days, I tricked myself into thinking “oh I must be a ‘good mum’ because my baby doesn’t cry for long periods of time and I can always make her calm.” Thinking in this way about my baby’s serenity lulled me into a state of calm. I quickly attached a meaning to this: I am a 'good mum' because my baby is calm and, by extension, mums with BPD really can be ‘good mums’.

This false logic only became problematic when my baby turned into a little girl, as if almost over night. Her world expanded, her demeanour became toddler. She changed from easily appeased to headstrong and opinionated. She began to have preferences where previously she had none and proper words where she used to have sounds. As a result, I have to put in boundaries because saying no is a form of love. These can be hard to accept and make her cry: ‘strawberries have finished’, ‘I need to change your nappy / brush your teeth / wash your hair’, ‘we are leaving the park.’

Some of the hardest conversations I’ve had to have with both my husband and with myself are about the fact that it’s okay for her to cry. It’s not our job to silence her cry. It’s our job to keep her safe, love her, nurture her and a million other things- but not silence her cry. Not being able to settle her as quickly as I used to is not a sign that she is becoming 'less happy' or that I am becoming a ‘less good’ mum.

It would be flawed beyond measure to correlate the amount of crying with the amount of parenting skills (or love). Yet it’s when my little girl cries that my doubts about my capabilities as a mum are most likely to sneak in. If I am tired, hungry or anxious about something, thoughts like these can pop into my mind:

- What if my daughter is not happy because of me?

- What if I’m not giving her a good enough life?

- what if my daughter sees me having a panic attack and is scared?

- What if I really am [insert stereotype]?

- What if my daughter doesn’t learn to regulate her emotions properly because of me?

- What if I can’t handle the challenges of being a parent and life in general, and that has a negative impact on her?

Whilst I do truly know that BPD is not mutually exclusive with being a capable and caring parent, I would be lying if I said I never had doubts; long-term exposure to stigma has come at a cost. I spent many years worrying that I would not be able to be the mum I always wanted to be. These fears linger, in spite of my present confidence. Rest helps keep them at bay, but as a mum to a toddler relaxation does not come in abundance(!).

I find it more helpful to acknowledge my doubts, than run from them. I try to remind myself of the positives which may quieten my fears:

- I have spent many years learning tools to regulate my emotions. I can share these with my daughter.

- I have spent years cultivating relationships with people who matter to me. My daughter is part of this web.

- I am one parent of two. There is so much pressure on the mum to be the ‘primary parent’ in society. But parenting for me is a shared adventure and endeavour with my husband. I am one of two equal parts in this.

- I am creative, loving, expressive, caring and I never let a moment go by without sharing those facets of myself with my beautiful little girl.

When I was under the perinatal mental health team when my daughter was a newborn, one of the nurses told me babies are like adults and sometimes they need to just ‘let it out’. She said when your baby cries just hold them and tell them they can let it all out with you. So next time my daughter cries and a doubt about myself as a mum arises, I will not only let her have her cry, but I will let my doubts come into my mind and let them drift back out. Clouds over the sky. Leaves on a stream. Whatever metaphor works.

Cry little girl, cry and I will hold you until your emotion (and mine) passes by.


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