Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Has anyone got a tissue?

I remember the exact moment when I became a super-sensitive, wet blanket. Before this moment, I could absorb awful things without them reaching me emotionally. I was fascinated by macabre, horrific events, and loved researching the profiles of disturbed criminals. I read American Psycho without flinching and have worked with damaged people, who’ve told me devastating stories about their past. It wasn’t that I enjoyed hearing and reading about these things, it’s just that I found them fascinating (in a morbid sort of way) and yearned to learn more about what made some people tick. In short, nothing really shocked me, it just intrigued me.
But there came a moment, soon after my first-born arrived, when all this changed. At home on maternity leave, I became a reader of online forums, full of anecdotes and advice about parenting. So naturally, I read. There was one lady, who described her toddler punching his newborn sibling in the face.  As I read this, I recoiled. And then I looked at my own newborn, so beautiful and innocent in my arms, and imagined a small fist punching him in his face. And it actually, emotionally, hurt me.

And it was this precise moment that I became soft. I couldn’t shake that image of someone punching my baby in the face. And my imagination didn’t stop there, I pictured all sorts of things happening to him, and every scenario distressed me deeply. Soon enough, I felt the same way while watching the news. Hearing about terrible things happening to other people became very upsetting, particularly if they were children. It was like I had opened myself up to all the sadness in the world and I couldn’t handle it. Starving people, murdered children, any abuse of children. It caused me pain that I didn’t know what to do with.

And that’s not all. With the crying gates now open, I cried at everything. I still do.

It’s like my tears are on stand-by, just below the surface, ready to pour at the very hint of emotion. Children. Animals. The Wiggles. Carols in the Domain. Justine Clarke. I have cried at all of these things. I cry out of happiness, out of sadness. I cry when I’m singing lullabies to one of my babies and he falls asleep on my shoulder. I cry whenever I see or hear about a newborn arrival. I cry in public and have to wear sunglasses to hide my tears. I cried at school orientation for Mr B, when I pictured him singing with his class on the school stage. I cried when the pretty fairy sang the high notes in Silent Night at a Christmas show the other day.

By now, you can probably imagine me watching the news last week, with all the awful things that happened. I sat there while Husband put the last of our kids to bed and cried my brains out. So much so that when he came into the room, he shook his head and said, ‘Your neck’s wet’, and turned off the TV. I reached up to feel my neck, and sure enough, it was a slippery, soggy mess. I must have cried about a litre of tears. It was actually pretty gross.

Maybe I should try reading American Pyscho again. Harden myself up a bit. Or some Irvine Welsh.

Am I the only one to have lost control of my crying reflex now that I have kids? Have any of you become ultra-soft since becoming a parent?

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