Ok, here goes. This is the post- the one I’ve been
dreading. Even though it’s partially the reason that I started this entire blog
to begin with, it’s also the hardest for me to talk about. Why am I bothering
to, then? Well, if there is someone, anyone out there that may benefit from
reading this, then it will have been for good. Also, I feel that the act and
process of writing this out is helpful for my own reflection and learning. We
all have unique stories to tell about starting the journey of parenthood,
which, if we’re honest, probably include all emotions on the spectrum and then
some.This is about our first few months with our little baby as painfully
wonderful as they were...
I remember driving home with our sweet boy from the hospital in
the dead of winter. Jake and I could not believe that just two days ago it was
just the two of us, and then a hospital stay later, we were driving home with a
tiny baby...our baby. I’m sure that many of you can relate. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime,
surreal moment. We bundled him up so tightly that I thought we were going to
inadvertently suffocate him. Our gracious nurse assured us that Joel was
adequately bundled and buckled up properly.
All buckled up for the ride home!
And then there were three. Three of us at home - five including
our two sweet cats. At any rate, Joel was fast asleep by the time we arrived
home. We wondered - do newborns really sleep this much? I decided to
breastfeed Joel, and for each feeding, we struggled to keep Joel awake, or he
would want to snack all the time. Then each feeding, we’d change him (that kid
had some MAJOR diapers, even at such a young age), wrap him in his swaddle, rock
him, and he’d be fast asleep. Rinse, repeat. Newborns are so easy in some ways,
aren’t they? Our first task was for Joel to kick his nocturnal ways and become
diurnal. Until then, we knew that we had to be night owls as well. Thank
goodness for some sweet friends who visited before we arrived home and
delivered meals/cleaned our apartment before we came home so that we could some
semblance of rest. Anyway, other than the sleep deprivation and my recovery
from labor, things went fairly smoothly. We felt like we were in the “honeymoon
phase” of having a baby. I remember sitting with while my husband, Jake, was
rocking Joel, and we awed over how soundly Joel would sleep! Of course, he
required us to hold him a lot, but we knew this and happily obliged him at the
Those two weeks were utterly amazing and also difficult. I’m
having a hard time jogging my memory for a lot of details, but maybe that’s ok.
What occurred after that was something that I’m not sure that anyone or
anything could have prepared me for. I read several books and articles on
pregnancy, childbirth, and babies, you name it. However, no book, conversation,
or advice can fully prepare you for parenting, in my opinion. No baby is
perfect, and babies are not equations to be calculated, nor are they puzzles to
solve. They are humans, as imperfect as we are, and they are also completely
These realizations really hit me when at around three to 4 weeks,
Joel seemed to exhibit some odd behaviors. He would cry as normal, and we’d go
down the checklist (diaper change, hunger, gas, sleep, etc.) to see what need
had to be met. Joel, it seemed, would cry at anything and at nothing, though.
For example, after not nursing for 3 to 4 hours (which is the average time in
between feedings for a newborn), he would happily eat for a few seconds and
then push away and scream. At first, I thought that he was maybe not hungry, or
too tired to eat, etc. I’d go down the checklist again and again to try and
find out what was the matter. Except that he’d do this at almost every feeding.
I went into see a lactation consultant several times to find a solution for us.
I became so fixated on finding a solution for this “problem.” Seeking a reason
for our present predicament, Jake and I chalked up the unusual fussiness as a
“growth spurt,” which supposedly happens at around the one month mark.
But then the crying continued on. And on. No, it wasn’t every
minute of every day.. Joel just loved to be held and rocked...but
sometimes even that wasn’t enough. Yes, I know and understand that babies cry.
I have been around many, many babies. I just could never remember them crying
most or almost all of the time. The crying was worst in the middle of the day
and then extended endlessly into the evening hours, it seemed. All of this
crying made me wonder if our baby was “normal” in respect to the amount of
crying he did per day, or if there was something wrong. Unfortunately, I became
worried and fixated on this, which caused me to feel stressed emotionally,
mentally, and physically. In one word, it was just awful.
