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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    toyfoto June 27, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    My mother told me she left my sister in her crib and sat on the front porch when the screaming got to be too much. She says she just wanted to prove to the neighbors she wasn’t hurting the baby.

    Hope this stange is quick for you. I know it will be.

    Mom101 June 27, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Oh bubalah. You are not having a great time with all this, are you.

    Get help in whatever form. Get a Toronto mommyblogger or a friend or a homeless guy on the street to cover for an hour so you can go out and get a coffee. Or smoke some crack. Whatever it takes.

    Am here for you.

    Amy June 27, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    When things got hard with my first kid, we just went to bed. I’d take my big ol’ hospital jug of water, the TV remote, and a book, and I would lie in bed nursing her and watching stupid daytime TV until I felt like I could deal with things again.

    You don’t have to do anything right now but take care of that baby. Let the house go. Let everything go. There’s more than enough time for that stuff later.

    Zoloft rocks, by the way.

    Hang in there,
    Amy @

    Kaza June 27, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Yes, yes it is. It is hard. I so could have written this post when my little one was a baby (3 years ago). I feel your pain. Especially concerning reading all of that advice that does absolutely no good when you have a baby who needs to be held all the time, even while sleeping. And the walking away for a moment? When I did try that it had the opposite effect, in that it made me much crazier rather than helping me center myself. So I get it. As for how to get through it? One moment at a time! And I agree with Amy, taking to bed with supplies is a great solution (I eventually learned that she could sleep next to me as well as on top of me, and then I could at least have a bit of breathing room.) While hubby is working, make life as simple as possible and let everything else go.

    mothergoosemouse June 27, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I know, my friend. Every word.

    I swear it gets better. And easier. I just wish I could do more for you in the meantime.

    Sass E-mum June 27, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    My memory of Peaches’ early weeks was of counting her fingers and toes. I wasn’t just checking (marvelling) they were all there, it was a way of counting to ten. I counted her fingers and toes this afternoon when she fell off the bid. She stopped crying before I’d finished counting. And I knew that she still had all bits intact.

    Jezer June 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Dude, I think you were maybe kind of joking, but really, Zoloft is the only way I made it out of pp alive. In fact, my OB was Just Fine with my taking double my pregnancy dosage even while breastfeeding. Certainly takes the stress out of listening to the kiddo cry. Sometimes a teensy bit of numbness isn’t such a bad thing.

    Yeah, I know I sound very selfish, but really, the first couple of months of a newborn’s life is pretty much the reason I’m not down with having another one. It did a number on me, like it does to many of us.

    I have some spares, you want me to FedEx them? (Just kidding. Mostly.)

    Backpacking Dad June 27, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    A virtual babysitter wouldn’t really help, would it?

    Kimberly June 27, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Can I mail you a moby wrap, please? Something to take the pain off of your arms? It doesn’t give you a break from the limpet clinging to you, but your arms don’t hurt as much.


    daysgoby June 27, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I’m so sorry, Catherine. Sorry that this is happening, and sorry that I don’t have a lot of advice.

    Her Bad Mother June 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    BP Dad – about as much as the virtual liquor did.

    Kimberly, Jezer – send anything and everything that might help, for realz.

    Heather June 27, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Oh Catherine, I’m sorry that you’re all having such a hard time. That stinks.

    I hope the wrap or a sling will work for you. (It didn’t with my first who wanted to be held all the time.) What did work for my screamer was laying her on the changing table that came with our pack and play. It came off the crib and we’d set it on the floor and she’d just chill in there. It was weird. (and that was the kid who wanted to be held ALL THE TIME.)

    Keep trying different things (as though you didn’t know that) even things that you think are ridiculous. Try turning on the vaccuum cleaner, static on the radio.

    I wish I lived near you. I’d bring my newborn and two other kids and come help!

    Kyla June 27, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    There is a reason we forget the majority of childbirth and the early days of infancy. Both are pretty damn miserable.

    You’ll get through it. You will. In the meantime, keep talking about it.

