When I was born, I cried a lot.
I was born at home and the midwife advised my mum that the best thing to do was to just leave me to cry myself to sleep. The theory was that babies could learn to comfort themselves given enough time.
We now know this is bollocks. In fact, babies who are left to ‘cry it out’ tend to grow up insecure, worried, anxious and unable to comfort themselves. They also find it a challenge to develop healthy relationships as adults. The insecurity they learned as infants carries through their lives (unless and until they understand the pattern and address it.)
But my mum was 19 and had never had a baby before. She didn’t know any of this, so she followed the midwife’s advice. And I cried and I cried and I cried.
And as I grew older, I heard the stories of my crying.
My crying became the stuff of legend.
“You were a difficult child,” my mum would say (still says, if asked) and I would just accept that as fact.
“You were so bossy as you got older,” she’d say. And I could remember being told off for being too bossy. I’d remember being called “little miss bossy boots.” So I just accepted that too.
But then I met my therapist.
“Children don’t cry for no reason,” she told me. You had needs that weren’t being met so you cried. That’s all.
“Children become bossy and controlling in order to feel safe,” she said, “not because they are inherently ‘difficult.'”
“You were just a little girl trying to feel secure,” she said.
And that’s when I was overwhelmed by this feeling of love and compassion for that sensitive little girl who was not a difficult child … but rather just a child. A child doing her best.
And that compassion was mixed with a sense of finally understanding why I am so insecure in my relationships. Knowing why I am this way doesn’t take away the insecurity, but it does make it easier to deal with. Because when I feel the familiar patterns kicking in, I can picture wrapping my arms around that little girl and showing her all the love she needed.
Maybe it’s not too late.