Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One step forward. Two steps back.

Has it really been a month already? Time flies when you're having fun (and when you're stressed out of your mind!) Had some really rough days but we made it. It's hard to believe that 4 weeks ago I was in labour trying to push out my big girl (9 lbs 4 ounces). It was scary for both of us. That was just the start of our journey. We've been through a lot since then and yet it seems to have gone by in a flash somehow.

Michelle and I took it easy the other day. It was a grey, rainy day. The perfect sort of day to just stay in and do nothing (other than feeding, changing, caring for baby of course!) It was a relief to have the weather a little cooler. It got humid for a few days there. Without air conditioning it can get pretty warm, especially when you're breastfeeding and carrying around a 10 lb baby! Michelle was sleeping a lot better. Sometimes almost four hours (at least three) at a time through the night. I thought that maybe she'd turned a corner and that things were going to get easier from here on out... I thought wrong. She then started a new thing in the early evening where she just screams. She's not hungry. She doesn't need changing. She's just cranky and so you try EVERYTHING in your power to console her and nothing works. And you feel like you're going to lose your mind!

I was craving McD's one night and thought what the heck I might as well go for it. Michelle was fussy and I figured she'd fall asleep in the car (she usually does) on the way. So sure enough, she did fall asleep. Unfortunately she woke up and SCREAMED while I was in the drive-thru. I couldn't take it anymore so I just pulled out of line and left. When she still kept screaming, I barked at her (not my proudest moment but I was hungry and out of patience) -- "Fine! You got your way! We're going home! I didn't even get my Big Mac! Are you happy now?" and with that she stopped crying, closed her eyes and went to sleep. Sigh. Then we get home and she continues her tirade for a while. I couldn't take it anymore. Usually there's SOMETHING that will entertain her but I tried dancing, rocking, singing, shushing, the vacuum, everything. I didn't know what was wrong. I felt myself getting angry. I know she's just a baby but in that moment it felt like she was doing it on purpose to annoy me. It felt like I'd given up my whole life, body and soul for her and it still wasn't enough. She still didn't appreciate it. I finally said: "If you are going to keep crying no matter what I do, I'll just stop trying to do anything and leave you alone!" She stopped and looked at me for a moment as though processing what I'd said. There. She stopped crying. Woo hoo. Then she started right back up again. That's it. I had had it. So I put her in her crib and closed the door. I had read that when you're at the end of your rope and can't take it anymore just put the baby down and walk away. Take a breather because it can start to drive you mad. I had even read that frustrated parents have fleeting thoughts like wanting to throw the baby out the window (as long as you don't actually do it!) It's natural to feel annoyed with a screaming baby. It's probably the most stressful thing on the planet to deal with (it is by far the most stressful in my life and I had someone pull a gun on me once!) I felt so guilty for leaving her to cry, even just for a few minutes. I went back and her face was red and she was sweating. She had worked herself up into a frenzy. I started to cry. I couldn't take it anymore. I didn't know what to do. When I am able to meet her needs and calm her down it makes me feel good but when it seems like nothing I do works I feel so helpless and horrible I don't know what to do. But then it stops. She sleeps. She wakes up and smiles at me. It's like she's Jekyll and Hyde.

It's magical when she smiles. Michelle has started really looking at me now. She focuses on my face and I'm so happy when she looks into my eyes and smiles a big smile. Before it seemed like she was just staring into space and not focusing on anything in particular. But now she seems to recognize me and look happy to see me. It is the best feeling in the world to have my little girl smile at me. If only she could be like that all the time! But she's a baby. Babies cry. It's the only way they can communicate. She gets overtired and cranky. Sometimes she doesn't know what she wants. She can't tell me what's wrong. Is she too hot, too cold, does she have a tummy ache? Maybe she just needs constant stimulation. She likes variety. She loves to be in motion. She always falls asleep in the car and gets angry when the car stops moving. It's hard to stay in constant motion. I try to carry her around constantly but my arms get tired and my back aches. She's over 10 lbs now.

Sometimes she's an angel. She'll have a good day and sleep well and I can actually get things done. I finally had time to put the mobile up over the crib. I found a hook for the ceiling at Walmart. It was just a matter of having a few minutes to climb up and hang it! It's not as though Michelle sleeps in her crib yet anyway. I just like to have the (ocean themed) nursery complete. Michelle sleeps with me for the time being. Because I lie down to breastfeed at night it just makes the most sense to have her next to me. That way she can feed and we can both fall asleep then wake up and feed again. I know people who slept with their kids from the beginning. Before I had the baby I used to wonder how people did that. Wouldn't you roll over on the baby? But it's different once you have the baby. You have an instinct about it. I'm a light sleeper anyway. When I had told the nurse I had the baby in the bed with me I was afraid she was going to lecture me about how dangerous it was. She said that it's only in North America that people worry about it. In Europe and in China it's common for people to have their babies in bed with them. She said as long as I'm not obese, not a drinker or drug user that there's no danger of me rolling over and smothering the baby. I think we're safe!

