A Good Baby

Wifey got a job at national infant abuse prevention organization when she graduated with her Masters Degree and so we moved back to the land of gaybies and Mormons. She worked there for the past two years, implementing programs across the U.S. designed to inform parents about normal infant crying. She is very knowledgeable about the crying curve, and because of her work, I know a little as well. Crying peaks in the second month (where we are now) and then gradually drops off, usually ending by 3-5 months.

I’ve been told my whole life what an easy baby I was (especially compared to my older sister). I was quiet and independent, not even crying when my eardrums ruptured. I was convinced that I would make an equally “good” baby. I used to tell Wifey that I just knew we wouldn’t have a high crier. Little Bubbles always seemed so content in the womb. He loved listening to Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, taking baths and showers. He tolerated constant contractions for months with no signs of distress. He was a mellow little guy in my mind

Well, it turns out that we do have a high crier. Now, even though I shouldn’t feel like it’s necessary, I feel like I need to say that I love our little boy more than anything. Even when he is crying I look at him and am filled with love. His crying doesn’t anger or frustrate me or sound like nails on a chalkboard. It simply just breaks my heart. I am terrified about leaving him with a nanny next week when I go back to work. I love him, but what will someone who doesn’t do when he cries all day, especially when she can’t soothe him by breastfeeding?

I have discovered that it is not acceptable to be honest about what our days and nights are like. Most days if he isn’t nursing or asleep, he is crying. Sometimes it’s just fussiness, but it is usually a sad, high-pitched, scratchy scream. As I hold him, he bobs his little head like a bird on my chest. I breastfeed on demand, believing that he knows what he wants and needs. As his Mommy, I want to provide what he is communicating, in the only way he knows how, what he needs. But I do know that after he’s been breastfeeding for an hour, he really isn’t hungry anymore and I can physically only comfort nurse for so many hours a day and he needs to sleep sometime. When I try to soothe him any other way he cries. When Wifey tries to soothe him he cries. If he falls asleep and I move, he wakes up and cries. Sometimes I just want to cry with him. It is like this all day, everyday. Sometimes a walk will calm him down and put him to sleep. Sometimes I nurse him to sleep and then, because I know if I move even an inch he will wake up and cry, I sit with him while he sleeps. I think of the loads of dishes and laundry that need to be done, the meals that need to be prepared and eaten, the phone that is ringing just out of my reach. Then, I look at him and realize he needs me more right now than we need a clean house. I do love just being with him and watching him sleep. It is beautiful and I feel so lucky to have this time with him.

People often ask if he is a “good” baby. Now, there is no such thing as a good or bad baby of course. I answer honestly, the question they are really asking. I believe it is beyond important to be honest about our experience. There should be no expectation to pretend that you have a baby that eats, sleeps, and is a happy smiling fool the rest of the time. Social media seems to have encouraged people to show the life they want people to think they have, the kids they want people to think they have,  the parents they want people to think they are. When it comes to unsoothable infants though, it can mean life or death to have such unrealistic expectations.

When I say that he cries all the time, is unhappy, or upset all day. I get the following responses:

  • Well at least he’s cute, or but he’s so cute
  • He always seems happy when I see him
  • He’s always asleep when I see him
  • At least he’s healthy
  • I’ve never seen him do that
  • Have you tried x, y, z?
  • He is probably just x, y, z.
  • Something must be wrong with him

I also get responses that imply that I am complaining about him, and that doing so is not okay. There is a big difference between stating facts and complaining about those facts. There certainly wouldn’t be anything wrong with complaining about it though.

Better responses would be:

  • I’m sorry that must be hard/frustrating/sad/difficult/stressful/exhausting
  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • I know it’s hard, but it’s normal and it will end

Or better yet, just listen and empathize. And even better yet, don’t ask people if they have a “good” baby. Sure, ask them about sleep, crying, eating, smiling, but leave the judgement out of it. No one wants to call their baby bad. Make sure they know about normal infant crying and that it is better to put the baby somewhere safe and walk away than to stay getting more and more frustrated. People who shake their babies are normal people. They don’t fit any specific demographic. They just snap because they can’t take it anymore in that one second it takes to lose control.

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10 thoughts on “A Good Baby

  1. DeCaf says:

    My grandpa used to say that babies that were crying a lot were “exercising their lungs”

  2. Becca says:

    We are starting to enter a fussy period. He spends most of the day cuddled on my chest too. Never get anything done but there will never be another time like this. Agree with all you’ve said.

  3. My mom has told me that some of the best gifts she received was when someone would come over and walk with her babies when they were crying, understanding that they weren’t going to necessarily be able to sooth the crying, but that the baby would be safe and give her a break. It’s always been the third thing I offer to people with new babies, after food and house cleaning.

  4. meridith says:

    I remember having a night early on in RR’s infancy when she cried so incessantly that I suddenly saw with great clarity how a perfectly reasonable person could shake their child. I woke my wife immediately to take over, even though she had only had an hour of sleep, but it scared me to death. What’s worse, there was no one to talk to because you can’t tell your co-worker who is asking about your baby that you had to wake your wife so that you could go find your sanity while your child screamed. Again. For hours. I was startled when I discovered that people expect you to always find the silver lining. Those people are almost always not parenting an infant. It *will* pass but it’s very, very hard in the meantime.

    • theartist says:

      That’s what is so frustrating to me. I’ve tried to be really honest with people when they ask how things are or how the baby is and they look at me like I am a terrible mother who shouldn’t have a baby. At least there is this space to be able to be honest, for which I am very grateful. Thanks for sharing your experience. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that it’s “normal”.

  5. Caitlin says:

    Amen, sister. I have really appreciated my honest friends, and I want them to know it is perfectly fine to say “It’s hard. It’s really, really hard.” I know, and I hope other people know, that it also means they love their babies immensely.

    Also, that crying photo is absolutely adorable. I can’t even stand it.

    • theartist says:

      Right? Our pediatrician likes to joke that the social smiling starts the same time the intense crying does for a reason. He’s cute even when he’s screaming though 🙂

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