Sanity may not be on your baby shower registry. It may not be on your hospital bag packing list. I doubt it’s resting in your baby’s new carseat, crib, or clothing. Sanity is a gift we can give ourselves. Follow this series to learn quick, easy steps to staying sane in parenting’s most traumatic moments.
Last week was one of those weeks. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you know the ones I’m talking about…my son had an appointment with a new doctor that turned into multiple appointments in different towns, my husband had several meetings, and I lost not one but two of my best clients. By Friday night, I was exhausted and doubting my self-worth.
I’ve spent the last two months coming up with coping strategies for overwhelming moments. In this series, “Secrets to Sanity”, I’ll be sharing them with you one-by-one.
Sanity Secret #1: LEARN TO LOVE YOUR BABY’S VOICE.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my son, Xander. He was born a terrifying shade of blue, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Hearing that first cry was life-altering for me. For six days, I tried to breastfeed him constantly, as he was always rooting around for food and cried incessantly. By the end of that first week, he was back in the hospital, and I was chained to a breast pump to try to stimulate milk that just would not come in.
For months, I have beat myself up over those first six days. Knowing that my baby was starving and trying to communicate in the only way he could made me feel like a complete failure as a mother. But it made me fall in love with his voice.
Like many babies, when Xander is hungry he has a very specific cry, a “LA!” sound, that I came to recognize within hours of his birth. At almost four months old now, he has developed other vocal cues for different behaviors: soft grunting and squirming for a wet diaper, quiet chatter when he’s sleepy, rolling over and giggling when he wants his dad’s attention. He has trained us to respond to these sounds.
This week he had a mega-round of shots. I have been on the fence about this for a while, and have had difficulty finding a provider who accepts his insurance. To complicate matters, to have him vaccinated we have to drive thrity minutes to a clinic in an unsafe area. After much back and forth and weighing our decision, my husband and I decided to have it done.
We discovered a new cry. A panicked, “Why are you letting this person hurt me?” cry. A heartwrenching, “Please make this pain stop!” cry. An “I’m so exhausted but am burning up and uncomfortable” cry. This was a new and awful experience as a parent. The usual methods of rocking, singing, feeding, and soothing did nothing to stop his screaming.
And while I hate to hear him upset, I love that I know the meaning behind this new voice. After hours of crying, he eventually drifted into a deep sleep only to wake himself up with shaky, sob-ridden breaths every hour or so. I know that if I ever hear him cry that way again, it is my job to hold his hand and do everything I can to lessen his pain.
I share his cries, though I am determined to be the strong one. I kiss his newly-bandaged legs and reassure him that everything happens for a reason. I listen as he cries, and offer what comfort I can. I love that he communicates with me, and his crying doesn’t fray my nerves because I know that it won’t last forever.
It’s my baby’s voice, and it’s one of my favorite sounds in the world.
Does your baby communicate with you? Does crying drive you into a frenzy? Take a deep breath, slow down, and make eye contact with your baby. Give them all the tenderness and love you can. Sing a song, hum a lullaby, open your front door and remember that you are still a part of the world around you.
In a few years, we will all miss this stage so much.
Stay tuned for Sanity Secret #2!