I read somewhere, some time ago, that the sound of an infant crying is one of the most stress-inducing sounds for the human ear to hear; it induces anxiety in the listener, and for good reason – a baby’s survival naturally depends upon its ability to command the resources of its mother or father or any other adult human being that is equipped to care for it. Our natural response, then, to a baby’s cry, is to rush to it and seek to resolve whatever problem is causing said baby to cry. Which is great, for the baby. Not so great for the exhausted mother who really, really wants to sleep, badly, or at least have her arms to herself for a minute or two, but can’t, because her particular baby a) has recurring gastrointestinal challenges that, quite understandably, upset him and cause him to cry, and b) just really likes to be held ALL THE FREAKING TIME and is not afraid to say so.
I’ve also read, everywhere, that when baby’s crying gets to be too much, you should just take a break. Put baby down somewhere safe, they say, and walk away for a few minutes and stretch and breathe and try to calm yourself down. Which, ha. Did ‘they’ not get the memo on the stress-inducing pitch of an infant’s cry? I can no more walk away from my crying baby to stretch and breathe and “calm myself down” (*makes frantic air quotes with fingers*) than I could leave my toddler playing with her crayons in the middle of a busy street while I painted my toenails or some such shit. NOT. POSSIBLE.
Fine, they say. If that doesn’t work: get help. Find someone to hold baby while you take a break, take a bath, listen to some music. Which, yeah, great idea. UNLESS there’s no-one around to help. Unless your husband is working these super-insane long hours making stupid TV commercials that are really only hastening the decline of civilization anyway so even though you know the paycheck is important you’re all like whaddup dude plz come home but anyway he’s just not at home when you could most use the break and he’s not going to be home for the whole goddamned long weekend and you live in a new town and only know, like, one other person and maybe you could call on your neighbors but, um, you’re topless because holy hell the nipple chafing and in any case the ones that are around in the daytime are mostly elderly and your giant freakishly strong baby would probably break their arms and so what are you supposed to do then, huh? HUH? ANSWER ME THIS, BABY EXPERTS. And, then, prescribe me some Zoloft, because, seriously.
He’s sleeping now, merciful heavens, pressed against me, his chest rising and falling against my own, his little fist curled against my neck and this is so, so sweet, but still – my arms hurt and I am tired and I am bracing myself for the long evening ahead and I am wishing that I had, the other day, given in more fully to the happiness that I suspected would be fleeting (as I was exhorted to do by a friend, who lobbed Pindar at me: We are things of a day/What are we? What are we not?/A shadow in a dream in man, no more./But when the brightness comes, and it is given by the gods/Then there is a shining of light on men, and their life is sweet. Which is ancient Greek for chill the fuck out, dude and enjoy it while it lasts. Woe that I did not do this, because my happy reserves are seriously getting depleted.)
I know that the moments of brightness are many, and my heart is nourished by the weight of my sweet, sweet baby against my breast, but still. This shit is hard.