It’s been 5 1/2 years since I had my first child, my “fussy” baby. And it’s taken me that long to get my thoughts together for this blog.
When my first was born, most people saw a thousand pictures like this…
This was our first child and as such we took pictures all the time. I even bought my DSLR just to take the thousands of pictures I wanted of her. Everyone online thought she was the sweetest baby ever! However…
She was also a “fussy” baby. What is a “fussy” baby? It is a baby who mostly eats, sleeps…and cries. And being a first-time mom, I was so positive that I was doing everything wrong and that her general unhappiness with life was completely my fault. Couple first-time-mom jitters with a fussy baby, moving to a new place 1000 miles away from everyone I knew, and throw in some postpartum depression and you have a recipe for a pretty rough year.
I remember 2012 as being completely different from what these photos suggest. I remember being more tired than I’ve ever been in my life, and consumed with the thoughts that this was hopeless. I loved this little fussy thing with every ounce of my being, but having a baby was far from what I had pictured. There were few if any sweet moments like what Johnson and Johnson had suggested. Instead there was almost constant screaming, constant jiggling and rocking, constant holding and consoling. I wondered if I had made a humungous mistake in becoming a mother. I wondered if this was what the rest of my life would entail. I wondered if I would ever be able to do the things I loved prior to becoming a mother.
Car rides were horrific since there was no where to hide from the screaming…the best that I could do was to turn up the music as loud as possible to try to drown out the screaming. I rocked out some KLOVE during this time like you wouldn’t believe. Shopping trips were even worse. I always felt like I was in such a hurry to get somewhere and get done with my errand so I could get home and try to nurse her back to sleep. I read books and blogs. At first I thought it might be colic and tried gripe water. Nothing. Then maybe she had thrush so we treated her with antifungals. Nothing changed. Then maybe she wasn’t getting enough milk so I started going crazy with supplements to up my supply. As it turns out I had the opposite problem…too much milk and a heavy let-down that was choking her every time she nursed. It eventually evened out and I got help for it…but still, nothing changed. Then I tried elimination diets thinking that maybe there was something in my milk that she was reactive to. Nothing. Then I thought maybe feeding her solids would be the answer at 6 months, but alas she seemed hardly interested in them.
When I was pregnant with her, the only things I read about the postpartum period was on how to loose the baby weight. In fact that was my biggest goal during pregnancy…to get my body back. However, after having a fussy baby, it became absolutely last on my list. The jogging stroller was used maybe 5 times before it was abandoned…she hated it and I couldn’t go jogging in a neighborhood with a baby screaming at the top of her lungs. What would my neighbors think? I was already failing at mothering….I didn’t need dirty looks on top of that.
I’m pretty sure that the majority of 2012 was spent binge-watching Netflix. My brother’s gift of a flat-screen TV was priceless, as I felt that was my only salvation from the harsh loneliness that having a fussy baby brought. I found it impossible to relax, impossible to cook or clean or exercise or do anything that had encompassed me as a person the year prior. All sense of independence was gone, as she was dependent on me, and I was dependent on my husband to do just about everything.
Even as I write this, I find it difficult to find pictures of her crying. Because I didn’t take pictures of her crying. I only took happy pictures, smiling pictures. And perhaps the worst part of having a fussy baby was when I would lament to someone and they would accuse me of not having a fussy baby. Maybe because of all the pictures I would post of her being happy, or because they had a “real” fussy baby. This of course was like a knife to the heart. I was a first-time-mom, and I was obviously failing. If she was a “normal” baby, then I was just a crappy mom.
I write this all to hopefully give hope to someone out there with a “fussy” baby. My hope during that whole year came in 3 forms…Dr. Sears’s book on The Fussy Baby, Attachment parenting techniques, and a mom group. I became an “attachment parent” out of survival. My daughter never slept in the crib that I bought for her, though I tried and tried and tried. “They’ll cry themselves to sleep after about 15-20 minutes” the books said. 3 hours later, she was still crying. This wasn’t a one-time thing. I tried day after day. So I brought her into bed with me and nixed the crib. I never got another one. I traded in the carrying car seat and stroller for a grow-with-me car seat and sling. I nursed on demand, which was almost all the time. And twice a week, I passed her off to a childcare worker at church, who usually called me back after about 15 minutes because she was screaming so much that she would vomit. She even developed the nickname “the screamer”. But oh, how I lived in those 15 minute increments! For 15 minutes I didn’t have to hold or nurse or listen to screaming…and it was heavenly!
It was Dr. Sears’s book that really gave me hope that I wasn’t a terrible mom, and that I didn’t have a terrible kid. I had a “more” kid. She needed more love, more nursing, more support, more hugs, more attention…just more.
My mom’s group was my restoration. Even if I couldn’t put her in childcare, I could count on my fellow mothers to pass her around, at least relieving my arms for a while. I could also count on them to listen to my wailing with loving hearts, free of the judgement that so often accompanies motherhood. In that group I formed some lasting friendships that will forever be written on my heart.
So if you’re reading this and you know of someone who is going through a hard time with their baby, please be a kind ear. Listen without judgement. Offer sincere help…cooking, cleaning, errands, or childcare are lifesavers, with childcare being at the top. I recall feeling like I was on vacation if I had the ability to fold laundry in peace and quiet. And offer that help for a while…like for a year or 18 months. Often, it seems, there is a community of help immediately after a baby is born, and then they are gone by about 6 weeks postpartum. The mom of the fussy baby needs help for months, not weeks.
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
If you have a fussy baby, please know that it does get easier, though it may take quite a while. It was around her first birthday that I really noticed a significant change. She has transformed from a “fussy baby” into a “spirited child”, one who still needs “more” and constantly challenges me to be “more”. I have become more loving and more patient because of her. And I can speak from the experience of being a mom to 3, that 1 fussy baby is SOOOOO much harder than 3 small children combined! Co-sleep, baby wear, and nurse on demand if that helps…or do the opposite if that helps. But most importantly of all, take care of yourself.
The days are so long but the years fly by