Help me!.... Will the crying ever stop?

It was toward the end of our first week at home; I was coming off the natural “high” of conquering child birth and meeting this most beautifully perfect, tiny human being whom I’d incubated for the last nine months.  My reality and permanency thinking was creeping in and I was conflicted by emotions of sheer joy and fear.  I was proud, yet scared; amazed yet apprehensive.  Here was this tiny, vulnerable being whose total contentment, health and happiness was dependent on me.  My life had changed in an instant……….. nobody had warned me or maybe I hadn’t listened?

Time lost meaning as one day rolled into the next but, this perfectly formed little person had me hooked from the outset.  Indescribable love, overwhelming and unique; this incredible connection would lift me to euphoric, dizzy heights, yet push me to tears with bouts of sobbing and self doubt.

It was day five, I think? The earlier part of the evening had been filled with frequent feeding stints where I shoveled beans on toast with toppings of cheese into my mouth, (a quick, time pressured meal that would keep my hunger pangs at bay) so that I could focus on the needs of this little human being. She fed, then slept and fed then slept, and then she fed and slept again, and again, and again she fed; frequent, small but somehow annoying, frequent, little feeds.  I was hopeful of a break long enough that would allow me a soak in the bath, where all the padding would be stripped, the moist breast pads evidence of my milk “coming in;” and a momentary release from the stuffiness of “super absorbent” sanitary pads that provided regular reminders of Mother Nature’s wonders…..not!!

It soon became clear that my daily evening soak, that I so looked forward to each night, just wasn’t on my baby’s agenda…….she had other plans!

By 10:00 pm I had lost count of how many times she’d nuzzled and I knew that another change of nappy was unlikely to be the problem.  I rubbed her back; I laid her across my knees gently stroking her, trying to soothe her, to settle her.  I tried her on my shoulder and I tried her across my arm, but nothing seemed to help.  She stared up at me momentarily and then her little face would scrunch up as she drew her legs toward her tummy and let out yet another scream.  Maybe if I just walked, just paced; maybe the movement might help her……….it didn’t!  The crying increased and the momentary quietness was having difficulty featuring in our evening.  Again, she nuzzled and I was happy to allow her, a break from her crying that had me feeling so helpless.  For goodness sake, what was I doing?  I was supposed to know all of this. Slowly, it insidiously crept; the self doubt, robbing me of reasoning, self belief and confidence.  How could I not understand what this little human being needed; I was her mother, her protector and provider; why wouldn’t she stop crying?

It seemed like her only solace was being permanently attached to me.  So teary eyed and worn out, I decided we’d head to bed.  Suddenly, everything went quiet.  Was she ok? I checked her, yes she was still breathing. Like a Special Forces agent, I carefully manoeuvred myself to the edge of the bed, conscious that even my breathing might prove a trigger to the silence breaking.  Frozen, I wanted to scream, the relief and ecstasy of just knowing I could sink into some much needed sleep.  It took only moments for my heavy eyelids to start to close. My recovering body, its leaking parts and slack muscles would soon rejoice in the healing power of sleep…….or so I thought. 

Then, I sensed her little frame moving and the sound of her murmurings filled me with dread.  Stop breathing; just stop breathing I told myself. Be that frozen rabbit in headlights and she won’t wake up. Yet, despite my best efforts, she woke suddenly with a scream. What’s wrong I asked myself?  And so, once again, robotic-like, not wanting any light source to add to the upset, I managed to fumble my way through a nappy change, disappointed there was no evidence to suggest this was the underlying cause.  All my protective instincts silently screamed; I just wanted her pain or discomfort or hunger or thirst or, whatever the hell it was that was making her so unsettled, I just wanted it gone! I’d forgotten the feeling of deep, satisfying sleep.  This was survival but would it ever end?

The fog of sleep deprivation enveloped me and the frustration started to rise. Please, please, please I want the crying to stop, to just end, to leave us so that we could sleep. I cannot remember how many more times we ran the cycle of a short feed, moments of quiet followed by screaming and distress.  I was exhausted, smashed and could see no way out.  With this beautiful soul held in my arms, the flood gates opened and I wept and wept and wept.  I felt useless, anxious, scared, resentful all wrapped up in one, like a pounding wave of emotion, was it really meant to be like this?

I survived and she survived and, we both survived a number of similar nights in our early days.  How?  Partly because no matter how our resolve is tested, mother nature, our emotions, our inner strength and our connectedness to our infants, enables us to survive the early days.  For me, I was blessed with two dear friends, one who was a midwife and one who, like me, was a registered Health Visitor.  My emotional, exhausted being gave in to my self- imposed expectations and I sought help.  We worked out that my diet was important and, that my sweet girl did not necessarily like all that I had consumed some hours prior to her feed.  I learnt that it’s so very difficult to be objective and reasoned when we’re so tightly connected. Over time I learnt my baby’s language and her cues.  I learnt, that like us, our babies have days when they’re unsettled and just out of sorts and, just like us, when we have unsettled nights, it’s okay.  I learnt that we do need support from others, who can sit and listen to us and offer objectivity and understanding. I learnt that no matter how many books, or articles or study we undertake, none of us is born a mother. We need support if we are to enjoy this motherhood journey and, we need support and advice if we’re to do the best by our little ones.  We need to be real and gentle with ourselves.

To those of you who are going through survival, dig deep; it doesn’t last forever and changes are ahead.  To those who’ve travelled these early days, give yourselves a big pat on the back and be proud of your accomplishments!

We are women, we are mothers and we are human!


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