I met my friend and her new baby B. today. She is perfect, beautiful, adorable, cuddly, with inquisitive eyes (when she woke up!), rosy little cheeks and already crowned with lots of soft black hair that loves to stick straight up and you can tell will soon make cute little bunches on top of her head.
There is something very special about the rush of love that fills me when I hold a little child. Much as I fear having my own children and fear I would not know what to do, would not know how to be gentle enough or how to keep my patience when they cry and cry or do not sleep the night for months, or how to know what they need, holding B. today the perfect trust she showed as she cooed and nestled in to me and went to sleep soundly, as though she had found a “safe place” of her own, pulled at my heart with protective love. As she laid on my chest I knew it was a privilege to be loved by her unconditionally and to protect and adore her and wish to give her everything good.
And B. is not my child – how much more must those feelings be as a mother!
B’s mother, who has encountered with varying degrees of proximity many distressing family and childhood situations, including ill treatment and abuse, said that she has asked herself how inconceivable it is that anyone could ever do a child harm.
Part of me would long for my own family and I have been touched by love for and delight in my friends’ children, including my godchildren. Equally I am stunned that my friends did choose me as a godmother, being so sure myself that I do not have anything good to give and if only they knew how very bad inside and dangerous I really am. I even won’t go to spend time with my friend if her boys will be there, sometimes, because I am so afraid I might do something that hurt them – either unconsciously, in a dissociative state, or because I’m just bad really – or that I would only upset them. If I were a mother I’d be afraid I had no idea how to raise a child, what to give them, how to teach them, and that my patience would run out.
My fears intensified when I was babysitting years ago and the child I was caring for was in the midst of a tantrum and the voices in my head started telling me that I was going to hit her. I was terrified. So terrified that I shut the child in her room and myself into another room and left her alone crying because I thought that was safer than what I was going to do. I was very disturbed afterwards and starved myself in the following days as punishment. I have never babysat since. It was all the proof I needed how the evil was going to erupt from me.
Today B. slept in my arms. Today she just wanted cuddles and love. Today the love cast out some of the fear, whilst I held her. It really touched me that I had been open with my friend about some of the awful things going on in my head – my BPD, my hallucinations and obsessional thoughts – and still she wanted to come to see me and let me hold her child and trusted me.
“For perfect love casts out fear,” the Gospels say. In the moments that little baby melted the fear in my heart, I began to understand.
There’s a fight in my heart and my head right now because as soon as I left my friend and baby B., the anxiety grabbed at me and I’m terrified again; something cold and horrible is clutching at my chest. It’s as though all the knowledge that I’m bad and fears of the evil in me are redoubling their efforts to break me, so as to punish me for loving and trusting and being happy with B. Tonight’s going to be a very hard and scary night. I’m going to try to keep loving.
This song by Vienna Teng, “Anna Rose”, speaks very much to me of the tender love between a parent and child and the delight children’s non-judgemental acceptance and trust gives us.