The Sound Of Crazy

June 27, 2008

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.

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    { 71 comments }

    Linda June 29, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Hi, Catherine. Hope you enjoyed your getaway at your friend’s house and that you are feeling somewhat restored. I will email you.

    Anonymous June 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    put baby in crib

    put in silicone earplugs – not the foam kind, they’re crap.

    Go sit on the toilet and breathe for 10 minutes.

    repeat as needed.

    Kia June 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    i don’t know what to say other than, “go for the zoloft.” or effexor, or wellbutrin, or whatever else they’ll give you. i’ve been there. it sucks ass. i hope it gets better for you!

    Polina June 30, 2008 at 9:53 am

    I don’t know how they think is possible to “stretch and breathe and try to calm yourself down”. My particular baby somehow didn’t want to allow me to have a break, she was crying louder and louder and louder until I felt I was going crazy and was ready to start crying myself. Only thing that helped was to go to bed and have a short sleep holding her in my arms… everything I needed to do, was done only together, with no exceptions…

    Jenifer June 30, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I’m feelin’ ya!

    I have a 3 and a half year old, a 21 month old and a 6 week old. AND my husband is working full time and taking his fire fighter 2 class which means he is gone…..like all the time.

    Sometimes I HAVE to let the little one cry…. otherwise my older two would be starving and covered in their opwn excrement… I mean how else am I supposed to accomplish a dinner, 2 baths, and bedtime when the evening is when Madison decides to “be fussy”. I think after awhile…. I’ve just learned to tune it out to an extent. Luckily she sleeps well at night at least letting me maintain my sanity to get through the days.

    But you’re right. This shit is hard.

    fidget June 30, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Colic, oh my colic. We are dealing with it and gastro issues.. I am a mess. My PP check up got pushed back to 8 weeks.. if we arent on the upswing I’m going to be asking for some medicinal help. My 1st baby was colicky and i had severe PPD but I hid it and coped on my own- that sucked and I only had 1 kid to care for.

    I hope the crying lets up.. 6 weeks is supposed to be the apex of colic.. I keep telling myself that. I have to have something to cling too; you know?

    Theresa June 30, 2008 at 11:41 am

    oh no :( I know how hard it is. Your trip to the country will help a lot even if it is just to replenish your soul a bit.

    And I think the ”experts” that say to put your baby down and go take a break have CLEARLY never given birth. I read that too when my little one was newborn and had that eyebrow-raising WTF expression immediately take over my weary, tear streaked face.

    And really, order a Babyhawk Mei Tai. Super duper easy to use, super comfy. It will take him from little bitty baby to toddler.

    You and your beautiful little family are in my prayers.

    ScientistMother June 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    This shit its hard. And YOU.ARE.AMAZING. Hope the country trip helped, its hard to remember but you are succeeding at being a great mom to both your kids. YOU ROCK. wish I could fly across country for you.

    Anonymous June 30, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    This may sound dumb, but almost every baby with stomach/digestive issues (I’ve known lots of them in my years of nanny and daycare caring) can be eased if not eliminated, by diet.
    HA HA you say, what can you feed a baby but breast milk, unfortunately at this point it’s what you are eating…. After I had my son, I had to cut out the spicy foods, he didn’t mind them when he was in my belly, but he did mind it in my milk.
    Lots of babies are bothered when Mama eats dairy as well. I’ve known tons of women who found that baby’s intense digestive pains were caused from breast milk made from a diet including dairy. When they cut out the milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt they had much more content little ones. Keeping a food journal might help you figure out what upsets his tummy.

    Anonymous June 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    You might try some massage, it can help relax baby, and helps with passing gas that can cause the crying. even just resting him on your lap (on his back) and gently moving his legs up to his chest and stretching them out one at a time and both together, this helps them pass gas as well, which is really important for upset tummies, and babies that don’t burp a lot! I know the crying is hard to take, but it is for a reason lie you said, don’t give up!

    Diana June 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    On the bright side if you got a homeless guy to come in and take over for an hour you could pay him in beer which is probably on sale this week, being the holiday weekend and all. Just sayin’…

    In all seriousness though, this shit? It is hard. Why didn’t anyone ever tell us before?

    Hang in there.

    Kelly June 30, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    It is so hard. Your putting it to such beautiful words may be the balm for another aching Mom. It will get better. But I know, having been the mom of the 2-year old and a newborn only 2 years back, that it doesn’t make the present any easier.

    Hang tight…exquisitely better times are coming.

    mamatulip June 30, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I remember putting Oliver in his crib and standing out on the porch in the dead of winter, in the pajamas that I’d been wearing for four straight days, because I couldn’t handle the screaming anymore.

    Deep breath in, deep breath out. This too shall pass.

    womaninawindow July 1, 2008 at 8:25 am

    You just brought it all back. ALL OF IT! I remember going to the dentist when my first was about 8 months old and he said in surprise, “What in the hell’s going on with your teeth? They were always so nice before?” And I said I had no time. “Everyone has time,” he said. But I didn’t. I didn’t! My baby was like an evil monkey stuck to my lapels and she was loud. Relentlessly loud. I feel for you. Yes, enjoy those few and far between golden moments.

    LD July 1, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    That sounds so much like my son.
    Have you thought of going to an osteopath? We’re going now (a special infant/children’s one) and it’s incredible.
    It’s gentle, but helps with gastro issues and also with the crying.
    I wish I’d gone when Matt cried non-stop. So worth it.
    Let me know if you want the info (it’s in Toronto).
    PS Sorry for the unsolicited advice, but really, if I’d known how great it was when he was a screaming baby I would have camped out there for an appointment.

    justmylife July 2, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I feel your pain. Little Miss had colic for 3 1/2 months, hubby had back surgery, my dad had heart problems and I was all alone with it. Walk away is not an option, help is not available. All I can say is it does get better. It doesn’t help now but sometimes just knowing there is hope helps! Good Luck and rest when you can.

    Anonymous July 2, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Thank you for posting something so honest and genuine and accurate about what all this is really like . . . I think it is so helpful for other moms going through similar stuff. i hope things get much, much better for you very soon!

    zakary July 2, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    My son went through this as well.

    His swing and a sling were the only way I could do anything.

    karrie July 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    My son was also a b) ” just really likes to be held ALL THE FREAKING TIME and is not afraid to say so.”

    Among other pleasant quirks, for the first few months he would only sleep–if you could call shutting his eyes for 2 minutes sleep–while laying on his back, on my swollen, scabby leaky chest. And then he would somehow manage to kick my c/s incision.

    It was hell. I secretly hated everyone else I knew for their easy, sleepy babies, and their fast recoveries.

    He’s still not an easy child, FWIW, almost 4 years later.

    I’m genuinely sorry you’re in this place right now.

    caramama July 7, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Oh, Catherine! I am having flashbacks reading this! My little girl (now 16 months) was the same way. Could. Not. Put. Her. Down. Except in a swing, and then only at night, swaddled tightly.

    I will join in the chorus of those suggesting the swing and the sling. Also, my sister lent me The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, where he shows how to swaddle and shush and the other “S”s, which really really helped with ours.

    Good luck getting through this! It totally will get better, but you know that.

    Anonymous July 22, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Has anyone tried Baby Einstein? It works smoothly!! I use it with my baby, a professional screamer!!! After seeing the puppets is all laughs, she seems hypnotised!! Then I can go to the bathroom… No need to wait for your hubby..

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