Marie spent some time in a Mother & Baby unit after her daughter was born in 2018. She has kindly let me share the following about life with a toddler, ‘parenting guilt‘ and EUPD. You can read more about Marie at: eupdparentingandme.wordpress.com or find her at Marie Richardson on Instagram.
“This week we’ve had a little bit of parenting drama (aside from my MASSIVE parenting fail – forgetting it was pancake day). On Monday I took Poppy to the park to play with one of her friends, while I had a socially distanced chat with another adult. What a damn luxury! Anyway, the girls played together while we chatted, when we noticed they were wandering a little bit too far away. As we started walking over, Poppy moved backwards and toppled over into this little stream. Cue me frantically running towards her, jumping into the stream, grabbing her out and then running home. She’s crying, I’m doing my best to stay calm and we’re both dripping wet and muddy. Luckily the park is about 5 minutes from home, so at least we haven’t got far to go. When we arrive home, we both strip off, jump in the shower and try to warm up a bit. I should probably mention at this point that Poppy absolutely HATES the shower, so the crying becomes more frantic.
After we’re both dry and dressed, and a very panicked call to NHS direct, it’s clear that Poppy is completely fine, in fact she’s actually quite happy about what’s happened, telling her brother and sister about her ‘adventure’ and how she ‘fell down a mountain into a river’ ramping up the drama for maximum sympathy.
Finally the adrenaline I’d been running on leaves my body and I burst into tears, telling myself I’m the worst mother ever, how could I have ever let that happen to her, I should have stopped it, I can’t believe I let her down like that. I am convinced that my daughter deserves better than me.
It’s only later, looking back on this I can start to unpick everything that’s happened. For starters, I don’t know of a single parent that can tell me they have never experienced a time where their child has got hurt and they don’t feel guilt for it. That unique ‘parenting guilt’ that rips your soul apart and you wonder how you’ll ever live with what’s happened. So I have taken comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in feeling this.
My biggest reflection is if there was anything I could have done differently. Maybe I could have tried to keep Poppy closer to me to play. But knowing her, she’d probably have told me ‘NO’ and run off anyway. And if I display anxiety about her going off to explore, will she pick up on that and be fearful of ever leaving my side? I know I definitely don’t want that for her. Firstly because I imagine the very limited time I get to myself when she’s busy playing alone would completely disappear and I imagine having a toddler constantly demanding my attention is another difficult situation entirely. I have always felt incredibly lucky at my child’s ability for independent play. Secondly because I never want her to be afraid to explore, to discover new things and create her own fun and adventures. How can she begin to do that if I’m constantly next to her, holding her back, just in case there’s a chance something could happen. As adults, we potentially risk our lives by doing simple everyday things such as crossing the road. Of course we minimise the risks, but it doesn’t stop us living our lives, and I don’t want to limit my child’s fun by preventing her from activities she enjoys just because there is a small risk she could hurt herself.
I also want to reflect on what she may have learned from this experience. She has learned that it’s okay to go and explore, but to be careful with it. She’s learned that when I say ‘don’t go too far’ there’s usually a good reason for it. And most importantly she’s learned that I will always be there to pick her up when she falls, to kiss her better and to support her to cope with how she feels about what has happened.
My main aim as a parent has always been supporting my daughter in learning how to cope with life, when good or bad things happen, and eventually how to survive on her own. I believe experiences like these will help her understand issues she will always come across in life, such as danger and consequences. I want her to be able to learn these lessons while she’s young, while I’m here to support her, rather than when she’s alone and has to deal with it without me.
So at the time, I can understand why I found it difficult to process my own emotions and think rationally, when the only thing I could feel was this overwhelming sense of guilt. Having EUPD also means I struggle to identify and label emotions, which can make ration processing of situations a bit more tricky. Most of the time the only word I have to explain how I feel is ‘overwhelmed’. Although I am getting a lot better at this since having Poppy, and helping her to work through her own emotions.
Looking back I know that honestly, I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently, aside from maybe how I viewed the situation myself. One of the hardest battles I face is my ability to constantly question every single decision I make, until nothing feels like it’s the right answer. It’s probably what can make parenting so hard, because ultimately nobody knows what the ‘right’ answer is. I think I always strive to be a ‘perfect’ mother, when actually; the closest you can get to perfection is simply trying your best.
And just to give me a bit of reassurance, I heard Poppy retelling the story, adding on the end that ‘mummy is a superhero because she rescued me.’ ”