The soggy morning commute was good for reflection. There was this niggling conversation happening in the back of my brain, since last night’s bedtime meltdown (for Potamus, I kept my cool), which ended in one tired kiddo finally falling asleep after fighting it for almost an hour. This conversation is a mulling over of how my instincts knew what to do to help him calm down, which might seem obvious to other moms, but I am sometimes still surprised by the instinctual nature and intuitive way I have with my son (when I’m not letting myself freak out).
I don’t know where I got this idea, but two or so weeks ago, when Potamus was sitting up and bouncing on his butt waving his hands in the air, crying (which seems outwardly like a mini tantrum), I laid him on his side and played a little game. I grabbed his foot firmly and said, “Is your foot tired?” And then I grabbed his ankle and said, “is your ankle tired?” I moved on up his leg, with firm pressure saying “Is your calf tired? Is your knee tired? Is your thigh tired?” when I got to his waist I moved on to his arms (because he giggled when I asked if his ribs were tired, cause it seemed ticklish). Firm pressure on his wrist, then arm, then elbow and up to his shoulder. And then I did the other side.
Last night, after two repetitions, he was asleep. And, we put the rice pack, that we used to use instead of a swaddle in our bed, on his belly, and he stayed there sleeping peacefully. A far cry from the crazy energy from 10 minutes earlier.
“Good job mama bear,” Boof said as the ordeal was over. Exhausted, I slinked off to bed while he went to get himself some dinner. 9:00 pm.
I found it hard to fall asleep, though.
I kept wondering and brooding about about how I knew that that’s what he needed. How did I, two weeks ago, come up with that ‘game’ to play to get him to fall asleep?
Part of my brain said, “well, maybe he’s growing. And your legs used to hurt when you were growing. And your adoptive dad used to rub your legs to help you fall asleep after growing pains or nightmares.”
That answer just didn’t resonate with me. The motion that I used, the pressure going up one side and down the other, seemed…intuitive almost. As if it was something that MY body was craving.
I think the hardest part about being an adoptee, is the second-guessing of myself and all of the relationships around me. I walk through life often feeling misunderstood, first by my adoptive family, but often by others, as well. My facial expressions and posture when I’m tired or thinking were often criticized and pestered with “are you upset? are you angry? what’s wrong?” by my adoptive parents. But for all of this feeling misunderstood, that my moods and way of being in the world is abnormal, I have adapted by watching and experiencing how others are in the world. I can anticipate my adoptive mother’s moods like a pro navigator. I sense and feel and craft my words carefully to have the maximum impact on the family around me. I have adapted.
But, I look at Potamus, and am surprised at how I navigate the process of figuring out his needs. While I write a lot, here, about our interactions, a lot of it is simply happening in my head and body. When I say he whines and I don’t pick him up, I really mean that he whines and I pick him up but inside I wrestle with that decision and think about what it’d be like to not pick him up. But this distance and brain calucalations is exhausting and not very mindful. Because when I turn of the analysis part, which is what I’ve used to survive in an unfamiliar world to me, I just know what he needs. There’s this body or soul sense inside me that tells me what to do. It’s only when my mind is screaming “stop whining!” or “I can’t do this!” that I start to freak out.
When I was examining that thought process, this morning, it crossed my mind that I think that way in an attempt to distance myself from Potamus. I don’t want to pick him up because I think “he needs to get used to doing things without me. I’m not always going to be around.” Talk about adoption issues coming to play in my interactions with him. This idea that I’m not going to be in his life, someday, sometime, I’m trying to protect him by stepping back (even just internally), but how much is that for his protection…or my own?
I’m often overwhelmed by the intensity of the bond and love I feel for him, that I almost wonder if I pull back to save…myself? That if I phrase it “someday I won’t be here for you,” to mean, “someday you will no longer be my baby,” and I’m not yet prepared for that reality to happen. Though, my rational mind knows that I will always be his mama, he will always be my son.
So this intuition, this deep knowing of what he needed in that moment last night, to help him fall asleep. Because it’s what I would have wanted. Or, rather, it’s what I would have needed or do need. Why I enjoy a massage touch with a specific pressure and why progression muscle relaxation and body scanning helps me calm my senses at the end of the day. I don’t always know, but when I do, it’s like this deep internal knowing that can’t be explained by words. It’s beyond thinking, if that makes any sense at all? He couldn’t calm the energy inside him, it was escaping and zinging all over and causing distress. When he was brought back into his body, feeling grounded, he was asleep within minutes.