Babysitting failure or learning experience?

I volunteered to babysit for my friends so that they could attend their Marine Corps ball. They have a 2-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter who was born at 26 weeks and therefore has a lot of health concerns. I was really the only person they trusted to watch her overnight and I was happy to help; I know how much they needed some time just the two of them. I was a little worried about their son because he is in the tantrum phase and also tends to experience some separation anxiety when his parents are away for awhile. I figured their daughter wouldn’t give me much trouble since she mostly eats and sleeps. Ha. I was so wrong.

Their son was wonderful and happy for the most part. There were no tantrums until Sunday morning and even then, he quickly got over the breakdowns. It was their daughter who stressed me out. Around 8PM Saturday night, she became pretty inconsolable. I wrapped her, rocked her, fed her, sang to her, turned the lights down, kept it quiet, put on white noise….I tried everything I could, but no matter what, she cried. Hard. Throughout the night she woke up about every two hours, screaming. I fed her each time and tried to get her back to sleep, but as the night went on and I didn’t get any sleep, my frustration rose. I had to put her down in her swing, knowing she was fed, clean, and safe, and busy myself. Sunday morning and until my friends got home, she was upset. The moment they walked in the door, I raised both of my arms over my head and began crying. It wasn’t the first time I had cried in the past 27 hours and it wouldn’t be the last.

Since about 14 weeks pregnant, I could feel my emotions were heightened. I became agitated quicker, sadder than usual, and so happy I would cry. This is unusual for me. Although I feel deeper than most on a regular basis, I am typically pretty good about working through my feelings before I show them. Not anymore.

This poor little girl wanted her mama and to comfort nurse at nighttime. I couldn’t provide either for her. After spending nearly four months in the NICU, she did not want to let go of her mom and who could blame her? Neither of us ended up sleeping much Saturday into Sunday. Even once I was home, I cried a few more times. I called my husband on Skype for reassurance because I had begun to believe I would fail as a mother as I felt I had failed as this girl’s babysitter. I started to doubt myself and my ability to be a good mama to my baby. Of course he told me that I would be wonderful, but in the moment it didn’t feel like it. After he went to sleep (we have a 14 hour time difference between us), I called my mom and talked to her about the night, and again, I cried. A little calmer this time, more like a release than a reaction. She giggled at my experience and explained how sometimes babies are just upset and learning to cope with that is a skill that takes time. She also told me that I tended to be a similar pain in the butt when I was baby and assured me that is why babies are so cute. And I started to feel better.

Then, as I heated up some tea, I was reminded of this week’s affirmation (it’s written on my microwave):

After the water was heated, while my tea steeped, I sat on my couch and focused on my breathing. I took a few moments to meditate and let go of the negativity I was holding onto inside. I opened my eyes, drank my tea, decided to take away what I could from this experience, and was finally able to feel relaxed enough to sleep.

Mindset is everything.


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