My baby would cry for hours, shriek in my ear, claw at my chest, and I would drown in intense frustration. And then I would feel mom-guilt for being frustrated in the first place. Because I knew it wasn’t his fault. I Googled a thousand different little things to help my baby calm down. They didn’t work. And when I would see other people’s babies they didn’t seem to cry like he did, and I would wonder if I was missing something. If I wasn’t nurturing enough, if I didn’t just have that special “mother’s touch” to give him the comfort to be calm and happy.
Before our son was born, I never thought twice about asking a new mom if their baby was “good” baby. However, the first time someone asked me if my 8 week old was a “good” baby, the words hit me in a COMPLETELY different way. For someone reading this, maybe it did for you too.
How should I respond? Because if a happy, even-tempered infant equaled a “good” baby, then what did that imply about my baby who felt unhappy, in pain, or uncomfortable so much of the time? Maybe you’ve thought the same thing.
After a rough start to life in the NICU, Colic, and acid reflux, my baby absolutely cried A LOT. Sometimes 4-6 hours a day. Sometimes until his face became bright red. Sometimes for more than an hour at a time. And one time he cried so hard, he choked on his own saliva, and projectile vomited clear across the room. We joke about the crazy distance a baby can puke now, but when you’re changing your sheets at 11pm, and have to work the next day, it’s anything but funny.
To all my fellow mamas of babies who were struggling- you’ve got stories like these of your own. You know the pressure of taking your baby out or inviting someone over, hoping so hard your sweet, perfect baby will let your friends and family see what you see in them. I don’t know why, but there is a fight or flight instinct that takes over when a human is around a crying baby that isn’t their own. When our family or friends would get that look of discomfort in their eyes once he started crying it would break my heart, and the best way I can describe the feeling, was the feeling of rejection. You can rationalize it all day long, but it’s still how you feel.
The reason I’m writing this isn’t for you to feel bad for me, or to say the next one might not cry so much. I am head over heels in love with my son, and I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve for every moment I’ve had and have with him- crying or otherwise. I’m writing this to you, tired, desperate, trying-as-hard-as-she-can mama, to let you know that it’s not just your baby. That it’s not because you aren’t nurturing or loving enough. You are. We all adjust differently, and your baby is just adjusting to this thing called life the best way it knows how. Know that your baby, like mine, is growing out of this stressful stage day by day, but the right now is hard. And it’s okay to feel frustrated from time to time. Know that you might not have the answers, but you have the ability to give your baby everything they need, even if they are crying, because YOU are their mother, and you CAN do this.
And I’m also writing this to you, friend, family member, passerby, to challenge you to stop and think about the words we say to moms (and dads!) who are doing their best to nurture a precious little life. Our words have power, and as we pour into the purest, most innocent among us, surround us with words of truth, encouragement, and love.
Because the real answer is ALL babies are good babies.
Psalm 139: 13-16
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
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Sweet dreams and safe travels!