    Lesha June 27, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Definitely second…third the wrap (moby, Hugabub, just google babywearing)! It saved me when G was a little one (I never could get the hang of a sling). It’s comfy, not to hard to use…If you can find a babywearing group in your area they can help too.

    Linda June 27, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I’m a regular reader and occasional commenter — you don’t know me at all, but I don’t live far from B-ville and my oldest, dearest friend lives in the old part of town, so I am familiar with the place. Seriously, could you do with a hand? some company? My husband is working all weekend in Toronto and small girl-child and I are on our own.

    crazymumma June 27, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    You made me think of this piece.

    And yes. It is damned Hard Work.

    motherbumper June 27, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    This shit IS hard. And if you ever need coverage to go to the crack house…

    Mocha June 27, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I have so many thoughts on this but I just want to be helpful and supportive, so I love you. Your whole being. I wish I could come relieve you for a while, but I’d be coming to the crack house WITH you. But I’d let you nap later.

    And I’d bake you some cookies and hold your hand.

    keiki3 June 27, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    You are correct — being a mother is the toughest job EVER. You are not alone and you will get through it – eventually. Keep talking b/c there are many of us listening and sending our support…

    Amy June 27, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Sometimes I would have to put my son in his bassinet and then take a shower because it was the only place I could escape his screaming. And sometimes…he was quiet when I got out. Hang in there, mama.

    em v June 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Yeah. It is very hard shit. What a crazy test of your endurance. And you are really being tested: do allow yourself that.

    My son (first baby) was a crying baby who had to be on me all day. I was in a constant state of alarm and red alert. My daughter’s (second baby) crying is no less alarming, even though in her newborn days she was not an excessively “Crying Baby” and could be put down… but whatever crying she did still drove me nuts. For me, it was (and still is, when she can’t fall asleep) like someone running a chainsaw next to my ear.
    It must be extra hard for you to have your second be a crying baby, because E requires so much of your attention– I was lucky in that I could just put my son in the Bjorn and walk all day until my husband got home. (He biked home every day to make me lunch or else I wouldn’t have eaten.) I found my daughter’s fussy times really tricky to handle when my 2 1/2 yr old son wanted my attention. Let’s just say it wasn’t a positive time, impatient shouting happened, many time outs (just to get him out of my FACE), and I was flustered and hot tempered. And of course I felt like a bad mother.

    If you ever have time to read (which I acknowledge you probably don’t), I found the section on The Fussy Baby in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child reassuring, and I skimmed Sheila Kitzinger’s The Crying Baby.

    I just wanted to acknowledge to you that it is hard. Just manage as best you can, try not to be hard on yourself, and get through it– things will settle down, and no permanent damage will be done. (Another topic is the Conflict created by wanting time to pass quickly to get through it, but it’s also your kid’s babyhood your wishing to hurry). Anyway, I totally know that pining for your husband to get home. I still have it, even though we’re 5 months down the road and things have settled down for us.

    (my apologies for making this comment so long…)

    PinkDawn June 27, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    BTDT. It’s mind-numbing what a little baby can put you through. Lexapro is great for giving you a few more seconds before you loose it.

    All Adither June 27, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    It is hard! It’s amazing and sweet and sucky and awful and mind-numbing and disturbing!

    Thank God it’s temporary. Even for you.

    Hang in there.

    nomotherearth June 27, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    It is frakin’ hard, and sometimes I feel like I will never sleep again. Never. (I’m a bit dramatic, aren’t I?). Does the baby sleep in the car? Come for a visit. I’ll give the Little Guy a chew toy, plop him on the floor and hold the baby for you. You’d be out of the house…Think about it. Fresh air and a change of venue can work wonders.

    geekmommy June 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Oh hon… my daughter was that way as a baby. It’s exhausting and soul-sucking and you constantly feel like if anyone knew how sick you are of trying to ‘fix’ the ‘unfixable’ they’d think you didn’t love your child with all your heart & soul, even though you do and that’s why it’s so damn draining… because you just want the crying and the sleeplessness and the “issues” to stop.

