A couple of weeks after Tyler was born we went to his two week check up at the pediatrician's office. He was growing well, doing fine, afterwards we met my husband for a quick fast food lunch and then I went to the mall because I needed a new, much larger, nursing bra. I didn't buy one of those snap in strollers so here I was lugging this giant infant bucket seat with my sleeping baby in it up to the store that sells nursing bras. I get the lure of the portability of those seats, but it really is like lugging around a bag of concrete. I got up to the store, got fitted for my nursing bras, made my purchase, and by some miracle, for the one time in his tiny baby existence, Tyler slept through the whole thing. As I'm checking out the cashier asked me that dreaded question, the one that mother's of high needs babies hate.
Is he a good baby?
I froze, panicked, how do I answer this? "Ummmm, I guess," is what I said, not wanting to bare my soul for this cashier. I know what the question is asking, is he easy? Does he sleep well, eat well, cry little? Well no. But what is the alternative, if I say no, he's not a good baby, what does that make him? A bad baby? He's not a bad baby, he's my baby, my whole world. And whether we are struggling, staying up all night, bawling both our eyes out or sitting in perfect, easy going baby bliss, is irrelevant. My brain reeled for some time.
We got home and Tyler cried, we nursed, we napped, and he cried.... for months. I drowned myself in education. Is it a breastfeeding problem? Maybe it's a growth spurt, learning leap, sleep regression, teething, gas, colic. Maybe he's just having a bad day. I drowned myself in reasons why my baby cried so much. He cried with his daddy, his grandma, everyone. It felt like the only time he wasn't crying was when he was asleep or nursing. There were moments I was so overwhelmed with his crying that I could do nothing else but to cry with him, for some reason that made him stop. Hmmmm, at least something worked.
I later heard a story that changed my perspective on crying. Maybe you've heard it too. A gentlemen goes to an orphanage, filled with babies and it is eerily silent. Why aren't the babies crying? The worker expresses that they do cry for a week or two and then they stop, realizing that no one is coming for them. My babies cry because they know I am listening. Children in foster care often cry very little, if at all, crying is a sign of healing. My babies cry because they are healthy and cared for. It almost seems contradictory, we don't want our children to cry. How can I really see crying as a good thing. Your child's crying upsetting you is also a sign of health, you care for and love your child. You want him to be happy. You listen to his cries and respond, he knows that. This is good.
He is a good baby. You are a good parent.
I am often drawn to capture a crying child because I see such beauty in that interaction. The child fussing, the parent responding with a soothing voice, a gentle touch. If you have a fussy child take pause and know your child cries because he knows you care.
I was always so scared to tell anyone the depths of our struggles. I thought his crying reflected poorly on me as a parent, but it didn't. I showered him in love, I responded quickly to his cries, I soothed every way I knew how. We survived, I took up baby wearing. I did whatever it took to find peace with my child. You are not alone. Talk to your doctor, talk to a friend, talk to your family, but a crying baby is not a bad baby.