I got another look into my 3 year-old as a 25 minute tantrum progressed and ended yesterday morning.
Like most mornings, after we wake up, we make a direct bee-line to the bathroom. I usually outline what the next 45 minutes will look like. It moves seamlessly through that plan and we are on our way.
But not yesterday.
"Hey Harp. When we get done going potty, we're going to get dressed, eat oatmeal, get our rain boots and coat on, then grab our bag and go to school. Deal?"
No. No deal apparently because then she flipped out.
Mommy! Moooooommy! Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. MOMMY!
I try to get her to say a different word - or any word more descriptive for what she actually wanted. I tried different clothing options. I tried offering her princess skirt. We could paint. We could color. We could have a race!
Nothing. Just tears, and a broken little heart, and I had no idea what was going on. As she is collapsed in the hallway, I walk to my room to get dressed myself and tell my husband, "She is very three this morning."
She follows me to the kitchen, I make her oatmeal. All the while, still tears, still "mommy."
I get down on her level.
I scoop her up.
We rock in our chair.
I put her down.
I pick her back up.
Still all the while, mommymommymommy......
I sit her on my lap and start feeding her spoonfuls of oatmeal. She eats willingly, one small bite after another, although still with tears.
Just as the bowl of oatmeal is done, I put the spoon down and she immediately stops crying.
"Mommy, I was so sad."
"What were you sad about?"
"I was sad because I didn't want to hurt your feelings to tell you I wanted cold cereal, not oatmeal."
After more snuggles, hugs, and a few tissues, I tried to explain that she doesn't have to worry about hurting my feelings. That she gets to have all her feelings right when she needs to have them. That she can get mad, frustrated, annoyed, happy, excited, and sad with mommy and that's ok. I will still be her mommy and I will still love her and help her with all of her feelings.
Mommy gets help with her feelings and she gets help from mommy.
Sometimes You Need Upfront Unemotional Support
Labor is not like my daughter's breakfast preference - but you don't have to keep anything inside when you are going through birth. As a laboring woman, you get to have all of your emotions. If I am your doula, I can't be offended. My feelings can't be hurt. My role is to be right there with you when you have all of those feelings and tell you it's ok.
Some families choose to bring a doula onto their birth team for this exact reason. A family member may be able to come and support, but the mother or father would be too concerned about that person's influence.
Would they be able to focus on the work that needed to be done to get their baby out? Maybe. Maybe not.
The fear of voicing anxiety of disappointing someone can be so strong that it keeps women's labor from progressing. Knowing you have support that isn't invested emotionally in the outcome of your birth means you can put your attention where it should be - on you!
If this resonates with you let's talk about how you don't have to eat the oatmeal if you don't want to...especially if you want the cold cereal. It is perfectly fine with me either way.
And today, Harp said loudly, "I want just cereal today mommy!"
Those words were so great to hear.
What is it like to be held hostage to a silent expectation? What feelings come to the surface?
Have you ever kept something to yourself because you were conscious of how it would make others feel?
Authored by A Swift Doula