This has probably been the hardest week of my life. Emma has had 3 states of being: eating, sleeping and crying. So much crying. Instead of falling asleep after nursing like she had the first couple of weeks, she will now be content for about 10-30 seconds before starting to scream her head off. It takes several minutes just to calm her down, not to mention get her to sleep. There have been a few times when she is alert and seemingly happy, so we do tummy time or walk around talking but they, too, always end in crying.
We have come up with several theories for why Emma is crying so much now, but before I get into those, can I just say that I find it impossible to tell what Emma wants solely from the sound of her crying? They say that infants have different cries for different needs… I just hear screaming and unhappiness. Maybe this changes as she gets older? Or maybe Emma only has one crying volume: LOUD?
Anyway, our first theory was that she’s uncomfortable from gas. I asked our pediatrician about it at our 2 week appointment and she recommended getting some Mylicon anti-gas drops. So we did and we’ve been giving them to her, but I honestly haven’t noticed much of a difference in her crying or comfort level. Also, according to Dr. Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby on the Block, babies rarely cry from gas pains. So that doesn’t seem to be her problem (those she does have quite a bit of gas). Nonetheless, I have mostly eliminated dairy from my diet in hopes that maybe it will help her (also a suggestion from our doctor) – which is ridiculously hard for me, since I LOVE milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and chocolate.
The second was that she’s not eating enough at each feeding. After self-diagnosing myself with an oversupply or fast milk letdown, I started feeding Emma from only one side per nursing session, per advice I read on the La Leche League website and in their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. But around the same time I started doing that, Emma started crying bloody murder after feedings. I had been hesitant to offer more in those instances, out of the fear of overfeeding her. But after a little more research and motherly intuition, I’ve decided that overfeeding a breastfed infant would be pretty hard to do. So I’ve started offering both sides (unless she falls asleep or looks particularly content after one side, which happens rarely) and also offering to nurse whenever it seems like she could possibly be hungry, regardless of how long it’s been since she ate last. Sometimes she eats more, sometimes she doesn’t. When she eats more, she does seem more content. So this has helped some.
The third was that she’s overstimulated. The first several days that she was crying a lot, we tried everything we could think of to console her – rocking, swaying, swinging, vibrating, shushing, pacifier, swaddling, walking, upright on our chest, laying in our arms, bouncing. The more we tried, the worse it got. Finally we figured out that less is more and stick to some combination of the following: swaddling, holding her upright on our chest, making a “shhh” sound in her ear, bouncing on our exercise ball or Ikea chair, and letting her suck on a pacifier. I also found that she will fall asleep in the car, but not always.
The fourth was that she’s overtired. There have been so many times when Emma has *almost* been asleep but just when we thought we were home free, those little eyes would pop open again and we were back to square one. It’s like she fights going to sleep with her entire being. But honestly, I don’t know how to prevent this from happening. Our ‘routine’ (if you can call it that) is this: 2-3 hours from her last feeding, Emma wakes up or starts grunting a lot, so we pick her up, change her diaper and nurse. If she’s awake and happy when she’s done nursing (a rarity), I either read her a book or sing songs (if she’s awake but chill) or we do tummy time (if she’s moving her arms and legs around). Both of those activities last maybe 15 minutes before Emma yawns… or starts crying, which begins the cycle of trying to calm her down and get her to sleep.
But the norm for the past week is that we finish nursing and Emma starts crying almost immediately. And not just a little – like all out bloody murder crying. Her face turns bright red. Her little fists are clenched. She is ANGRY. And I’m confounded. Once she’s asleep, Emma usually sleeps for a good 1-3 hours at a stretch, so I feel like she’s still getting a decent amount of sleep. But after almost every time that she’s awake, it’s an ordeal to get her back to sleep. Another thought I had is that she gets so riled up by her crying that it’s hard for her to unwind enough for sleep, but I still don’t know what we can do about that because she goes from zero to crying in less than 2 seconds. And she does that right after nursing. So how do you prevent that from happening?
My latest theory is that is that maybe she can’t handle the caffeine in the cup of coffee I drink everyday (does it sound like I’m grasping at straws yet?). So I am also giving up my beloved morning coffee – the thing that has given me hope when Emma wakes up an hour or two earlier than expected each morning – and switching to decaf. I would go insane if I couldn’t have coffee at all.
Anyway, this week has been filled with me feeling like my life is over and I will never enjoy anything again. I haven’t handled it well, especially in my relationship with Travis. I’ve been drowning my sorrows in self-pity with a very “Woe is me” attitude, which benefits no one. Even though deep down, I want to embrace this reality from God and give thanks for His mercies that are new every morning – because I know that that is the path to joy – I can’t do it. I can’t stop focusing on all the things about life right now that are so not what I want. My face is still breaking out. My belly is still as soft as bread dough. Neither my pre-pregnancy nor maternity clothes fit right anymore and I don’t feel like we can afford me to buy a bunch of new ones, especially when they’re just to fill in the gap right now. I fight against taking many naps during the day because I don’t want to spend my entire existence nursing and sleeping, and I hate how it feels to get up after not getting enough sleep. But my stubbornness leaves me even more exhausted.
People keep telling me “It’ll get better.” And I’m sure somehow, somewhere, that’s true. But I can’t help but get angry when they say that because how does that help me today? Am I just supposed to resign myself to being miserable for the next however many weeks until Emma gets older? And how do I love my inconsolable daughter and well-meaning husband in the meantime, when I feel so trapped and discouraged?
Don’t get me wrong – I love Emma and Travis, and couldn’t imagine life without them. I know that Travis wishes he could do more to help me and he’s been great about staying up late to take care of Emma while I get some sleep during her least fussy period. And he doesn’t get angry or offended when I vent my frustrations to him and accuse him of not understanding how hard this is. With Emma, there are a few moments each day when she is awake and happy, and she makes the cutest noises in the whole world. I know she’s worth it, even though I’m tempted at times to question my decision to be a mother.
Nothing prepares you for how hard it is to have a baby, or how much you still love them in spite of it. For how you finally lay down to take a nap while your partner is taking care of the baby, but you can’t sleep because you can hear her crying and you feel guilty that you’re not the one out there consoling her. For how every baby and child you see in the store, on TV, at church and on the street remind you of your little one, and make your heart ache with the deepest love, and you know that there is nothing in the whole world that could make you give them up or live without them. For how hearing your baby cry breaks your heart so swiftly that you end up crying with them. For how you desperately want your baby to know how much they’re loved and cherished, so even though in the present moment, you just wish you could put her down and walk away, you don’t. You stay – heart breaking, eyes stinging, world imploding – and you keep on keeping on.
There is so much more that I could say. I have a hard time praying these days because my emotions are such a twisted mess, so I usually just end up saying “Lord, You know. Help me.” I continue to remind myself of Ann Voskamp’s words that “life change happens when we accept life with thanks and ask for nothing to change,” hoping that if I keep reminding myself, maybe I’ll eventually believe it. And I bring to mind Bible verses like Psalm 62:5-8…
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Even when all else fails, God is still my hope.
Any words of advice or encouragement?