Each day is different now. Some better than expected, some worse. I never know how she's going to be. I can only hope for the best and do my best. I am not in control of my life. She is. I must surrender to chaos. You can't reason with a baby or predict her behaviour. You just go with the flow. I just have to be grateful for the joyful, beautiful moments and survive the stressful, difficult times.

During the rough times I sometimes worry am I suffering from PPD (post partum depression)? No I'm not. It's always situational (the baby screaming) and temporary. Everyone has a few moments where they feel stressed, feel down, need a good cry. Even people who don't have children (never mind anyone who is raising a newborn alone!) If you are happy 95% of the time and suffer from stress/sadness 5% of the time, you are not depressed, you are a human being! Welcome to life. It's not always easy. I have exhaustion and hormones to contend with on top of physical depletion, sleep deprivation, the complete metamorphosis of every aspect of my life. It's a lot to take! Everything I'm going through is normal and natural. Occasionally I get overwhelmed. It doesn't make me a bad person or a bad mommy. I'm doing my best. I need to cut myself some slack. I don't have to be perfect. And maybe baby can cut me a little slack too. Maybe even let me get a Big Mac now and then...(I know they're not good for me but hey, Mama needs a treat once in a while!)

My Mom said I'm hard on myself because I'm a perfectionist and I always need to be the best at everything. She said maybe I'm trying to be the best Mom. I do feel pressured to do all the best things for Michelle but I am human and therefore fallible.

One night when I was having a really rough time I called my sister to talk me down off the ledge. She is always so supportive and reassuring. She helps me to put things in perspective. It will be OK. I will get through it. She reminded me of the phrase, that applies to almost everything in life, good and bad -- "This too shall pass." The crying always ends eventually and when it does you can truly appreciate the sweet sound of silence. I look at my baby when she's sleeping or when she's just looking around contentedly with her big blue eyes and I can forgive her for those terrible times. I adore her. And she doesn't mean to be so high maintenance. She gets frustrated that she can't communicate what's wrong. It would be hard to want to say something and not have the words to explain.

Me as a baby -- could almost be a picture of Michelle!

Mom still contends that there is a correlation between fussiness and intelligence because I was the worst baby ever but the smartest. "You never slept! I couldn't put you down. You screamed all night! You screamed the whole first year!" On the bright side, she said I was a genius. I was talking, walking, singing much sooner than I should have been. (She let me see my baby book where she had kept notes on my progress. I was walking at 7 months, talking at 8 months and toilet trained at 11 months.) There may be something to it. It stands to reason that smart babies need constant stimulation. Their minds are so active they are easily bored. They would be more eager to communicate. More particular about things (less willing to sit in their own feces -- Michelle screams the instant her diaper is wet or has a speck of poo. So I go through about 10-15+ diapers a day!) So I guess we'll see if Michelle turns into a child prodigy! People have made comments about her already recognizing faces and smiling which is unusual for a newborn. She also has quite a bit of control of her head already. She makes little sounds sometimes as though she's trying to talk but it will freak me out if she actually says anything. She grabs things with her hands quite a bit. Sometimes I think she's giving me the finger! She is able to hold her head up and turn to look at things. Or maybe the "fussy babies are smarter" thing is just a myth/a pipe dream that Moms use to console themselves that they have a screaming baby while other moms get to have a quiet one! Then again, if screaming is their only form of communication, I guess the fussier ones are more eager to communciate and so would probably be talking sooner. The laid back babies may not have much to say. The more sensitive ones who can't stand to be wet would be easier to toilet train (I was.) Maybe it's like type A and type B personalities. I was a type A and always a straight A student in school. It does seem that intelligent people in general are higher maintenance. Or maybe it's just Karma -- the screaming is my payback for what I put my Mom through as a baby! I didn't mean to. Then there is the fact that she's a redhead. There is a stereotype that gingers tend to be clever, sensitive, passionate, moody. It may not always be true but it applies to every redhead I've met. Myself included. So why should Michelle be any different?

