I woke up to Matthew crying. Again. This time, light was pouring into the bedroom window, and I figured it to be around 830am. Not too bad this time. I had gotten almost a solid 2 hours. I walked around the bed to his crib and sighed as I picked him up. And was immediately covered in vomit. Again. And he was screaming that hungry cry that only I knew. Fuck my life, what was I gonna do with this kid?? I carefully set him down in his crib and stripped his puke covered onesie off of him, and not letting the garment touch the floor stripped off my own vomit covered shirt and rolled them together and threw them in the mounting laundry pile. I was getting good at this whole handling vomit thing. I went to get a new onesie out for him, and as I looked through the drawer, trying like hell to ignore the screams because I really was going as fast as I could, I realized in my stuper that I was looking through my own dresser. Jesus petes I needed some good sleep. I got a shirt for myself, found a onesie for him, and both of us finally dressed, I walked out to the living room to feed him. Again.
I had taken some classes and done a lot of research while I was pregnant. As you may know or recall, I was only 20 when I had Matthew. I knew I was young, I knew I didn’t have a lot to offer him. I wasn’t a patient person, I didn’t have a good income or really my shit together in any way, shape or form. The only things I had going for me was my addictions stopped at smoking cigarettes, and I was relatively smart. So I had done all the research I could on being a mom. Granted, a parenting manual doesn’t pop out of your vagina attached to your kid. You kinda have to just wing it and hope for the best. That all being said, I had done my research and knew breast feeding was the best thing for your child. But as he latched on again to my breast, I cringed. His toothless mouth felt like it was filled with razor blades. He was a big boy, and very hungry. He fed for an hour at a time, sometimes more, every two hours. It had become uncomfortable to wear clothes, I was so raw from feeding him so frequently. And he was always vomiting. No matter how I altered my diet, he still couldn’t stomach my milk. Talk about feeling like a failure. My milk was supposed to be specially formulated for my child and it wasnt good enough!
So I sat in the recliner and fed him for the umpteenth time in 24hrs, watching the same lame shit on MTV because tv doesn’t interest me, but music does. I know every word to every hit song from the summer of 2005 by heart to this day, for the record.
He couldn’t tolerate my milk. Or regular formula for that matter. We ended up with a soy based product and my nipples healed and my milk completely dried up. We finally realized that the boy was just too damn hungry for his own damn good and the doctor recommended cereal in his formula. Big no-no per the baby books I read, lifesaver in real life. We also found that he was being plagued by constant ear infections. We hurdled those issues, and I began to get solid sleep again. I was actually able to start enjoying my new baby.
I sat on the floor of Chase’s nursery, in my pretty skirt that I had put on to enjoy some social time with friends. I sat there with my back to his crib holding him in the dark room. I could hear my friends in the backyard laughing, and tears slipped down my face. I sat holding Chase, listening to my little baby cry inconsolably. He wasn’t hungry and had refused his bottle. He wasn’t wet. It wasn’t too hot in the room, or too cold. I flipped him over onto his stomach, so it was resting on my forearm, his little head in the palm of my hand. I rubbed his back, patted his bottom, and still he cried. I stood and paced the room with him, his stomach against my shoulder, head held steady by my other hand, and still he cried. I cradled him to me and hugged him, my own tears burning my eyes, wishing he would stop – because I hate to see my kids hurting, and selfishly because I wanted to be out around the fire with my friends.
I had skipped breast feeding with Chase, because it had been such an epic failure with Matt. I had tried the special bottles I had used for Matt, I had tried the soy based formula I had switched Matt to when he was dealing with stomach issues. . . All to no avail. I was six years older, had another child to tend to. I was a seasoned parent so to speak, having raised one for six years on my own. I thought I knew what the fuck I was doing.
And still I stood there in the dark with a screaming child. I was back to not getting enough sleep, I was back to walking around in a stupor, wondering what the fuck I was gonna do about this baby who didn’t seem to be getting what he needed, despite my knowledge and tried and true methods.
