personal spaceAhhhh, the sensory overload of motherhood. For me, it’s the sound. There’s no quiet. It’s the cartoons on TV. Or the bickering. Or the continuous “Mom.” “Mama.” “Momma.” “Mom?” “Moooooooom!” that I might hear 48 times in a 5-minute period. Sometimes it can get to me. For others, like Robin of Farewell Stranger, it’s too much touch that can overwhelm her … 

My son hit me the other day.

I had walked in the door from work not ten minutes before and, after a long Monday, sat down on the couch. I was hoping for a moment of peace, to no avail. He came around the back of the couch, leaned on its arm, and jumped. Like a springboard, the arm of the couch launched him forward just as I leaned, and the top of his head met my cheekbone.

If you’ve ever been hit in the face you know how much this hurts. He managed to get the corner of my right eye, hitting both the cheekbone and my brow bone. His head, surprisingly, was fine – not even a goose egg. But my whole world shattered.

The physical-ness of motherhood is something I didn’t really expect, but it’s something that I think contributed to my postpartum depression and, four years later, still causes challenges. The constant touch – breastfeeding, holding him, rocking him, carrying him – was a lot for me, as I think it is for a lot of women. I have an unusually high need for personal space, which is something mothers don’t get much of. But it was the other stuff that put me over the edge, and still does, as evidenced by the head-butting incident.

He used to slap me across the face while he was nursing. And he was a biter. For months he bit me, and nothing I tried got him to stop. It felt like I was constantly being assaulted, which might sound melodramatic, but in the midst of the onslaught that was postpartum depression, it was just one more thing that made me want to scream. (I actually stopping nursing quite abruptly when he was 16 months old because he slapped me one time too many, but that’s a different post.)

Connor is very touch sensitive. He has never had a lovey, instead preferring to rub a piece of someone else. It used to be my neck (it still is with my husband) but now he rubs the inside of my wrist. It used to drive me crazy. Sometimes it still does, but I now have a better appreciation for the comfort it gives him, and I know it won’t last forever.

What I’m less able to tolerate, though, is the rest of his physicality. Now that he’s four, I struggle with the running, bouncing, and jumping (whether he hits me in the face or not). He likes to flip upside down on the couch, and he doesn’t seem to care – or notice – when he kicks someone in the process.

As I write, I’ve fled from his after-dinner burst of energy, which tonight involves racing a fire truck around the kitchen. He has driven cars and trucks and toys over my feet so many times I couldn’t even begin to count. I have bumps and bruises and little scars that will probably stay with me forever, all because of one small boy who refuses to grasp the meaning of “gentle.”

After he crashed into my face the other day, I cried for hours. I cried because it hurt, but mostly because the physicality of motherhood sometimes makes me think I can’t do it anymore. Until he learns to be gentle, though, I guess I don’t have a choice.

Maybe I should wear a helmet.

~ Robin

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