    My little princess was on Zantac at first – it ‘minty freshed’ her right out of her head – using the syringe-in-the-mouth technique… we only used it for a couple of weeks before the doc switched her to Prevacid powder which was nice and orangey when mixed, but she’s got some memory of it, because she’s detested mint ever since!
    Prevacid, holding her upright for 10 minutes after every feeding, the miracle blanket, a good white noise machine and Dr. Karp’s HBotB method are the only things that saved us.
    Even so, I got no put me down time either – and she was not amenable to baby-wearing.

    Some days, the only “relief” I got was having her in my arms & lap in the recliner with Baby Mozart distracting her from crying for a whole 20 mins.

    It was not unheard of for my husband to come home to find both the baby and I in tears together.

    You’ll get thru this. And you’ll laugh about it later – believe me! But only you’re own experience. Your heart will hurt for anyone else you know going thru it.

    If there’s anything I can do from a distance? Just shout. ((hug))

    Pgoodness June 27, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    nothing but hugs for you. (and i could send some zoloft if ya want – i’m sure i could spare a couple at least!)

    liz June 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Many hugs and two thoughts:

    1. If you have a baby swing that only swings back-to-front, try to get one that goes side-to-side. That’s sometimes a very calming motion and will work for a baby that wants to just be HELD ALL THE TIME.

    2. If the baby sleeps in the car, put him in his car seat to sleep in his crib. It often helps reflux babies to be sort of upright.

    iheartchocolate June 27, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    it is so hard, so so hard. It gets easier, and then even harder. My toddlers are one and two..easier than newborns. I also have a 17 year old, MUCH harder than any other age I have dealt with so far. SO, truly, once you feel the difficulty lighten even a little, savor-for the next 14 or so years, cause you’re gonna need it! TUH-rust me. whew. I can’t believe I am still breathing.

    Carrie June 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

    When my son was an infant, I swear what saved both of us was hiring a post-partum doula–basically, a nice lady who came over for four hours every day and held him (I also had a boy who had to be held at all times) while I took a bath and made me lunch and listened to my angst and made sensible suggestions. I can’t remember what it cost, but whatever it was it was worth it.

    Also, if I lived near you I would totally help!!

    LetterB June 28, 2008 at 12:05 am

    This post gave me slight PTSD. You are in the shit right now. My second is 8 mos and I look back on those early days and wonder how I did it. And I had lots of help. It is easier now that she is sleeping somewhat normally and I am not breastfeeding all the time. I used the sling and now using the Ergo carrier as she is going through another phase of wanting to be held a lot. I love the Ergo carrier fwiw.

    On another note, I am looking into anti-depressants now too and I wish I had done it sooner. Well, really like 10 years ago, but DEFINITELY 8 months ago.

    kittenpie June 28, 2008 at 12:58 am

    It most certainly is, love, it is hard. I remember being shocked to discover how while my own baby’s cry made me brain scream, another child’s didn’t bother me. How could that be?! But it was. I did, though, have a couple of occasions where I knew I had to do exactly what you are talking about – put Pumpkinpie down, walk to another room, another floor, even, and take a few deep breaths before going back in. Because the alternative was losing it. And that was not exclusively limited to babyhood! This is when I wish you were still here, honey, so I could come and give you a little wee break.

    Syko June 28, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Oh for the good old days when it was acceptable to go to the druggist, whisper “paregoric” to him/her, and a few drops brought blessed silence!

    My second baby had colic, all day long. She didn’t thrive, either, and was this long skinny baby that everyone shook their heads over. Meanwhile there was that 18 month old climbing on the curtain rods. By the end of most days you’d find me simply sitting in the middle of toddler-induced mayhem, holding a screaming, skinny baby, and bawling my head off.

    It finally gets better. I’m not sure when or how, but one day you look up and you’re not crying and neither is the baby, and the toddler even learns to pick up her toys.

