Coping with a crying baby

I’ve been bouncing and singing and cuddling and feeding and talking to and loving Jenson for 45 minutes while he cried and cried and cried.

Well tried were the ideas I’ve got written on my ‘things to do when Jenson cries’ list and none were working in calming him down. He would not settle.

It’s so heartbreaking to have your little one in distress and to not be able to comfort them. But dare I say the thing most on my mind this morning? My ultimate truth when Jenson is crying – it’s bloody tiring.

Knowing I’ve done all that I could for him and still nothing was working I felt myself detach from the situation. But this came with the worry that I was the most terrible mother. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t leave him to cry in a room by himself for hours, I just stopped feeling so acutely the sadness of what he was feeling and instead focused on going through the motions of caring for him.

I ask myself, as he’s finally asleep in the sling (Sod’s law, the only thing I hadn’t tried as he usually hates being in his sling indoors and screams like he’s being tortured on previous attempts) what is behind the detachment and whether I’m comfortable with this reality.

And I suppose what comes to mind is this – Jenson is one of the great loves of my life. I’d do anything for him.

But he is also a crying baby and crying babies are tedious, infuriating, very loud and tiring.

And these two things co-exist side by side. The deep love and semi-fatigued annoyance, the perseverance of trying and trying again to calm him whilst thinking to myself ‘I wish he would stop, this is horrible for me’. The investment in caring for his wellbeing and the detachment of going through the motions to just get through it.

Nobody told me this was how I might feel and it is quite a lonely place to co-exist in these two realities of caring whilst going through the motions. Especially when you think that everyone else is somehow coping differently.

So I thought I’d put my thoughts out there. As a way of embracing my experience and also, hopefully, as a way of reaching out to other parents to say:

You’re not alone. Feeling like this is normal and is ok. We’re all doing our best and that’s all we can expect of ourselves. It’s bloody hard to care for a crying baby who will not stop. I’m with you.

My personal mean girl

I have a mean girl voice inside me. I think we all have a version of a mean girl, although many of us don’t listen to her much.

I’ve been a bit poorly over the last couple of days. Nothing major, just bunged up with cold and with a bit of a cough. And coupled up with broken baby sleep (albeit around 7 hours a night), my usual defences against my mean girl had been lowered.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a puffy face, eyes without their usual shine and then my gaze lowered and I saw my post-pregnant body through mean girl eyes. I don’t want to share what went through my mind, but my thoughts were less than kind about how I looked.

In the past these thoughts would have sent me on a spiral down a rabbit hole of promises ‘I won’t eat any sweets today’ that I would most probably break because it was a promise made out of meanness, not kindness. And then the cycle would continue – promises (broken) and overeating followed by such shame and guilt.

I would perhaps look at myself through the day, pinching any excess fat, or would desperately avoid looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see myself through these mean girl eyes.

But today I saw my mean girl for what she was – mostly tiredness, perhaps a distraction from the reality of being dog-tired and a habitual way of thinking which no longer serves me.

And with this knowledge, I was able to say ‘thank you, mean girl, for your input, but I don’t need you today’.

And instead I showed myself kindness.

It’s taken me over 30 years to get to this point – able to show myself kindness in moments of stress and when I’m a bit low – but now that I’m here I couldn’t be more thankful.