A familiar sight
To say the least, Jake and I were quite frustrated about how
things were going. We sought resources and books to figure out was wrong. To
the best of our knowledge, which our doctor eventually confirmed, Joel had
“colic.”The criteria for colic are:
recurring crying episodes: A
colicky baby cries around the same time each day, usually in the late afternoon
or evening. Colic episodes may last from just a few minutes to three hours or
more on any given day, although babies with colic are likely to cry as long as
two to three hours several days a week. The crying usually begins suddenly and
for no clear reason. Your baby may have a bowel movement or pass gas near the
end of the colic episode.
Activity: Colicky babies tend to draw their legs onto their abdomens,
clench their fists, tense their stomachs, or thrash around and appear to be in
pain during crying episodes.
inconsolable crying: Colic crying is intense, not weak or sickly.
Your baby’s face will likely be flushed, and he or she will be extremely
difficult, if not impossible, to comfort.*
Based on the above, Joel fit the bill. Certainly, he had his sweet
moments and he didn’t cry every second of every day - he had to sleep sometime.
During his waking moments, though, he cried almost immediately without his
pacifier or if you weren’t constantly swaying or rocking him. We survived
(barely) using the “5 S’s” (swaddling, side-lying, sucking, shushing, swaying),
as termed by Dr. Harvey Karp, in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. We
felt so fortunate to have seen a video on these methods in our birthing class,
and again before we were discharged from our hospital stay with Joel. Though he
fought it, the swaddle helped. And though it was hard to maintain for hours,
Jake became an expert at gently swaying/rocking Joel while holding him in the
side-lying position and holding the pacifier in his mouth. It looked like a
comical balancing act. We’d also “shush” in his ear, as white noise is proven
to also be effective in calming fussy babies. Watching us was surely comical,
and I think that some of our friends and family thought were were positively
nuts for having white noise on in our house at all times (we still have white
noise on for him at 10 months old!). If we could maintain all of the “5 s’s”
all day, every day, I think that Joel would have cried less. We did it as much
as we could, and I also would carry him around in my Moby Wrap or Baby Bjorn
constantly. I LOVED carrying him around in the wraps; I would even blow dry my
hair in the morning while he was snuggled against me. It was so sweet to
develop this attachment with Joel, but we quickly grew tired of the crying.
Doing the dishes together!
Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly be, they became
worse. Breastfeeding became a huge problem. Joel would not eat without
screaming, and I felt horrible for feeling like I was forcing him to eat. I
would get frustrated, and then call the nurse hotline again. They were very
helpful, although Joel for some reason was still crying during our feedings.
I remember many teary moments of forcing myself to get out of bed and
feed my baby, dreading each time, as I knew that it would be a tense time.
Breastfeeding was tough for my relationship with Joel, and I believe that’s
more commonly the case for mothers and babies than I originally thought. I just
didn’t expect that I’d have to play in a wrestling match with my son in order
to get him to eat, which he did so with quite a protest.
I was more than ready to give up and just give him a bottle, but
Joel also wouldn’t take a bottle without screaming. We tried on several
occasions, feeling terrible as loving parents do when they’re children are
crying. Maybe we didn’t try enough. Maybe we were doing it incorrectly.
Perhaps. Or maybe Joel was so stubborn that we didn’t know what else to try. We
also used all the supplementary bottles, tube feeders, but Joel just spit it
out. I even tried formula to see if he’d enjoy that more. Jake and I always
joke that Joel has really only had one successful bottle in his lifetime so
far, and that was his first one. He really hasn’t since, at least not without a
fuss. To this day, he will not have milk unless it’s from me, and even then
it’s hit or miss (solids are a work in progress, more on that in a later post).
Joel's first and most successful bottle
Jake and I can be natural worry-ers, so going out in public proved
a challenge for us too. We’d go to the mall where there is just so much white
noise that you couldn’t really be able to tell if Joel started crying. Since he
was born in the dead of winter, there wasn’t much to do with him, especially
since I’d have to stop and nurse every hour or two with a screaming baby. NOT
fun. The best part, though, was just being able to walk around with Jake and
feeling like we had semblance of alone time if Joel happened to catch some z’s
during our excursion. And of course, there’d be coffee to be had or a soft
pretzel for Jake, so all was well.