I walked back to my bedroom, where his swing was located. I set him into it and strapped him in, and set it to his favorite setting, and laid on my bed. Slowly the inconsolable child began to quiet. . . I thought maybe he’d sleep.
And then the crying started again.
I swore violently and got up in a huff off of my bed, where I had been laying, watching him. I found his pacifier and despite my annoyance, gently attempted to put it in his mouth. He pushed it out.
“Oh, my poor little one,” I sighed. I stopped the swing, unstrapped him, and lifted him from it. I paced the room with him against my shoulder again, rubbing and patting, patting and rubbing. . .
Chase had colic. It was brief – it lasted less than a month. And there was literally nothing I could do for it but hold him and walk with him and listen to him cry. It always struck in the early evenings, when I was my most tired.
And we got through it. And both boys are healthy, they are thriving, almost fifteen years later and eight years later.
Like I said in the beginning – a manual doesn’t pop out of your vagina attached to your kid when they’re born. You gotta wing it. And just because you were successful with your first born, your second born is a – get this – whole different human. Yup. Different kid, different manual needed that doesn’t come with them.
Parenting is one big fucking guessing game, and it’s tiresome and frustrating. Then go on and add to it the fact that everyone has opinions on how you should be raising them. “Breast is best!” Sure it is, Susan. Except when you wish you could chop your nipples off because they feel like they were chewed on by a cannibal. Except when your breast milk not only isn’t enough for your child, but also seems to be the cause of his stomach issues. “I bottle fed my baby and he slept through the night from the beginning!” I’m sure he did, Catherine. But mine isn’t and I’m a fucking walking, talking zombie.
“Sleep when baby sleeps,” they say. Well let me tell you – I didn’t with Matthew in an effort to keep up on laundry and house cleaning, and regretted it every day. I did sleep when Chase slept after he was born, and equally regretted it because I could never catch up with house work.
Everyone has opinions, and advice, and suggestions and let me tell ya. . . While they are usually well meaning, they aren’t you and they can’t talk to that baby of yours and know what the fuck is going on. You can try the advice, and maybe it works. . .
Or maybe it doesn’t.
You just gotta wing it. With every single child you have. You could have fifty kids and I bet kid number fifty puzzles you just as much as kid number one did. You can listen to everyone’s advice, take whatever classes you feel you need to take, read every baby book on the market. . .
And still be left holding an inconsolable child in the middle of the night.
What are you gonna do?
You’re gonna hold that baby until Mr. Sandman comes to visit and the baby finally sleeps. And maybe you breast fed him to sleep or held his bottle for him. Maybe you let him cry it out, or took him for a drive, or put him in his swing. Maybe you did none of those things. And maybe once he does sleep you’re gonna catch up on housework or you’re gonna sleep, or maybe you’re gonna binge watch your favorite show. . .
It all works out in the end, Momma. Soon that little inconsolable baby will be rolling over, then crawling, then walking, then running. And then they’ll be graduating. And moving out. And have a family of their own.
I’d tell you to enjoy it, because you don’t get these times back. But I’ll tell ya what, I didn’t enjoy the raw nipples and lack of sleep. So instead I’ll tell you to enjoy the good – that wonderful new baby smell, their giggles and baby talk, the way they smile in their sleep. Soak up the good. And know you’ll get through the bad. You’ll look back on the bad and wonder how the hell you pulled it off as they make their way through life, and you’ll look at them as they grow taller and more independent, and know that despite the crazy times and lack of a manual, despite ignoring everyone’s advice and going with your gut, despite fucking up a time or twenty, you did just fine. And they will be just fine, too. Kids don’t come with a manual. But you were given that child, you were chosen to be their momma. So just mother them the best way you can, cross your fingers, admit when you fuck up, and embrace the good. The rest will work itself out.