This past Friday, it happened. Everyone said it would. And it isn’t that I didn’t believe them, but it just didn’t seem possible. Everyone’s story had similar threads, but I just couldn’t see how Evan would be able to play the starring role. The role that would cause him to be the hysterical screaming inconsolable baby. But, he did it and he earned an Oscar.
He had been getting progressively fussy all last week. I had absolutely no idea why, but he was still mostly sleeping through the night and when he did get fussy Daddy was still the magic potion. And then Friday came and it was as if he was just rehearsing all week for that moment.
It started around 9:30 PM. Brian had just fallen asleep on the floor (he has been finding it difficult to fall asleep) and Evan started to cry. At first there was nothing alarming about the crying, it seemed pretty normal. I woke up Brian and sent his behind to bed. I figured I would feed Evan, settle him and be off to bed myself soon. Wow, was I wrong.
Almost immediately after Brian went to bed, Evan let out his first blood curdling scream. On Friday, he was 30 days old and I had not yet heard this cry coming from him. His body was acting gassy (legs pulling up, hard abdomen, etc) so I figured it was gas and it would pass. I sat him in my lap (one of his favorite positions and a gas remover position) and he continued to scream. I put him on my shoulder, abdomen hard against the bone, and hit his back to help him release the gas. He continued to scream. I paced back and forth with him throughout the first floor, rocking him as I went. He continued to scream. I put him in his bouncy chair, turned on the vibration and now his screams had a vibrato effect to them. I took him into the guest bedroom and lay down with him on the bed. He continued to scream. Finally, I whipped out my fail-proof weapon, the boob. He didn’t even blink, just continued to scream. And, it was 11:00 PM and I was all out of bright ideas on how to soothe him, so I did the only thing that came naturally to me and started to cry.
Let me try to explain this to the few readers I have who don’t yet have children (because I know anyone who is reading this with children is shaking her head in understanding right about now). Society and nature teaches mothers that when babies cry, mothers respond and soothe. In most cases the mother does have the secret sauce (or whatever you want to call it) that will soothe their child. This feels natural and right. So, when you face a situation in which your powers have no effect (or at least no discernible effect) it rattles your confidence as a mother. Put on top of that the beautiful face of your baby, scrunched in pain, all red, with tears being squeezed out of the corner of his eyes and your heart starts to crack. Add the final piece de resistance of the scream, primordial and pain filled, and you are done. There is nothing quite like that. The worst part is you can’t tell if your baby knows you want to make it better and you wonder if he feels you just don’t care. Hence the tears.
And so we cried together, we walked together, and we rocked together on and off for about an hour. And yes, your math is correct, it is now about 12:00 PM.
So far we had gone through 2 stages of the inconsolable crying. Stage 1 was that I still believed as his mother I could make it better. Stage 2 was accepting I couldn’t make it better and crying out the emotions. I was about to enter Stage 3 – acceptance of the crying and emotional distancing.
The emotional distancing happens fairly slowly until you all the sudden realize you’ve been holding a screaming baby and watching TV but for the last 15 minutes all you heard was the TV. You realize nothing you do will make it better so you do nothing but be there. You have convinced yourself that your physical presence means something even if you can’t emotionally empathize anymore. Of course your 30 day old can’t tell you if you are right or wrong because he is too busy screaming.
And now we enter the final stage – exhaustion. At around 1:00 AM Evan had started to tire himself out. He would scream for 10 minutes and fall asleep for 5 minutes. I found that I too was falling asleep for those 5 minutes and then startled awake by his screaming. I was concerned that the startling would turn into dropping and I knew I had to call it a night. I had calculated that Brian had slept 3.5 hours and could sleep in tomorrow so it was time for tag team parenting. I went upstairs, woke up Brian, told him I didn’t care if he let Evan cry all night but someone had to make sure he didn’t fall on the tile and crack open his head and I went to sleep.
When I woke up, Brian told me Evan had pretty much pooped himself out and would sleep as long as Brian held him. IF Brian tried to put him down, bloody murder would return. And you think to yourself, how am I going to react to this baby today? How will I get over the frustration from last night?
And then you see this:
And you no longer care what happened because the only thing that matters is that your precious is no longer in pain.
Incidentally, last night was the first night we all slept through the night again. Recovery was a little bit longer than expected.