A day or two before Jate's first major prolonged crying episode, my mother and I took her for a walk around our neighbourhood. She fussed a bit as we buckled her into the pram, but quickly settled as we began our walk and within minutes, she fell fast asleep. "There!" declared my mother "You can take her for a walk to calm her rather than continued breast feeding..." I was immediately annoyed. I know my mother was warned by my father that the key to us living harmoniously under the same roof would be for my mother to refrain from offering any advice that would come across as judgemental or critical. Yet offering unsolicited advice and criticising are second nature to her. Something was bound to slip out. I didn't respond to her comment, but I was pretty pissed. This was a newborn baby, not even two weeks old, and she was coming across as if I were still breastfeeding a 5 year old. Yet the comment stuck in my head. I felt as if I had to justify each feeding session to my mother.
"She can't possibly still be hungry" my mother proclaimed as Jate was very fussy on a Friday evening. Husband and my Dad were picking up take-out (and having a beer or three), so my mother and I tried everything we could think of to calm the crying baby. I was in tears by the time dinner arrived. "She sounds as if she is hungry," observed Husband. At that point, even my mother relented that we had nothing else to try. I nursed her and she went onto sleep for a few hours and had an easy night. I started re-reading the booklet I received at our baby care class. While breastfeeding, be careful of well-meaning family and friends who encourage you to breastfeed less often... the book warned.
I felt horrible. I was letting my baby starve just to appease my own mother. I was determined to listen to my own maternal instincts and would feed my baby on demand, no matter how frequent it may be, which the books inform, could be hourly. I continued to feed as I ignored the remarks such as "well, she certainly has had enough to eat." However, I yielded to another well-meaning suggestion. As I was attempting to wrap Jate in a swaddle, she slipped her arms out. My Dad caught sight of this and deduced that she did not like to be swaddled and made the case for her by using a cute little voice to express how she wanted her arms and legs to be free. My Dad did have a 3 for 3 success rate for settling her just by rocking, so maybe he was right. Maybe mine was the baby resistant to wrapping. With little hesitation, I abandoned the swaddle.
The non-stop crying would continue for the next few days. My parents would offer to hold and rock her so I could shower or eat, or just get a break, but it made me feel all the more inadequate. I feared what I would do when they left to return to Connecticut, but sooner to that date, my parents were taking an over night trip to wine country with my aunt and uncle. Husband and I would be left to our own devices, or lack there of. I was dreading being on our own. This experience would only serve to confirm that I couldn't care for my child. As if on cue, Jate began screaming her head off, just as my parents were getting ready to leave. I could see them exchanging looks that conveyed their guilt for leaving me with a crying baby. "Go." I urged them. "We'll be fine" I lied through my teeth.
I was focusing on surviving hour by hour. It was time to feed her, which is the one thing I could do to calm her, and the one time when she was quiet. I had been meaning to re-read The Happiest Baby on the Block, as I really grasp the concept of the forth trimester and I was convinced that I must be missing something. There were so many positive testimonials from these methods. Since Jate didn't allow me much time to read on my own, I decided I would read out loud to her. Our pediatrician had recently suggested reading to her, "it could even be The Wall Street Journal" (as if, I would read such a conservative publication). I knew she wouldn't have any comprehension of these words, but naïvely I hoped some of the calming methods would be absorbed through osmosis.
Fortunately, the book is an easy read, and is rather repetitive. I quickly learned my mistakes; you can't half-ass any of the 5 S's. They all must be done consistently and correctly. I fastened Jate in the velcro wrap swaddle, placed her on her side in my arms while we rocked in the glider, and offered her the pacifier as I shhh'd her loudly. It took about 90 seconds (although it felt much longer), but she went from all out screaming to peacefully sleeping. It was magic. Fucking magic. This was our breakthrough. Maybe not as significant as Helen Keller spelling w-a-t-e-r for the first time, but I felt just as triumphant! I had cracked the code and could break her out of these crying episodes.
Sometimes, it would still be challenging. She could go through a crying to calm cycle a few times before finally settling down. On average, these cycles would usually last about half an hour, which was still such a relief compared to the marathon sessions of uncontrollable crying. Most importantly, I stopped crying. I no longer felt daunted by her screams. I felt empowered. I did have the ability to calm my baby and meet her needs. It even made me feel that I just might be a good mother after all.
I also decided to re-introduce the Rock and Play (after reading Dr Karp's tips for using a swing). It's still hit or miss, but sometimes she'll spend some quiet alert time before eventually falling asleep, other times, she'll fuss and we'll try something else. I also downloaded The Happiest Baby on the Block: Soothing White Noise Sleep Sounds on to my iPhone, so I have quick access to white noise. I can hear my oh-so frugal grandfather saying "I can't beleive some guy is getting money for a hair dryer recording! That ain't right. That's a rip-off!" I would respond by proclaiming it's the best $9.99 I've spent. The walk in the pram is still the ultimate never-fail calming method. I've done so many laps around my neighbourhood that I have taken inventory on all who are illegally watering their laws, and I've ranked the houses with the best fake grass. Instead of wanting to fast forward to the end of the third month, I'm now wary of the end of the forth trimester, as these calming methods may no longer work. I appreciate there will be many setbacks and other temperament challenges. At least for now, I've been able to enjoy my baby and feel more confident in myself.