The Way It Is


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.

Damnit!

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.

 

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24 Comments on “The Way It Is”

  1. Kristin
    August 20, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Yes! yes! Yes! This is so honest. Thanks. I needed to know I am not the only one who loves my kids but feels “over it” sometimes… (also good to know I’m not the only one peeing on myself)

  2. Darla
    August 20, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Wow, Lisa, I know just how you feel! ((( Hugs ))) It’s not all unicorns and fairies…there’s the reality there smacking you in the face. You DID want this…we just get that “new baby amnesia” sometimes as parents of many. You forget how exhausting it is, how much your back ached, how stressful it was to have your hands rarely free. My last difficult baby…I gained no weight while I was pregnant, I was so proud of myself, but due to my complete lack of freedom ( aka baby that cried every time I put her down and then also sometimes when I was holding her) I gained like 30 pounds as my alter ego “After Bertha” took over due to stress. I ate chocolate whenever I felt too stressed out ( which was all the time!) . She *finally* outgrew the incessant crying at about 5 months and was a pretty peaceful baby after that. It’s going to get better!

    Hey! We’re bringing back sexy with our new Victoria’s Secret extra thick “panty liners”. ^_^

  3. DS Class of 2008
    August 20, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    Yup, sounds like my babies & my response. Hoping you find a crock pot & lots of healthy take out/delivery or a mommy’s helper here & there? You will find a balance it’s just early – I know, yes, it’s still early. Adding a new little one takes a while to rebalance a new measure of chaos. You are excellent at this task CAUSE YOU’VE DONE IT A TON. It takes a long time. Get mini breaks any way and as short or long as you can. You have to step back and think of a change of pace like taking a few kiddies to the front yard for hop scotch or something. Maybe an ice cold glass of water with ice cubes break for all.

  4. Julie Doepken
    August 20, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Could she possibly be suffering from reflux? I only ask because one of my younger twins had it and cried for her first two months, seemingly non-stop. She had signs I finally noticed: swallowing between feedings like she was trying to keep something down, crying right after eating when she should be satisfied, nursing a lot, and slightly smelly breath. Not sure if this helps…just an idea. It was so hard to ‘like’ her/being around her, so I can relate to this post. A lot.

  5. Angie
    August 20, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    it’s all true Lisa 😦 except it took me 10 months to realise that Indigo is ‘wired’ this way :/ I blame it on the severe silent reflux she suffered at a newborn. It’s so taxing on the mind… I honestly know I’m living it too (minus a few kids)

  6. Meriah
    August 20, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Ack!!!!
    Oh man, I hope Boo isn’t a cryer. Sorry, it’s 4am and I can’t sleep and I just read this and now I’m scared…

  7. Grace
    August 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Oh Lisa- we had babies at the same time after a down syndrome diagnosis; Nolan is 2 and Everett was born July 2 and here I sit so jealous of you I can hardly breath, we didn’t get our happy ending. Everett has a chromosomal abnormality too we had no idea no reason for it to happen; he’s on of 60 in the us….AND he screams all day and night; with no end in our future; no hope that he will grow up and out of this; I’m sorry I just want a typical baby that doesn’t stop screaming all the time!!!!!!

  8. Linda K.
    August 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Exhausting! Exasperating! Deja vu! The good news is they do grow up. The bad news is they do grow up! However, until then, trying to balance it all and maintain your sanity is the real magic trick. I’m not so sure I succeeded. Hmmmmmm?!

  9. Caryl Becker Phillips
    August 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Oh friend, sorry you’re having such a tough time. Please call me if you need help. I would be delighted to come over and give you a break. ANY TIME!

  10. Amy
    August 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    In my opinion there is nothing wrong with using the swing when you have to take care of something. I put my babes in it when I was cooking dinner, going to the bathroom, taking a shower, etc. I moved the swing to wherever I was so they were still with me. First I would put them in it without turning it on, if they still fussed after awhile I turned it on. Sometimes you just have to get shit done, needy baby or not.
    Do what you need to do girl, you are one person with two hands. Oh and by the way, yesterday was shitty for me too…..I cried out of frustration in my bathroom, then got angry, then felt guilty for it. Actually, lately I have been feeling overwhelmed and majorly under appreciated by my family. And I don’t have a newborn….. Hang in there babes you are not alone. Hugs your way from me

  11. Christie
    August 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Hugs! Just wanted to say both my boys had reflux and would only nap/sleep in the swing or car seat for the first 3-4 months. It wasn’t hard transitioning them at all either. Just slowly started putting them for naps in the crib at 4-5 months. You got to do whatever works. Let me know if I can help!!

  12. Erin Anderson Maxwell
    August 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    sending lots of love to you. know that you are an amazing mama. all you children are watching the love you give to little scarlett and learning unconditional love and compassion. Remember you can only do what you can do. feel proud of giving it your best and then taking a break.
    i am just coming out of an 8 week bout of 3 kids (9,5 and 1) with whooping cough. Nerves are fried, total exhaustion and i don’t recall what we ate for the past month, but hey, the kids are alive and smiling–we survived and we are moving towards health– even though i doubted it, it did get better.
    You will get through this. sending support, love and a spare set of rocking arms!

  13. Stacey
    August 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I’m going to suggest a chiropractor or craniosacral therapist who is trained to work with infants. The birth process can be very traumatic on babies, and especially such a fast one as Scarlett’s. She might be in some pain from being out of adjustment, which would explain why she doesn’t cry when being held/supported but does when she’s on her own. Maybe she just doesn’t like the bassinet? It’s probably much firmer than your bed that she’s used to. Also, if she has good head control, you might want to try putting her down on her belly so she can pass gas more easily. My ped said it was safe when they could lift their head & shoulders to move away from something in their face. I would also pat my babies on the back or rub their belly or let them suck on my finger for a while before picking them up again, try to help them get back to sleep instead of starting over. And white noise or wordless quiet music so they sense that *something* is there & they aren’t alone. It amazing how many tricks you can forget when you’re in the middle of it all.

