Week 2: Crying
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Before I had our first child, this was one of my greatest fears: that my baby’s cries would make me hate my child.
No joke, that was a real fear. I never, ever found the sound of babies crying to be worthy of an Awww, poor thing. I mostly thought, God, someone shut that kid up!
So imagine my surprise when we took our daughter home from the hospital and I wasn’t pissed off at her every time she cried.
Imagine my surprise when my first thought was, What’s wrong? What can I do to help you? How about this? How about this?
Now, here we are again. Dealing with a new child’s cries.
Not by any stretch of the imagination is Henry a colicky baby. I’ve heard those stories and that is not what we’re dealing with. (And parents of colicky babies, allow me to bow down and kiss your feet, you Parent of Steel.)
No, the cries that we dealt with in the past week have come in defined bursts that (at first) seemed to correspond with post-feeding digestion and then (later) seemed to correspond with how tightly we held him or covered him so that he wasn’t cold.
We’re talking about the kind of crying that is all-out, red-faced, exasperated wailing. The kind that is silent at first because the baby is winding up for a good scream. The kind that reverberates not only in your ears, but in your heart.
In this crying fit, his whole body tenses, from his face to his toes.
And here’s what that sounds like:
But then, it passes. And for a moment, I wonder if our child has just been possessed by a demon for a period of time. Because here’s what he looks like when it’s over.
And then I think, How can I be mad at that face? I love that face.
Sometimes, nature is a sick, sick bastard.
When was he crying? Maybe it’s gas. He looks like he’s in pain. When was the last time we fed him? What was his last poop like? Was it watery or runny? What color was it? Was it a lot or just a little?
Maybe it’s the formula. Maybe we should try one that has the lactose broken down already?
Doug googles and I do the feedings. We make adjustments and mental notes. I keep track.
Then, the next day…
Did he look like he was in pain today? How long did he cry? After he ate? Did he poop? If he’s not better by tomorrow, maybe we should try soy formula. I hope he’s not constipated on soy, like Felicity was. Then, we’ll have to go to the super expensive formula.
Feedings and poop: this is what you talk about when you’re learning about your newborn. These are the only windows into why your baby is crying. If you can’t engineer a solution from those clues, it’s time to call the pediatrician.
We had a lot of help in the afternoons and evenings over the past week. But the nights and the mornings were entirely in my hands. Once my husband and daughter disappeared behind the door and the car rolled out of the garage, I was on my own.
I was okay until Thursday morning.
It was the second day that Henry was crying in pain.
He wailed. And wailed. And wailed.
I tried to feed him. His forehead wrinkled and he screamed.
I changed him. He calmed for a moment. Then cried more.
I bounced him. Rocked him. Tried to burp him. I laid him on the ground and rubbed his tense body. I bicycled his legs. I rubbed his back. I put him on my shoulder. I turned him over and patted his back. I patted his butt. I shushed him. I put him in the bouncer. I played music. I cradled him. I balanced him on one arm.
Then, I did all of these things again.
Through his screams, I syringe-fed him this stuff, which some people swear by:
Wailing. Wailing. Screaming. Screaming.
I put him down on the ground, feeling the warm weariness of three hours of sleep blur my vision.
But no, it wasn’t the sleep deprivation. It was tears.
Turns out, burp cloths aren’t just for spit up. They’re also great for tears.
He cried and I cried. Looking at him, writhing in pain, I cried more.
How am I going to get through this morning? This week? This month? I didn’t hug Felicity before she went to daycare. Fail. How can I care for two people? My face is still bloated. I wish I could wear normal pants again. How long did it take to lose my belly last time? How many more hours until Cate is here to help? How many more days until Friday night when Doug does the night feedings?
But the question that overrides everything: What is wrong? What can I do? I will do anything. Just tell me what I need to do.
I wiped my tears on the burp cloth one last time and picked him up. I cradled him in my arms and told him that I was sorry. Sorry for not knowing how to help him. Sorry that he had to share me with another child. Sorry that I wasn’t at my best.
I clutched him to my chest, covered him with a flannel receiving blanket, and then held a pacifier in his mouth. His lips closed on it.
Then, he was silent.
He had fallen asleep.
I dropped my head back in relief.
Oh, thank you God.
Over the past three days, we’ve arrived at some temporary hypotheses for the cause of the crying.
1.) Milk allergy.
Solution: We switched to soy formula. (Courtesy of Doug’s genes.)
Results: So far, so good. No diarrhea. No constipation. Regular diapers. No more crying fits where it seems like he is in pain.
2.) Extreme need for warmth and swaddling. (Courtesy of my genes.)
Solution: Double swaddle. One layer is a muslin blanket. One layer is a flannel receiving blanket. Put on mitts and a hat. Hold tightly against your chest. (Although, he is picky on this point. My chest seems to be the gold standard right now.)
We are trying these things right now. Every day is an experiment. Every time he finally goes down for a nap, we breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Maybe it’s over, we think.
But who are we kidding? We know better. Tomorrow, it might be something else. Next week, something else. And definitely next month, something else.
Sometimes, it’s this:
Sometimes, it’s this:
That is life for now.