I know, it’s been like a week since I last wrote anything here. I’ve thought about writing, but every time I think about it, either (a) the baby starts crying, or (b) all I can think to write about is how much the baby cries. So I’m just going to spew.
Scarlett cries a lot. A lot.
Basically, if she’s awake, she’s crying. That might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.
She’s sensitive. As in, high-strung. She’s only amused for a few minutes at a time. She cries when she’s no longer amused. She cries when she’s tired, and then she fights sleep. She’s a very light sleeper. Eventually, she goes into comatose sleep where even the smoke alarm going off right outside our bedroom door doesn’t wake her (yes, it happened), but it takes her a loooong time to get there. Nighttime is generally not a problem since she’s content as long as she’s hooked up to the ol’ milk machine aka moi, and she sleeps in bed with me, so . . . I’m talking about daytime – you know, when I have six other kids who need my attention, when I need to get things done, that kind of thing.
Let me paint a picture for you:
It’s roughly 6:00 p.m. Scarlett has been awake for about three hours, during which time I’ve moved her from here to there to there, trying to keep her entertained. I’ve carried her in a front carrier for a little while, but let’s be honest – it’s not always the most comfortable thing in the world to carry a baby around – even hands-free – and the situation becomes dicey when you’re dealing with stress incontinence – yes, that’s right, I pee myself, I’ve had seven kids, thank you very much. Her crabbiness has cranked up a couple of notches, indicating that she needs some shut-eye. The other kids haven’t yet eaten dinner, but I’m working on a pot of mac & cheese and a cookie sheet’s worth of chicken nuggets for them (dinner might be a smidge fancier under usual circumstances, but as it is, on this particular evening, Michael has left for an overnight business trip, and Kevin is out with a friend, so I’m pretty much on my own). The water for the mac & cheese hasn’t yet started to boil, so I think “I’ll just go put the baby down – it’ll take ten minutes.” (Who am I kidding?) I take her from under her play gym, sit in the rocking chair and start nursing her. She quickly dozes off. Perfect. I give her a few minutes to make sure she’s really asleep, and then I tiptoe her over to the bassinet and ever-so-carefully lay her down, and then tip toe out of the bedroom, closing the door ever-so-gently.
The moment the door clicks shut, she’s crying on the other side of it.
And trust me, I know that to wait a few minutes to see if she’ll settle down on her own is folly. She only gets herself more and more upset until she’s nearly inconsolable. It’s best to go to her quickly.
So I go back, in, scoop her back up, and plant myself back in the rocking chair with her. She dozes again. I wait. Longer this time, to really make sure that she’s really asleep.
Suddenly, Finn is right outside the bedroom door yelling his head off. (This is what he does these days to express dissatisfaction with, well, anything.) I hiss “No, Finn! No yelling!” So he lays down on the floor and starts kicking the door. I clench my teeth. Scarlett’s eyes have popped open – she’s wide awake again. I put her down on my bed and go march Finn to his room and give him a brief, stern talking-to.
I repeat the process with Scarlett. This time I put her in the swing when she’s asleep – which I hate to do because I feel like I’m probably creating a crutch for her that will eventually have to be taken away from her – probably painfully – but I’m now at my wits’ end, and the swing often works better than the bassinet.
Finally, she sleeps.
Meanwhile, it’s now after 7:00 p.m., the other kids still have not eaten dinner, the chicken nuggets are burned and half the water for the mac & cheese has boiled away.
This was my evening today – and I’m only sitting her writing this because she remains asleep in the swing for the time being.
And the thing is, this is really an everyday occurrence in some form or another. She’s a tough baby, an all-consuming baby, and everyone in the house feels it in some way.
Me? Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.
Sometimes I just break down and cry my eyes out.
This isn’t postpartum depression or postpartum anything – this is just plain old being overwhelmed by our new reality.
More than ever, I find myself pondering this life of service to others I signed myself up for. That’s what it is, you know. Being a mother – at least a mother who gives a shit – is all about serving others, about giving, giving, giving, taking care of, cleaning up after, counseling, and putting oneself last most of the time. It’s mostly thankless, a one-way relationship that’s fraught with struggle, and the payoff is way off in the future.
I mean, I love my kids – don’t get me wrong – and even this crabby little baby girl has my heart in her tiny little hands – but this is hard. Really hard. And sometimes – most of the time as of late – I just feel sucked dry. A little resentful, sometimes even angry – even though I know I have nobody to blame for my circumstances but myself. (How is it that Michelle Duggar always has that beatific smile pasted on her face? It’s for the cameras, right? I mean, good god, she’s got to feel a little overwhelmed and even pissed off at least sometimes, right?)
As for Scarlett, I think maybe the most frustrating part is knowing that there’s nothing wrong with her, this is just the way she’s wired. Which means that there really aren’t any tricks or methods that are going to change her fundamental disposition. We just have to ride it out and hope that eventually she outgrows it.