Emma: 4 Weeks

6 May

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

7 Responses to “Emma: 4 Weeks”

  1. Lynette May 6, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I remember days like that so clearly. Accept help is what I suggest. Lay her down and walk away to gain composure.

    Your right, it will pass doesn’t help at this time and in your struggle.

    I am here and am willing to help however I can. I seem to be able to calm and put most any baby to sleep. Happy to hold her and let you rest, give you and Travis a “date” even if it is just a walk around the block. Praying with you.

    This is working out your salvation for sure. Struggles and trials are not fun, but God will use them. Keep your focus on God as we heard yesterday. It dies help.

    I really am willing to do anything. Holding a baby provides me a lot of comfort these days. I would give anything to hold my daughter and here her cry. I would love to hug on your daughter to help you and help me heal. 🙂

  2. jenm83 May 6, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    So what happens if you let her continue to nurse? Maybe she is still hungry or just wants to comfort nurse. Like I said, I would let Jensen nurse as long as he wanted even if it was 45 mins. Another thing I thought of…gripe water (not sure it always worked, but worth a try) and wearing her in a carrier (we used the Moby wrap). Here is one of my favorite posts for a little encouragement.

    She has changed so much already! Just beautiful!

  3. Kristen May 6, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Hello! You don’t know me, but I’ve actually been reading your blog for several years. (That might sound kind of stalkerish, but I am not a stalker.) I don’t remember how I originally found your blog except that it was something to do with Campus outreach. I went to school at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and I was involved with CO while I was there. I think maybe someone I knew there moved to MN to work with CO, and that’s how I came across your blog. I have continued to come back to read over the years because I think we are a lot alike. I think the same way you appear to think, and I have many of the same interests you do. I had my first baby 3 years ago, and my second is 3 months old today. When I saw today’s blog, I decided I should comment. Both of my babies were screamers. For the first one, I went through all the theories like you are doing in this blog, and nothing worked. Eventually when my oldest was about 9 months old, he stopped screaming, and life went back to normal. When my second baby started doing the same thing, I got so discouraged and wondered how I would make it through 9 months of screaming again. My mom knew I was about to go insane from trying to deal with a 2 year old and a newborn at the same time. She did some internet research and ended up buying Colic Calm for me. It is a brand of gripe water. All I have to say is it’s a miracle worker. It’s kind of expensive, and it’s also kind of a pain because it’s black and will stain if you get it on anything, but I was so sick of screaming that I didn’t care about the expense or the staining. When I started using it, I had to use it a couple of times a day. Now we maybe use it once a day. Some days we haven’t used it at all. Look it up on Amazon and read the reviews. I’ll be praying for you. Let me know if you have any questions about it.

  4. blm2397 May 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    It is hard. Very hard. But my girls did the same thing at that age. I was told the first month was they honeymoon period. All they do is sleep. Months 2-4 are rough. But they pass quickly. My girls were very very colicky. They screamed at the same time every day. See if you can sense a certain time a day its worse. No matter what, do your best ans just know it won’t last very long. Thinking about you momma!

  5. Lisa May 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Hi Kathy, I’m praying for you too. I’m certain it is really hard and frustrating to have a baby that cries so much. I can tell you are doing a good job mothering Emma, and I think sometimes babies really do cry over nothing. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying different things to fix it. If doctor says she’s healthy then you may just need to take a deep breath, leave the room, and take some time for yourself when she screams, as long as she’s fed, changed, comfortable, etc.

    That black liquid above mentioned sounds intriguing … You’ll have to let us know if you try it.

    I wish I had more words for you, but of course I’m not a mother. I do remember my mom saying my middle sister cried a lot because she always had ear inflammation & infections. I’m guessing you’ve had her ears checked, but that was just a thought.

    God’s peace to you honey!

  6. Ashley May 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    If you keep feeling low, make sure to talk to your OB. You may have a touch of PPD due to lack of sleep and the changing hormones. Make sure you take a few minutes for yourself when you can. It helps you get through!

  7. Dorsa @ Running Thoughts May 8, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Oh man, I am going through that right now. Liam was a pretty easy newborn, he would sleep for 3+ hours at at time, nurse and never cry.. the past week he has been refusing to nap because all he wants to do is play. I love him and I love playing with him, but I am sooo tired of trying to get him to nap for hours at a time.

    I hope this is just a phase we are going through, but today I had to lay him in his crib for 10 minutes and let him scream his head off. then I cooled off, went back upstairs, he nursed for 8 min then passed out. sometimes you just have to let them cry it out. Although Emma might be a little too young for that.

    Just keep trying. Try and get her down for a nap before she seems tired. Babies should only be awake for 90 minutes at a time, so when it gets close to that time, get her ready for a nap. See if that works 🙂

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