As the weeks progressed, I realized that I was tired, burned-out,
and resentful. Yes, I resented my son at times. I was definitely not happy
about that fact.. I’d have moments when I just wanted to scream because I just
couldn’t handle the crying, not even for one more second. Then, the guilt set
in. There were many times that I had to put Joel in his bassinet and take a
time-out for myself and let him be. As hard as that was to do, I would take ten
minutes to breathe, pray, or take a quick, vacuum, or shower (so as to not hear
the crying). I felt trapped and given all the crying and difficulties with
trying to ensure that Joel ate enough, I was stressed, and I’m not sure that I
realized it.I just felt terrible, like I didn’t love my baby enough or something,
even though everyone else knew that wasn’t true. I just couldn’t see it; I
How could I feel that way about my beautiful baby boy - the same
sweet baby that I snuggle, kiss a million times, swoon over, and am in love
with? I felt terrible and didn’t want to let anyone know that I felt this way.
“Doesn’t this make me a bad mom?” “What will others think of me?” These
are just some of the thoughts I had about the situation throughout those first
months. What’s more, is that Joel’s sensitive temperament and the colic didn’t
just last for the three months that I had anticipated. It went on to about 6 to
7 months, until about the time he was able to sit up and then eventually crawl
at 8 months. By the summer, I was tired I guess, so my body decided to
retaliate, and I got shingles. Apparently, you may get shingles if you’re: a)
stressed, b) have a lack of sleep, and c) if you’d had the chicken pox
before. Bingo. It was indeed the perfect storm, and it was painful and long.
Not every moment was terrible, of course. Though Joel was fussy, I
noticed his first smile at 5 weeks - he smiled for me on the bathroom rug,
which was one of the few places where he was happy. If he wouldn’t stop crying,
we’d lay him there and sing/play with him. He’d watch the lights and coo at us.
There were so many magical moments of snuggling together as a family, and
holding our little bundle, and Jake and I would look at each other in awe of
what a blessing our son was. I also had moments that I was so in love with Joel
that I couldn’t contain my joy. Those moments are a blessing of parenthood. It
just doesn’t mean that you will get by without your share of times that are
just plain hard.
Ok, so, how am I doing now? I’m doing wonderfully. Things can
still be difficult, and there are days when I just have to prayerfully choose
to be joyful (I’m not always the best at this). However, my sweet husband,
friends, and family were really there for me, giving me breaks when I needed,
even when I didn’t ask for them. They wanted to support me. I now can
clearly see that I’m not alone, and that many people have and would struggle
given that situation. I mean, you get so excited to be a parent and then when
there are few moments to be enjoyed, anyone would be bitter and disappointed.
Though I’m not proud that I had them, nor do I condone how I handled the
situation, I’m a work in progress. I know that through Jesus I can stand in His
grace because of His sacrifice.
If there’s anything I can say about those first few months as a
new parent, it is to accept whatever help people offer you and to get in touch
with others in similar situations. There are so many baby blogs, moms groups
(both on and off-line), and friends that have been in a similar situation. As I
opened up more to friends and family, I found other moms who had similar
situations, and I began to feel more supported. I was also blessed by ones whom
I love that just lent their listening ear and much grace. To those who helped
me through this time, I love you all. Thank you.
To end on a lighter note,
Joel is doing wonderfully now. He’s a mobile, happy, smart, cute, clown of a
baby. He’s always moving - kicking his feet and waving his arms (maybe a future
swimmer?), and he just loves people. He’s my little side-kick whom I love to
bring places or stay home with, snuggle, and read to. What’s more, is that our
family is sleeping a lot more, which means we’re all happier. Jake and I are
relishing these moments, as almost everyone we meet tells us, “The time goes by
so fast. Enjoy it.” And we are. We love laughing, tickle fights, what we term
as a “Joel sandwich” (family group hug), morning snuggles, play time at home,
and trips out anywhere with our Joel. He makes others light up, which makes us
happy too. It’s these precious, priceless moments that get us through the tough
No caption needed!
We still realize and accept more and more that our son is very
spirited, strong-willed, and focused. And as he grows, he will continue to
teach us how to be patient and to love unconditionally. Things can still be
hard, definitely hard. If you’re going through a similar situation right now,
you will get through it. It’s ok to have feelings about the situation.
You are human; you are finite. Remember this.
Feel free to send me a message if you’re going through a similar situation
and or would just like to chat about life as a parent, I’d love to listen. Or,
feel free to post comments to everyone below
* Karp, Harvey.(2003). The Happiest Baby on the
Block. New York: Bantam Books.