"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.