    But for now, you need help! If nothing else, call the local high school and speak to a counselor and see if they can recommend some teen who wants to earn a couple of dollars, and get that kid to come every freaking day after school for a couple hours, so you can shower/ pee/ cut your toenails/ nap/ sit in blessed silence without that little monkey attached to you. Maybe you can even have a tea party with Wonderbaby.

    Anyone who thinks that two children is twice the work of one is insane. It’s ten times the work. But it’s a hundred times the pleasure, in the end.

    Hang on! And get help!

    Her Bad Mother June 28, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Linda – I think that the babes and I going to escape to a friend’s home in the country this weekend so that I can have round-the-clock help, but you what? I’d love to have a visit sometime, coffee, whatever, because I’d love meet a nice mom who even *knows* where B-ville is ;) It’d help with the feeling of isolation, for sure…

    E-mail me!

    Assertagirl June 28, 2008 at 8:21 am

    You are so not taking enough advantage of that one other person you know in town…because I’m sure she’d love to take a break from her boring work-at-home job and come free up your arms for a bit. :)

    Candygirlflies June 28, 2008 at 9:03 am

    C– Oh, I know, hon, I know… I’ve got three, and it IS hard.

    I’d be so happy to lend a hand (a pair of arms, a few dozen cookies, and a casserole) if you get desperate!

    My husband is away this weekend, too… It stinks, truly, it does.

    But, time passes, and it WILL get easier. Promise.

    xo CGF

    Animal June 28, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Interesting to note that it’s still so hard the second time around. And yeah: nothing made me more stressful during the first 6-7 months than Roslyn’s crying. Ugh. No wonder I drank so much.

    My in-laws used to call that “walk away” break the “smoke break”: put the baby down, go out on the porch and have a smoke. When you came back in, either the baby would be asleep or your nerves were calmed by having the ciggy. Ah, life in the 70s.

    You obviously have tons of web support. While I know that can’t possibly make up for the real thing, in real time and with a real ‘nother set of arms, still…we’re here. We’re sending good cosmic shit your way.


    Motherhood Uncensored June 28, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Alone with two in those early days is almost pure torture. In fact, it’s sort of like having electrodes attached to your nipples (not that I’m up on torture methods).

    I hope the getaway helps. And the sling is coming. I’m sorry it’s not packed full of tequila, limes, and a few of your closest friends, but that’s coming soon. Just a few weeks :)

    excavator June 28, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I posted, or tried to, a few days or so ago when you wrote about your baby really needing to be held and your arms hurt. For some reason blogger wasn’t functioning that day, I lost the entire post, and I saw that several other people had already recommended slings. So I didn’t try to recreate it.

    I haven’t read all of your responses for this post, and neither did I read any more on the baby-needs-to-be-held post, so forgive me if this is redundant.

    It is a special hell to be at sea with a toddler and infant. I’ve often felt bitter rage at corporations who requre insane hours from fathers, thinking their bottom lines were on the backs of spouses and children who need him.

    A sling really was my saving grace when my younger baby was born. It meant his need to be held was met, and I could be mobile to meet the needs of my older child. It really saved my sanity, and enabled me to meet most of the often conflicting needs of both.

    I needed a sling mentor, and the LaLeche league provided that. I’ve heard horror stores about the league being judgmental and harsh, but I never found them to be anything but compassionate, helpful, a lifeline. I also found great support for raising my children the way I really want.

    Wishing you strength and sanity, and sending the encouragement that it really does get better.

    The Estrogen Files June 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    (((HUGS))) and strength. Like another said – baby in crib and me on the deck for just 5 minutes really helped. Hope you can find your release valve soon.

    Jozet at Halushki June 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Big squishy empathetic hugs, my friend, although I know that they don’t help.

    I have BTDT.

    Sometimes, just taking the screaming child out in the stroller helps. The screaming doesn’t bounce off the walls and create as much of a biological feedback loop.

    Does vacuuming help? My house was super-dee-duperty clean with my first screamer. The loud noise makes the baby “shut down”.

    Loud music can work, too.