A few people have mentioned "colic" as a possible explanation. I'm not even sure what it is but it seems to be the label they put on it when your baby just screams for seemingly no reason. I've heard horror stories of babies screaming for HOURS! That would be unbearable. To have your baby scream for a few minutes or half an hour at the most is bad enough. I heard of one woman who was at her wit's end so she just left the baby in his crib to scream and she went out to the car (where she couldn't hear it anymore) and wept. Sometimes you're at the end of your rope. You just need a breather. When there are two parents involved they can take turns walking the floor with the baby (though I've heard a lot of men don't pitch in to help with caregiving anyway, even if they are in the picture). When you're by yourself, there's no one to hand her off to. It's all you. 24-7. Obviously that can get exhausting!

I am trying to do all the right things. I'm not perfect. I'm not superhuman. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed. I guess the best thing to do is to just take it one day at a time. It may get easier. It may get harder. Each day is different. I have to focus on the positive, the beautiful experiences of being a parent. Those moments are worth it. I have to just let the other stuff go.

My Mom also told me "Don't worry about the baby crying. It's exercise. It won't hurt her." But it seems like it hurts, at the time. I don't want her to be sad. I don't want her to feel like her needs won't be met. I want her to feel happy and safe and secure. I know for the most part that she does. Even after a particularly bad evening she still looks at me bright eyed the next day and flashes me a big smile. I know she's OK. We're OK.

As I type this, she is sleeping peacefully and she didn't do her weird moody thing tonight. So maybe it was just a phase that lasted a few days. Maybe it was just gas. Maybe I just shouldn't worry so much (tough habit to break. I get it from Mom.)

You just don't know what having a child is like until you have one. No one can prepare you. While I was still pregnant I imagined having the baby. I envisioned all the perfect Hallmark moments with her -- holding her, singing her to sleep, reading her bedtime stories, playing and laughing with her. I didn't picture exploding orange poo, screaming fits, spit-ups, stress and lack of sleep. But it's a package deal. You take the bad with the good. Life isn't a Hallmark card.

When you're getting married, they have you take a vow. To love, honour and cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, as long as you live. A pretty tall order! Many people don't wind up keeping that vow. They find out it's more difficult than they expected. When the going gets tough, they get going. They get divorced. A child is a much bigger commitment than a marriage. No ceremony. No spoken vow but an unspoken promise that is binding. Forever. There is no escape hatch. No divorce. That child is yours for the rest of your days and you love them no matter what, even when it's hard, for better and for worse. Michelle is my life. I will keep my vow to love her no matter what. Love isn't easy. They make it look easy in movies and fairytales. They show you the happy ending. They don't show you all the nightmarish real life everyday moments in between. Love isn't perfect. Whether it's romantic love or the love of a child. It's not all smooth sailing. Sometimes it breaks your heart. Sometimes they drive you crazy. But you get through it. You don't give up. Because that's what love is. You keep going.

Amor vincit omnia. Love conquers all. Even colic, or whatever the heck it is.


  1. You are very lucky to have such wise women in your life. Both your sister's advice that "This too shall pass" & your mom telling you that crying won't hurt your baby is so good. It's hard to remember when Michelle is fussing but still good advice to keep in your head. I know that when Elena was newborn, if she was crying & fussing I felt like a failure & believed I must be doing something wrong that she was so upset. I even said to my mom at one point, "I think she hates me, She must really hate me, that is why she's so upset." Very wise of you too to put Michelle down & walk away when you need a breather. I did that too, felt guilty but always better able to deal after having those few moments.

    Oh & it drove me nuts when people would suggest she had colic!! I did A LOT of reading on it & Elena didn't have it & it doesn't sound like Michelle does either. Elena was very gassy tho but I learned techniques to help her get her gas out & used Gripe Water (the Shopper's Drug Mart brand has no alcohol & is all natural) & I adjusted what I was eating (that caused gassiness from my breast milk) & we really turned a corner. I also took her to a chiropractor & sure enough she had a spot out of line on her spine that was probably making it painful to push toots out.

    It was trial & error but we figured things out...& so will you. You'll try different things, get better at seeing & figuring out Michelle's cues & like your sister said, it will pass.

    Oh & about the co-sleeping...I SWORE I would never do that...but then the only time Elena would sleep was on my chest so that is they only way I could get sleep! We still co-sleep & I am so grateful for that closeness!!

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Just reading your post brings back memories of having the same feelings & stuggles & how alone I felt & I just want to tell you that it sounds like you're doing awesome at figuring out this new mom stuff! Michelle is lucky to have you!

    1. Thank you so much! Very nice of you! It's good to hear that others went through the same things. Sometimes it is hard but I know it's all normal and I'll try not to stress about it! :)