I think a mother can be in a room with 100 other mothers and babies, and instinctually know when it’s her child that’s crying. Your baby’s cry is as unique as his fingerprints. And, as a mom, the sound seems to trigger an automatic, nurturing response — like Pavlov’s dogs, except substitute the bell with the crying, and instead of a dog salivating, you have boobs that leak breast milk.
I’ve said it before, that we’ve been really lucky that Charlie doesn’t seem to be much of a crier. But of course, like all babies, he does cry. (Especially between 5 and 8pm. Or when he’s not feeling well, aka, tonight.) Most of the time though, we can tell right away what it is. Hungry, he turns his head to anything that might be at boob level; Poopy diaper, dead give away just by doing the mom-sniff; Tiredness = yawning and droopy blinking; Gassiness, the kicking and scrunching of his legs.
But, then there are the times when we try what feels like every trick we know, and he’s just not feeling it. All we can do is console him and think “this too shall pass”… and while it always does pass, it’s in those moments that I can’t help but feel like the worst mom in the world.
For example, when I picked Charlie up from daycare on Monday, he was in pretty rare form. I’m fairly certain he had a tummy ache since his fussiness lasted all night, only to be relieved when he finally, well, relieved himself. But, when I put him in his car seat to head home, he lost it. He hates his car seat anyway, but this cry was the one we have affectionately named “the pterodactyl.” It’s when he goes from about 0-60 in .2 seconds with a high-pitched, shrill, full-on scream. I thought maybe he was hungry, since he still had a bottle left. So I took him out and tried that, but he wasn’t too interested. I thought maybe he needed to be burped – nope. Tired? Maybe if I put him back into his car seat he’d fall asleep. No dice.
As his teacher watched me, it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to be nominated for mother-of-the-year any time soon. After about 20 minutes of me trying to calm him down, I decided to just throw in the towel. I was certain she must have been thinking, ‘Wow, this chick doesn’t even know why he’s crying‘ and ‘Haha, look at this fool she has no idea what she’s doing!‘ So, I strapped my little pterodactyl into his car seat and hightailed our asses out of there.
Example number two would include the inconsolable crying in front of house guests.
Since Charlie was born, we’ve had a lot of visitors come over. Which, we love. We love sharing him with everyone, and getting to visit with people that we used to go months and months without seeing. But, the not so fun part is when he starts crying. I’m sure people expect that a new baby will be doing some crying, but it doesn’t make it any less awkward and/or frustrating.
The visitor that thinks they are helping by taking the crying baby.
For me, this is probably the most unhelpful because: a.) My little mom-heart is dying inside knowing that my baby is crying and I’m no longer the one holding him. A crying baby needs his mama. b.) You’ll make me feel like an asshole if you can make him stop crying, and I cannot. c.) I have the boobs. Really, just back off and let the boobs do their job.
The friend still contemplating having babies.
While my friends’ decisions regarding their ovaries really have no bearing on my own life, I don’t want my circumstances dictating whether or not they decide to procreate. It’s during these visits that I’m probably most likely to be attempting telepathy by telling Charlie to be a good little boy and not show Mommy’s friends his impersonation of a Mesozoic flying reptile. And then when he does cry, I feel the need to make it clear that “I just don’t know what has gotten into him, he is never this fussy!”
The friend about to have babies.
These friends just have the look of, “Oh man, is this what I signed up for?” Like, they wonder if their child will cry so much and, if so, how the hell are they going to be able to figure out what the damn thing needs. They’re just searching for some glimpse of hope in your eyes that it’s not as bad as it seems. (To these friends I say, just remember – this too shall pass.)
And finally, let’s talk about the crying in public.
I’m thinking back to the times that I wasn’t a parent, and I was stuck next to a crying baby on a 4 hour plane ride… or, the times I’ve seen moms power-grocery shopping with a screaming child… or, the numerous tantrums I’ve seen thrown over a candy bar in the check-out aisle at Wal-Mart. These memories, which used to annoy me, are now my present and my future.
Once, I thought it would be a good idea to walk with Charlie up to the store. Even though it’s only about a 10 minute walk, I could not have had a worse idea in my life. He started crying about half way, and this yahoo never thought to bring a paci. Instead of turning around, I thought maybe he’d stop when we got inside and out of the wind. Once again, with the poor decisions. When I walked in, I felt like the whole store was staring at me. This is probably because they were. I was that mom… I grabbed what I needed, and ran up to the check out. Even the crotchety old lady let me cut in front of her in line – she knew it was beast for all parties involved.
Then, the other night I went to a jewelry party with my mom at a local restaurant. Charlie did really well for the first half or so. It was a few hours in when it was too warm, he was too tired, and he realized he was the only boy at a jewelry party that he started crying. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been a wall in between us and the other patrons just trying to peacefully eat their burritos. Since they all stared at me as I walked to the bathroom to change the little burrito C-man made for me in his diaper, I’m pretty sure they weren’t too impressed. Oopsie.
While all of the above experiences may make me feel like a horrible mother, the reality is that no matter what, babies just cry. The amount of tears, screams and shrieks doesn’t truly reflect whether or not you are measuring up as a parent. And, I think maybe there are just a few things I can say about crying that every mom probably needs to hear:
First, just because you can’t figure out what is wrong with your baby doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. You don’t need to run away from the daycare provider in shame. Second, your friends really won’t judge your life based on the decibel of your child’s cry – even if you think they might. And third, it really is okay to try to let someone else help console the kid once in a while…
And for those non-parents out there, when you see a mother with a crying baby in public, know that the pain and frustration she is feeling exceeds yours, tenfold.