Monday, 18 August 2014

On having a crying baby

Natural birth, peacefully at home in water, quick and easy, immediately encircled in his mother's arms, skin to skin and first feed, brief wrench away for weighing but then back to human contact, always human contact.

Breastfed whenever he so much as shuffles or stirs, always available for him, patiently, two minutes on, ten minutes off, but freely on again when he needs it.

Worn in the sling for all his daytime sleep, put in it for warmth and comfort and reassurance, rocked and swayed and patted and oh so continually cherished.

Sleeping in the curl of his mother's arm, only has to squeak at night for instant comfort, his first sight at every waking is his mother's face, welcoming him back.

My god, he cries. He cries and he cries and he cries. Most evenings, a peaceful sleep in the sling while dinner's made then wakes as we sit down, groans a bit through dinner (me eating one handed, balancing, readjusting, cooing, shushing, feeding) then howls and screams and cries cries cries for hours.

Nothing helps, or at least nothing helps more than once. One evening, a hundred frantic repetitions of "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz" reduced him to shuddering sobs and eventually exhausted sleep on my shoulder; another time, it was deep knee bends that let him break state and relax back into me. The wrap just doesn't cut it when he gets like this, he fights and pushes and claws as if he's being bagged up for a kidnapping, so it's arms, and rocking, and walking, and patting, and stroking, and bouncing, and just letting the noise go on and on, imploring him to relax, begging for a minute's break from it, desperately offering to feed only to have him arch away and sob harder.

Let's be clear, it's not just in the evenings, sometimes it's all day. He's happy when he's feeding, then he smiles for five minutes, then out of nowhere the crying again. Cry cry cry cry cry cry.

And in the mean time, his brother looks on bewildered, tries to talk to me but can't make himself heard, waits for a break in it at his bedtime so he can have a few minutes of precious mummy story time. At the start he used to fuss and nag me to do things with me in the daytime, now he seems resigned - the crying starts, and he goes off on his own. This afternoon we settled to make a book together, and the baby started crying, and was obviously not going to stop quickly, and he said we could do it later, but then when I was out of sight he scribbled all over the book, what was the point, I couldn't get the time to do it with him.

I thought that second time I'd have the confidence in knowing what I was doing, and when it's going well I do, but in the hammering noise of that crying, in the feel of that body braced and writhing and pushing and the taste of those tears I'm hopeless, I'm useless, my baby is hurting, somehow, I can't begin to tell what or how, but it's just the same as if someone was stabbing me.

When people ask how he's doing I first say he's lovely, because he is, and the smile moments are wonderful, but then I say "and he cries a lot" and you can see them glazing over, thinking oh this stupid woman is on her second child and still doesn't know that babies cry. Lady, this isn't just the kind of crying babies do. This is the kind that breaks grown women, that shatters their peace and self-belief and relationships, that makes them desperately count the days to the magic 12 weeks, as if it was even slightly possible that it could change.


  1. Oh you're bringing so much of my second child's early life back to me now. We had a lot of crying too (though I think it was mainly evenings - mind you it was winter then so it was probably afternoons too!). I remember that feeling of "but I've done this before and I should know what to do to solve it". I remember my own tears too, and the sheer determination that kept me going - walking and holding and rocking and singing for what seemed like hours. Sometimes it was hours I think, sometimes it probably wasn't. I WILL TRY TO MAKE THIS BETTER I kept thinking. But of course you can't and then it's only later that you realize that just by being there, by holding them you are making it better for them. Just like when a friend is crying because something has upset her. You can't take away the upset - she has to feel her way through it and get to a place of peace by herself, BUT, you can hold her, comfort her and let her know that you're always there for her. And that's all that we can humanly do. It is enough. Many hugs to you xxx

  2. Oh, thank you for understanding. So much of the stress about it really is feeling alone, that you're the only person dealing with this. Of course we don't see many mothers around pacing for hours with crying babies, because they do like I do and keep them at home! (Though of course, as I'm always telling mothers in meetings, your own baby sounds much louder to you than it does to anyone else).
    Good point too about thinking it's been hours when it hasn't always. I need to stop myself thinking "here we go again" every time he murmurs, so I don't make things worse.
    Lovely of you to stop by and read and comment, I really appreciate it xx

  3. I read this post, and wanted to comment, but didn't really know what to say. Having read your latest post, I've returned to it, to say "I read it, and you were heard".