Sunday, July 19, 2009

stranger danger

"He did really well!"

"He is absolutely passed out cold!"

"You wouldn't believe it - he smiled at me! He smiled and then he GIGGLED!"

"It was a really bad night, huh? He was really awful, wasn't he?"

Word for word, I heard each of these statements over the past 24 hours, all about my son. My son, who for some unknown reason is hellbent on making me a liar AND making me literally insane from sleep deprivation.

I don't hesitate to tell people how irritable he can be. I am honest about his reflux, his screaming, his unwillingness to sleep. I almost never smile and nod when people tell me to enjoy this time - I tell them honestly that it's hard to see that through the noise and exhaustion, that I'm not proud but I'm counting the hours until he grows a bit and becomes more comfortable with his existence. So when these people meet him they are expecting a difficult baby. A screaming baby. Rosemary's Baby. But he nearly always disappoints. He will sleep in their arms for hours on end ("he is absolutely passed out cold!"), remain relatively calm and collected during a funeral ("he did really well!") and when babysat for the first time, sleep for 3 consectutive hours waking only to eat, smile and giggle (his first ever) at his grandmother (a woman who just last week told my nephew over and over that he was her favorite grandson. In front of me.).

These people, after seeing my delightful son, must think I'm delusional; weak. At best they think I'm a liar - making up or exaggerating my baby's bad behavior. And at worst a lousy parent - a mother who is unable to calm and comfort her own child when everyone else can.

I was at a store, buying nursing bras in an attempt to contain my enormous, milk filled breasts, and not surprisingly O. opened up. He shouted those obscenities at me, as he is prone to do. I tried to calm him, tried rocking him, singing to him, bargaining with him, but he wasn't having it. He was just in one of those moods. And so I attempted to get fitted for my bra, buy it and leave as quickly as humanly possible, hoping that the car ride home would soothe him. But before I had a chance to rush out of the store the woman who was fitting me bent down close to my baby's ear, shushed him and had him quiet in moments. I stood there with my naked, vein covered breasts dangling and sagging, breasts with giant target nipples and a map of stretch marks spanning their engorged surface, breasts that signify my motherhood - I stood there half naked and watched as a stranger comforted my child more quickly than I ever had.

And later that week my husband held his son, criss-crossing the living room, shushing frantically as the baby screamed. Our housekeeper, who comes every 2 weeks to scrub my floors, approached him, smiled and asked if she could hold him. Within moments he was silent. Until she handed him back.

Well-meaning friends and strangers make suggestions, some which we discard (maybe he's cold?) and some which we cling to in the hopes of finding a solution - Prevacid, The Happiest Baby on the Block, chiropractic care. "Have you tried having him sleep in his swing?" He wakes the minute his butt hits the cushion. "Have you tried sleeping him in his bouncer?" He won't even settle enough to belt him in. Some ideas work...for awhile. The white noise was great for a week - it calmed him, helped him sleep, helped him stay asleep - and then, like Star Trek's Borg he adapted, his cries blasting through the ocean sounds. Getting close to his ear and singing a long, lone, off-key tone quieted him for 2 weeks, but I believe it was only because it amused him to see his parents look like escaped mental patients as they "ahhhhhhhed" endlessly. But when the novelty wore off for him, so did the effectiveness. For 3 days last week I thought we'd found the solution to having him sleep at night. Putting him in his own room, swaddled, on the wedged sleep positioner with the white noise humming gave me 3 nights of progressively longer and deeper sleep. I started looking forward to bedtime and woke nearly refreshed after only 3 feedings in the night. And then he became immune. Immune in such a violent turnaround that last night he did not sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time until 5:35 am. When he slept a whopping 45.

I have proposed the idea that he hates our house, half joking, half serious. I know I'm grasping at straws, begging for an explanation for his behavior. Hoping it's this house he hates and not it's inhabitants. But when he coos at grocery checkers and scowls at me it's hard not to assume the worst. That I've failed at parenthood before I've even had a chance to succeed. That my child, who I love, whose puke-covered head I sniff contentedly, who I feed from my own body for hours each day, that my child would rather spend his time with anyone but me.

They say you can't spoil a newborn, that they aren't even able to form lasting preferences. But after 8 weeks with my baby I am not so sure. I don't have to ask him to know who he prefers. Unless I'm topless and he's suckling it appears obvious that he prefers everyone over me.


Lorraine said...

I just wanted to let you know that I had a similar experience - except that my daughter wouldn't let me put her down. Ever. Like, even to pee. She would scream like the world was ending. In the evenings my husband would take her until she screamed herself to sleep, just to give me a break. But I could hear her even when I was in the shower, sometimes even when I would walk around the block just to get out of the house.

It took months before we found out that she had recurring pyelonephritis (kidney infection). I think she somehow could manage to be okay if she was attached to me, but otherwise she was just miserable, and it showed.

I'm only saying this because it's worth thinking about - maybe he can be distracted by new stimulus, but when he's in his usual surroundings he can focus on the reflux? Or something else that's bothering him?

I remember that "spoiling the baby" theory - but people told me that I was holding her too much and she wouldn't learn to be independent. She would scream until she choked, but I was supposed to let her "learn" to handle it?

New babies can be hard. Really, really hard. If you can find an RIE class it might really help, just to have a way of connecting with what might be going on with him? My heart goes out to you.

Anonymous said...

Think about it for yourself...who do YOU scream, vent, and cry to: your husband and maybe close friends, or the neighborhood grocery clerk? I feel like you act more like yourself when you're in your most familiar surroundings, and that includes people. He feels comfortable around you, so you make him feel safe enough to communicate in the only way he knows how right now.

And in my experience, his tendency to be okay with something for a few days or weeks and then become immune to it...that just seems to be how children are. Just when you think you've got them figured out, they do something to change things up and throw you off again. Remaining flexible (and it sounds like you are) is the key to survival.

You're doing a great job! Problem is...most moms don't admit just what a hard job this is!!


macfamilytx said...

Hugs! It's hard when they are "perfect" around others and then themselves at home with you. I know sometimes I just want them to act as they always do so everyone will understand.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to get out of the newborn phase. I know people say to enjoy it but with a higher maintenance kiddo it's hard. At least that's what I tell myself ; )

Delia said...

I don't even have a kid in my hands and I think "once those first 3 months are gone, I think we'll be ok." Like I know that now. I think we're our own worst critics and we're really good at doubting ourselves. I'm sure it will get better, but until then I'll keep my fingers crossed!!

Emily said...

I have no idea what to say, except thank you for your honesty and I am sorry you and O are having a tough go of things...Hang in there, mama!

Jessatsea said...

Everyones an authority.... But I assure you... YOU are the authority on little o! It may not feel like it but there is no one .... NO ONE he prefers to be himself around than You!
I'm not going to say "enjoy this time" because it's hard! And it might not get easier for a bit. But you will get through it and try not to lose confidence in your abilities. No one can mother dear o like you! Have faith! Believe in yourself! And we are here for you to vent to!

Love you!

SweetThang said...

I am no authority on babies, but I just wanted to let you know something. Holding him at the Reception after the funeral really brightened my day. Holding him warmed my broken heart. I am so glad that you guys were there; it meant the world to me.. and he was a PERFECT angel!!

Much love!

kbarsch said...

Hang in there friend, in just 3 short weeks, Eileen will be here and they can scream together--you, me, wax earplugs....does that sound like a date?!?