I had my first, true meltdown yesterday. I knew it was coming, but I didn't really imagine how.
Being 36 weeks pregnant, having Braxton Hicks contractions often and feeling so completely exhausted all contributed to that, and dealing with a particularly stubborn, tantrum-prone 2 ½ -year-old didn't help at all.
From early in the morning, he didn't cooperate with his first diaper change. Then he threw a fit when I wouldn't leave his toy tools on the kitchen floor before he had his morning cereal. I should have seen those as signs not to try to get him to do things he's been avoiding, like taking a bath.
For the past many nights, it has taken my husband and me a lot of coaxing to get him to take a bath. His old routine – bath, brush teeth, diaper, lotion, pajamas, book and lights out – has long been gone. He has since refused to do any of those in any order, maybe because he's asserting his independence in his 2-year-old way.
So my already-exhausted husband would often let it go at night, calling it "stress-free parenting" and not push our toddler to get cleaned up even after two days of no bath. He would do a shortcut – using antibacterial wipes to clean my son's hands and not forcing a toothbrush in his mouth.
Why I thought I could give my boy an uneventful bath yesterday by trying to coax him to play in the tub, is really beyond me. He did get in the tub to play with a couple toys, but when I started to shampoo his head, he began screaming, trying to climb out of the tub with his head full of shampoo that was starting to dry out.
With my big belly in the way, my energy level on -2, my contractions starting again and my patience wearing thin, I tried with all my might to keep it together, while I wrestled to keep him in the tub long enough to rinse his head. I failed on all of the above – miserably.
I threw the one of his bath toys in the tub and it shattered, splashing water everywhere while he screamed louder to get out of the tub, one leg already out, the bathroom floor (me included) soaked from water. I was losing it, and I knew it.
"WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO TAKE A FRIGGIN' BATH?! IS THE WATER TOO COLD? TOO HOT? TELL MAMA!!!!" I screamed back at him while he was screaming, bathroom echoes raising the original decibel levels.
I decided to join him in the tub, fully clothed, not caring how wet I was getting, if it was the only way I could at least rinse the shampoo from his head. He only calmed down when I was getting him out and wrapping him in his towel.
I, on the other hand, tried my hardest to calm down, telling myself I can do this, but it was too much to ask from my hormonal self.
As soon as we were out of the bathroom, I bawled. My toddler had no empathy, like nothing was happening, and darted to the bedroom leaving me holding his towel.
I cried because I was exhausted. Because I felt like if I didn't do it, my son will go a year without a bath. I cried because I can't reason out with my toddler, and he still can't talk to me. I cried because it was past 11AM and I had to think about what we were having for lunch and prepare our lunch. I cried because I had to take it easy for the baby inside me, but it seemed impossible with the toddler I was taking care of.
I felt so overwhelmed, pregnant and alone, thinking I had to take care of everyone else but nobody was taking care of me, when I needed some TLC, too. Not because my husband wasn't doing that – it was because he was at work where he needed to be, and I was at home alone with no extra pair of hands.
I eventually calmed down after my husband called, and after my little boy miraculously cooperated getting dressed.
I've never had a meltdown like that, but it was cathartic. It made me realize that I will never again get pregnant with a toddler and no help. And I will never again attempt to bathe an uncooperative 2-year-old by myself in my 9th month of pregnancy.
I guess I now have to accept that the reality of my situation is that my son will sometimes go a few days without baths, sleep dirty with a stinky head, and not think that he will be harmed for life from not being clean like a toddler in a baby magazine.
How hard can that be from a clean-freak like me?