    Ear plugs. Ear plugs. Ear plugs.

    Another thought…wait…where are you? Near Toronto?

    I have a homeschooled young teen come to my house for a few hours a week as a mother’s helper. She’s inexpensive and she’s great with kids. Other sources: contact local midwife groups, doula groups, La Leche and ask if they have teens willing to be mother’s helpers.

    Also, our local Catholic Church has a New Mom Support group. I’m guessing that being good Christians as they are, that they would be glad to come by and help without demanding that anyone take communion. Although, the wine is highly recommended.

    This is hard. It is. You are not wrong in saying it is hard, and no – in case you were thinking it – you are not doing something or not doing something that is making it hard. It just is.

    kayak woman June 28, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    It is very hard. And then. You turn around about three times and your kids are in and through college (yikes) and you sometimes miss those hard times.

    But there’s no denying that it is hard…

    The Other Laura June 28, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    The internet does some of these community things really well – but here’s the downfall – unfortunately, some of us can’t be of too much help because we’re all over the frickin’ map.

    Doulas are great, but sometimes expensive and I can’t help but think what you really need is just a friend who would come in and hold the damn baby.

    La Leche League meetings often have willing women with spare arms and I think you could attend a meeting without being brainwashed and becoming a breastfeeding nazi. Could you go to a meeting just to meet some folks or pass the baby off for a minute or two and take everything else with a grain of salt?

    Does your lactation consultant know of a support group?

    Meanwhile, let’s beat the bushes bloggers and find some help for Catherine. Surely someone knows somebody who has functional arms and can help…

    Marla June 28, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I hope that soon the roughest roads are behind you.

    LD June 28, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through all this :( blech. I remember putting my son down on the floor, stepping out into my garage and just screaming. It didn’t really help much or make me feel better, but I guess it’s how I got through.

    Karen June 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    instead of saying something stupid like “it will get better soon”, because you know that won’t happen anytime soon, I will tell you you’re not alone over there. Hubby works long hours and there’s no family or friends near us – alone all the time, read blogs for adult content. Vent vent vent and just know people are out there reading and we’re with you.

    Scary Mommy June 29, 2008 at 5:08 am

    This shit is so hard. So much harder than anyone tells you.

    Gypsy Guru June 29, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I can’t help but echo so many others, if only to let you know that, in some small measure, you’re not alone.

    “This shit is hard.” Truer words have never been spoken, sista. I lived your exact situation four years ago and, with baby #2 in utero, am plagued with fears that I will be revisited with the crazies in about six months.

    I keep reminding myself, however trite it may sound, that every pregnancy is different, every baby is different. And of course, my husband wonders whether he’ll lose me again and for how long this time – it was eighteen months of darkness last go ’round!

    I have another piece of advice I cling desperately to when the times get rough. It’s from a friend who’s intimately familiar with the crazies who I paraphrase: If they are honest with themselves, every woman, at some point, experiences the feeling that they’d like nothing better than to throw their screaming little poop-factory down a well. What keeps you from being a bad mother is that you don’t actually follow through when so inclined.

    If I was anywhere near Toronto, I’d be there in a heartbeat!

    FotL June 29, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Get thee to a carrier lady, for serious! If the above commentor doesn’t send you a Moby, I’ll send you a Babyhawk or something. Once your arms are free your whole outlook will change, believe me.

    As far as the babysitting goes…I don’t suppose you’re anywhere near Jersey?

    – V

    Laura June 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    So, so, so hard.

    My second-born, also a boy, craved constant physical contact, too. He nursed endlessly, slept on my stomach, and screamed whenever he wasn’t in my arms. And my daughter, who was two at the time, grew so resentful of her always-screaming brother that she eventually took to biting his head. Sigh.

    Obviously, it will get better. Life improved for us, and it will improve for you, too. In the meantime, just try to keep from snapping, and don’t be overly tough on yourself.

    Laura June 29, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    read my blog one day when you get a chance. I hear ya sister, LOUD and CLEAR…..

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