03 February 2009

Things That Are True - Crying

The Boy crying at 9 days old

If you are anything like me, in the first weeks of your baby’s life, you will find the following to be true:

Your baby’s crying will turn you instantly into a deranged lunatic.

Blame the DNA: millions of years of evolution have fine tuned the new mother to respond immediately to the sound of her baby crying. And that’s a good thing – for the survival of the species. For your ability to deal rationally with your disconcerted precarious emotional situation (thank you Tom Waits), not so much. In the first few weeks of The Boy’s life, I became completely irrational every time he cried. If his crying went on for more than 15 seconds, I went completely around the bend. My need to make it stop was buried deep down in Lizard Brain territory; intellect played no part in my decisions. The sound of it put me so on edge that I simply could not deal with anything else until I made. the. crying. STOP. I became frantic – by the time he’d been crying for 30 seconds I was seriously unhinged. Nothing else mattered.

My husband started to quietly worry about my long term sanity.

When The Boy wasn’t crying, I was able to recognize, on an intellectual level, that my behaviour didn’t make sense; that no harm would come to The Boy, and I wasn't the worst mother in the world, if he cried for a minute or two. But the very second I heard that little sound (and when they’re newborns, it is, mercifully, a little sound) Lizard Brain took over again.

So I went in search of expert help: I asked my friend Sarah, who had two kids already, if she had experienced anything similar. She told me of a time when her firstborn was just a couple of weeks old, and she was driving on the freeway, husband in the passenger seat, baby safely ensconced in his car seat in the back. All was well until he started to cry. Sarah became so frantic that only her husband’s firm hand gripping her own prevented her from undoing her seatbelt and leaping into the back seat to comfort her son. While traveling in the driver’s seat down the freeway at 100 kilometres an hour…

The Takeaway:
  1. This is normal behaviour, as outlandish as it may seem. Show your partner this part, so he or she knows not to have you committed immediately.
  2. You are not alone. Every woman I’ve asked about this, regardless of their pre-pregnancy career and competency, has behaved in the same way.
  3. This too shall pass. You eventually learn what crying sound means hunger, which means gas pain, which is the result of overstimulation or tiredness. Your confidence as a new mom grows, and you begin the long trek back to sanity - which from what I'm told, doesn't end until your child has their first child...

1 comment:

  1. Yup, sounds like Debbie was until ... well, it hasn't completely gone away, it's just become less frantic. Very persistant behavior. Perhaps it's better suited to the hunter/gatherer than to the freeway driver. Oh well, what are we going to do about it? Nothing, that's what. 100 zillion years of evolutionary progress won't be changed 'cause it's annoying. Take deep breaths ... until he cries again and then it's back to fight or flight, right? All the best.

    Dave Riopel