I look down at Josh, on the floor. I know he’s gone into that zone and it’s going to be hard to pull him back. He’s sobbing hysterically, on the verge of hyperventilating which I know I need to stop from happening otherwise he’ll probably vomit as well. His face is red and blotchy, his limbs are thrashing wildly, seeking out anyone to attack if they dare come close to him. Out of the corner of my eye I can see a couple of Mums with their daughters; they’re trying to be inconspicious with their glances in our direction but I’ve already clocked them. I can’t blame them for staring; Josh doesn’t do meltdowns quietly.
I feel at such a loss. We’re in a huge play park and my friends and the buggy are way down at the other end of it. They can’t see what’s going on to come and help me and take Holly, who is in my arms looking baffled at what’s going on. I try to stay calm and think of what to do. Hugging Josh hard, almost too hard, usually works (something about compressing the nervous system slightly – it sends calming signals to the brain). But where will I put Holly? I try laying her on the grass for a minute so I can attempt to comfort Josh, but with no luck. She cries at being put down, and he cries because he’s in that dark place where a cuddle from Mummy isn’t welcome and instead heightens the stress he’s feeling. I try to put him back down and pick her up, all the while keeping hold of him and stopping him from running off. I look down the far end of this massive park and pray one of my friends may look over and come and help me – in that moment I don’t know what to do. I feel like a failure. I feel like a shit Mum and I feel lost. Short of dragging Josh all the way down this park by his arm, which obviously wasn’t an option, I don’t know what to do. I suddenly wish my husband was there; he’d be so much better at this situation than me. He’d be calmer. Although perhaps not if he had a crying six month old to contend with as well.
Suddenly a kind looking woman about my age walks over to us. The feeling of sheer gratitude outweighs the mortification I am feeling. “Give little one to me” she says, knowing I can then deal with Josh. I explain, whilst trying not to cry, where my friends and all my stuff is and she walks with me, talking to Holly who, as always, is loving the attention. Josh is still fighting the good fight. He weighs three stone, he’s a big boy and I am quite little so he’s heavy at the best of times; when he’s ripping clumps of my hair out, attacking my sunglasses (goodbye my beautiful pink H&M beauties), and gouging my eyes, he seems heavier still. Finally, after what feels like a Mum walk of shame with people glancing over at the chaos, we make it to the buggy. I thank the lady profusely and proceed to pack up all our stuff at the speed of light. By now Josh is laid on the blanket, still sobbing but completely exhausted. I can honestly say I have never wanted to go home so much in my life as I did in that moment. A friend wheeled Holly up to the car (which of course was parked miles away) whilst I spoke quietly to Josh and explained we were going home in the car. Because he was so exhausted I thought he’d relent, let me cuddle and carry him but his rage was reignited and he grappled with me (and my friend who kindly helped) all the way back to the car.
In anticipation of this happening I’d hidden a woo (comforter to all other normal people) and a bottle of milk in the boot of my car; I got him strapped into the car seat and thrust the bottle and woo in his hands. Calmness immediately took over him; perhaps he knew he was safe now, he was in the car and he knew that meant he was going home, or maybe he was just exhausted. Either way he downed the milk and passed out. Once I’d convinced my friend I was OK she went back to rejoin our group of buddies and I put Holly in the car and packed everything else away.
Finally I got in the car, tired, upset, hair looking like a banshee after Josh had pulled clump after clump out, and I cried. Proper ugly crying too – sobbing my eyes out. Then I decided enough was enough and it was time to go. And then I cried the entire 22 mile drive home, pulling myself together only long enough to stop at McDonalds to get Josh and I lunch because I was at the point of giving zero fucks about him or I eating healthy food today. Today, it seemed, was simply a case of survival.
I feel guilt (of course – I’m a Mother and it seems we are indebted to stupid Mum guilt from the minute we give birth) because Josh had had a really good week up to this point. He’s played nicely, he’s been saying a few more words (cock-a-doodle-doo when he saw a cockerel in his farm book this morning being a particular highlight) and now I am worried my determination that we’d do something “normal, that everyone else gets to do” may have stalled all that. If I’m honest, every single bit of me wanted to bail on going this morning for fear of him finding it too much and having a meltdown but I just kept thinking “you’ve got to try, you miss out on things if you don’t give it a go”. Perhaps in this situation I should have listened to my instincts, but I guess I’ll live and learn from it. And now, this afternoon, I am determined to make us all feel better – if that means back to back Hey Duggee, endless cups of tea, milk for Josh, and some chocolate for me then so be it.
You can’t plan everything can you. One thing I am learning, quickly with Josh, is to try and be prepared for the unexpected in every situation.
Most of all though, I will forever be grateful to that kind lady who helped me this morning; no big deal was made of it, no cringey attempts at forced conversation were made; she just got it. She knew what I needed and she delivered. It didn’t matter that the other Mums stared (and most likely did so out of pity rather than judging me, even though it never feels like that at the time), this woman made me feel comforted by hardly doing anything. Unless she ever stumbles across this blog, she won’t know the gratitude I feel to her. It was that Motherhood solidarity that so many of us often need. It was an unspoken “don’t worry, we’ve all been there”. It was kindness. She took a moment out of her day to help a Mum she could see was struggling. She didn’t turn a blind eye and pretend she couldn’t see, she didn’t judge or laugh at me, she didn’t whisper comments I wouldn’t have known about to her friend. She just helped. To her it was a couple of minutes out of her morning, and to me it was like a well dressed guardian angel arriving at the point of me collapsing with Josh on the floor.
It’s made me realise even more that not every look is what you envisage it to be in that moment; they’re not all judgemental glances from people criticising you as a parent. Because every once in a while someone will make you realise, whatever you’re up against, whatever your circumstances, however you feed your kid, whether you’re a stay at home mum, a working mum, a co-sleeping mum, a Gina Ford mum, the bottom line is, as Mums we’re all in this together. Sod all the debates, the comparisons, the pitting of Mums against each other – we’re all Mums. We’re all in it together.
Tomorrow is another day. And if you are reading this, you lovely fellow Mum who rescued me in Eaton Park this morning, I will be forever grateful!