It’s one in a few when I get those proud parenting moments as a solo parent. I always feel as if I’m not doing enough or I’m not giving enough or I’m just not enough for them. How does one person fill the spot of two?
The first week of September was potty training time for the twins. It was truly the first big milestone for the twins since Erik’s passing. And it was probably the harshest reminder since the day he died that solo parenting was now my true reality. I had been intimidated by potty training ever since I had been pregnant. It was always Erik’s area. It was one he was going to take point on. And one of the reasons I had pushed it back as long as I could. The doubts all filled my mind as they usually do. How do I do this alone? I can’t do this by myself. And two at once? Should I do them separately? Should I do it at the same time? Should I just hire help? All these thoughts ran through my mind as I realized that I was not only scared of potty training twins but potty training them all alone.
So I decided to do the three full days at home method. That meant three full days completely inside with my toddlers. Every minute hyper focused on paying attention to them and their bathroom needs. Every 20 minutes was me saying “Pee-pee and poo-poo goes in the potty”, “Where does pee-pee and poo-poo go?”, “Let’s go pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty”. I was tired by 10 am. No breaks. No escape. No one but me. I found myself talking to Erik a lot during these three days. Asking him why he wasn’t here anymore. Asking him how he could just leave us like this. The first day was the toughest. Constant changing of pee and poop bags from the training toilets. Constant laundry. Constantly watching with hawk eyes just mentally and physically drained me. Days two and three ended with a sense of accomplishment. For the first time in a long time, I felt a proud mama moment for getting through this huge milestone with them myself. It was a slight breath of relief that I hadn’t really had since Erik’s passing. It was one of those moments where I felt like I might be able to do this, even if I didn’t want to do it alone.
That third night felt like running across a finish line. I was so relieved, yet beyond exhausted and my emotions were everywhere. I felt happy that I had done it. I felt sad that I had to do it alone. But I also felt anxiety thinking about facing all the other milestones now as a solo parent. I woke up abruptly around 2:50 am breathing heavily and not really knowing what was going on. I felt pressure on my chest and each deep breath seemed to make it worse. I was just asleep and all of a sudden here I was. Thinking in my head something is wrong. It was hard to breathe and I felt anxiety through the roof. And all of a sudden the night Erik passed started replaying in my head. As I tried to calm myself down I started pacing making it worse as the memories seemed to become more real. I decided to go take a drink of water to try and calm myself down. As I stood in the cold of the refrigerator I was able to finally take my first full deep breath. The cold felt good. As my breathing started to go back to normal I went back to the bed. Staring at them I just felt like something was wrong, but my thoughts kept telling me it was all in my head, take a breath, calm down, you are all they have left, nothing can be wrong with you. Then the shallow breathing started again. I went back to the refrigerator and stayed until my breathing went back to normal. This was the first panic attack that I was actively aware of since the few months after Erik’s passing. I didn’t realize how overwhelmed my body was from the weekend, physically but also mentally. It showed me the toll it takes to be a solo parent. And reminding myself that I am only one person and I can only do so much.
And sometimes that will just need to be enough.