    Have you tried wearing a skirt (and maybe go commando, too!) so you don’t have to deal with taking her off just to use the bathroom? I pretty much lived with a baby attached to me for the first 3 months (the Fourth Trimester) and I was amazed to hear that other moms actually took off their babies when they needed to go! Not me, but I’ll do anything to disturb a sleeping baby. And my teeny-tiny bladder doesn’t like to wait, either. I sure hope you find the magic key to your precious little girl and things settle down. I wish I was closer; I’d be over with a casserole tonight to give you a break!

    • Lisa
      August 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Stacey, I used the restroom at a restaurant in SF last weekend and had Scarlett in the moby at the time 🙂 First time I had ever tried that!

  14. Laney
    August 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Try something for reflux/gas and see if it helps.

    And remember, Michelle Duggar has 4 grown daughters who will live at home till they’re married to help her out. One cooks, one does laundry, one does the homeschooling. So no wonder she’s smiling all the time.

  15. Asha
    August 21, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Lisa, it sounds like some reflux issue. I don’t think it’s wrong to let baby sleep in the swing- my babies all slept in a vibrating bouncy or the swing the first few months ( for naps). They hated lying flat. I think my last 2 babies had some reflux ( judging by the symptoms) so I just always kept them elevated. It usually worked. Especially the vibrating bouncy.

    I am sorry that it was such a hard day- some days are just like that, chaos and exasperation. Then there are the days when they make you proud or melt your heart with sweetness…. I guess that’s our pay off for all the selflessness? But you are right- it’s such a draining job!

  16. TUC
    August 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    A side to side swing… the sanity saver. My babies spent about half of their infancy periods rocking in one. They are all fine now, and I survived. Don’t feel bad putting her in the swing and even letting her sleep there as needed. If it calms her, then it is good for her (and you!). Yeah, it will go away at some point but until then use it to give you both a break.

    {{hugs}}

  17. Erin
    August 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I feel for you! This sounds like my second daughter. After number 1, who has DS and was a dream as a baby, number 2 came into the world screaming and didn’t stop for about 20 months. I had a very hard time bonding with her because she was just so miserable all the time. She always wanted to be held (by me), but never wanted to cuddle and that felt like such a rip off. She nursed hard and frequently, and wouldn’t take a pacifier even though she obviously needed one.

    We went the reflux meds route, but that didn’t really make a difference. One thing that did help was the strategies from “Happiest Baby on the Block.” You can read the book or watch the DVD. After watching the DVD, I began swaddling her very tightly and putting her in a fast moving swing with very loud white noise for naps. It made a difference in how well she slept, and also made a difference in how well regulated she was when she was awake. At night, she was usually able to sleep in her bassinet, and eventually she didn’t need the swing for naps either. She is now 2, and she sleeps very well in her own bed (with white noise still).

    For the 20 months that she was our tiny tyrant, I cared for her almost exclusively (except when she was in daycare 3 days a week), and my husband took care of my older daughter when he was home. At one point I realized how extreme it had become when I was sitting with my older daughter on my lap for a rare snuggle, and number 2 said, “Daddy?” while pointing at her sister, “That’s yours?” Since she stopped nursing at almost 2 (not her choice, but I couldn’t take it anymore) we have been trying to parent more equally. Number 2 is still a little (or maybe a lot) intense, but she is an early talker and can at least now be reasoned with and/or express her needs more accurately. She is also adorable, bright, and she makes us laugh all the time.

    I love children, I work with children all day long, but sometimes the experience of having children is not at all like what I dreamed of when I was rocking my dollies to sleep!

    Hang in there, and check out that DVD if you haven’t already!

  18. K_Whitbread
    August 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I just want to tell you that you are a really great writer. I am well past newborns with 2 adult sons but I love reading your blog just for the writing. There are enough people blogging about sunshine, rainbows, flowers and perfectly behaved babies. It’s nice to read about real life.

    I hope little Scarlett outgrows the crying stage soon.

    • Lisa
      August 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words – really means a lot to me!

  19. Meredith
    August 23, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Have you ever tried a Miracle Blanket? I used one for my last two (wish I’d had it for my first three) and it was a life saver. I know you said she’s sleeping well at night, but I would also put my kids in one for naps during the day, mostly so they’d take a long afternoon nap just like the older siblings and I could get some down time. I don’t know if it’ll help or not, just wanted to bring it up. I’m so sorry she’s not making things easy. I hope this time passes quickly for you!

    • Lisa
      August 23, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      Hmm. I do use a Swaddle Me blanket, but this looks even better. I think I’ll get one. Thanks!

  20. Sarah
    August 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    My firstborn was like that – I was always surprised when I put him down and he didn’t screech. I’m kind of pleased to know that it wasn’t me – and that I’m not the only one who was perplexed by the stress of a difficult baby. The lactation consultants at the hospital dubbed him a “high needs” baby and told me that I’d enjoy him once he was a toddler, sending me home with a Dr. Sears handout. The LCs were right – he’s a bright, funny chatterbox. Until he was able to get places on his own to make messes and play, I used a carrier to get through the day. Do you have one that’s better for your back, like an Ergo? The moby didn’t get us too far once he hit about 15 lbs. It’s easier to go potty with a becco or ergo carrier. 🙂

  21. Rebekka K. Steg
    August 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I don’t know how you do it. I honestly don’t know how you do it. And this is one of the reasons I’m not entirely certain I want kids. Thank you for your honesty.

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