My oldest has been a hair twirler as early as I can remember. When his hair was long enough he used to twirl the hair right on top of his head before falling asleep. During our nursing days, he held on to my hair with a fist clenched so tightly I had to pry his fingers loose.
His hair is rather short now, so he doesn’t have the luxury he used to. So, he uses mine. We were in the middle of playing and he grabbed my hair on both sides and pulled it under my chin. He said, “Momma, who do you look like?” I said, “Who?” He said, “Mary!” (Mother of Jesus). I laughed. He pulled my hair pack and put it behind my shoulders and said, “Now you look like Momma again”.
His words struck me at that moment. I began to wonder about his perspective of my PPOCD. Did I still look like momma in my worst moments? Did he see the darkness that wrapped itself around my heart and mind? He many not have understood exactly what was happening, but I know he sensed it. Thoughts like “I’ve ruined him for life” or “He’s going to be an anxious man” plague my heart. I wonder if he’ll remember any of it. I did my best to protect him from it and am not sure how well I succeeded.
Recently he has been “afraid of everything”. The dark, his room, being left alone, the closet, going to preschool. You name it, he’ll tell you a reason why he is afraid of it. I don’t know if this is stemming from normal childhood fear, or if he is emotionally scarred. As ridiculous as that sounds, that’s what runs through my head….
There is a part of me that feels like the worst mother in the world, and then there is the other part of me that knows this is not true. I didn’t ask for a postpartum mood disorder, but I got one. I got help for it, and I got better and am continuing to head in the right direction. God’s grace has been more then abundant and his provision overflowing.
After exhausting lots of attempts to alleviate his fears, I finally found a way to at least show him a little bit of reassurance. My therapist suggested that I teach him how to be “in the moment” during times when he is not afraid. Placing his hand over his heart and saying “You are ok right now, and God will always keep you ok in your heart. When you feel scared, put your hand over your heart and remember that when you weren’t feeling scared, you were ok, and that God is keeping you ok now.”
It seemed to help a little, but then we integrated a concept from the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. In short, a little raccoon doesn’t want to go to school, he wants to stay home with his momma raccoon. Momma raccoon goes through all the reasons why school is important and fun. She shares a very old secret with him called “The Kissing Hand”. She kissed the palm of her baby raccoon and told him to put his hand to his cheek “whenever he felt lonely or needed a little loving from home”. This reassured him greatly and he was excited that he could take her love with him wherever he went. The story ends with him giving his momma a kiss on the middle of her hand as he left for school. I think she needed that Kissing Hand just as much as her little raccoon.
Our bedtime and goodbye rituals include the kissing hands and he says to me, “Now you always have my love, Momma”. I tell him he always has mine and we put our hands over each other’s hearts and on our cheeks. I remind him that he always has Jesus’ love in his heart as well and he can always talk to him when he feels scared. I pray this helps him work out whatever his brain is processing and he can be “himself” again….and isn’t scarred for life….
I kissed his hand when I dropped him off today at preschool and he smiled shyly and kissed mine. Just like the momma raccoon I need my very own kissing hand just as much as she did, and just as much as my son does, perhaps more so.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your comfort and peace. May it penetrate my heart daily so I may be a source of comfort and peace to my children.
2 Corinthians 1:5