Have screaming kid, will travel

October 21 | Guest post by Victoria Rodrigues
By: tostadophoto.comCC BY 2.0
It all started when the pills ran out. You see, when a 4'11", petite-in-every-place girl delivers a 10 pound baby, there is a lot of, ahem, stitching and fixing up to be done.

Normally I decline medication, but after Jonah tore into the world my doctor didn't have to push it. In the hospital, floating on pain medicine, I was still struck by how completely unprepared I was for taking care of a baby, but I was handling it okay.

Then I went home.

My family went home, hours away. I took the last pain pill, and hours later I was out of anything to curb the despair that had secretly been growing inside of me since Jonah's birth.

I felt unable to care for him properly- nothing in the books helped me soothe him or myself. He almost never slept for more than 45 minutes. Day and night I wondered, "What am I doing wrong?"

I carried Jonah around all day. I felt like I had grown a screaming tumor on my chest.

My pregnancy fantasies of our soon-to-be-family had Benito, Jonah and I at the farmer's market, outdoor music and art shows, and friends' houses within a couple weeks of delivery. Instead, I could walk into the front yard.

Everywhere we tried to go, people stared, old ladies shook their heads, friends looked uncomfortable- get that screaming baby home!

We were living in a small college town, and not only didn't know anyone with kids, but didn't have a single friend who could be around a child without becoming nervous and out-of-character. Add hours of crying to that dynamic, and we had perhaps one visitor within the first two months of Jonah's life.

I'd thought, pre-Jonah, that life would go on, just in a new direction, with more meaning. A few days after we came home from the hospital, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was wrong. There was a reason that people had joked that our lives were over: they were.

I sat in my rocker crying, thinking, I will never finish my degree, I will never write again, I will never even have a friend besides Benito.

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, Jonah was two months old and I wasn't coping with the stress of motherhood any better than in the first couple of weeks of his life. While I had resigned myself to the idea that I was an unfit mother and my life was over, Benito realized that we needed to do something.

So three days before Thanksgiving, Benito packed us up, put us in the car, and drove us to South Carolina to visit my mother.

The car was the only place Jonah slept well, so the ride from Florida to South Carolina was beautiful and oddly quiet. I could suddenly remember life outside of the glider-rocker in our living room. Once they heard that we were going to South Carolina, three of my sisters drove there, too.

Sitting around a campfire with them on Thanksgiving night, I realized that just because we didn't have friends who could handle children didn't mean we had to become hermits. Compatible people will continue to tell you a story over the screaming baby, or better yet, offer to hold him.

'Forget everyone we know,' I thought by the campfire—we can't expect them to adjust to a stage of life they aren't ready for, but we can move on.

Finding compatible people is already a needle-haystack situation without kids, but if we felt pushed away by the arrival of our son, perhaps we should walk away instead.

I realized that a colicky baby was not a ball and chain, and our home was not a jail cell. Scornful grandmothers be damned, if Jonah was going to cry regardless, then why not get out and ease the stress on ourselves?

Benito and I made a pact to get out of the house every day, even if it was just a walk around the neighborhood, even if Jonah cried the whole time. We agreed to go somewhere at least once a week—for a hike, for coffee, anything. If Jonah cleared the place with his screaming, so be it.

My sanity and my life were worth a little judgment or contempt.

I trashed the fantasies of the life I had imagined, grabbed the life we actually had, and decided to enjoy it. There are still times, three years later, I have to push myself to do that… but such is life, screaming babies or none.

I consider myself very lucky to have a partner who realized he needed to thrust me into the world again– and I hope somewhere, someone will read this, feel the pull, pick up the baby, and get back out there.

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  1. Thank you! Thank you!

    When I got pregnant with my daughter I was surrounded by non-breeders who slowly , but surely, started to treat me like a curiosity. After the baby came, it was clear that a chasm had opened between my childless friends and I. It was hard. No one talks about this aspect of being a mother. It took me almost 4 years to find my new tribe.

    3 agree
  2. I know wxactly what you're going through! My daughter was a really screamy, crying baby, I hardly slept for the first six months. I remember a holiday t o Ireland was just horrible! She cried and needed feeling constantly. It's the baby blues, which can turn into Post Natal depression if you're not careful. My recommendation is to a) let it all out, don't hold in tears b) speak to a doctor or even just a sympathetic ear and c) chocolate and lots of it. Oh, and Doctor Who DVDs, but that's just me. I was also finishing my degree when she was first born! I managed to pass with a second, which was much better than I thought I did!
    As for judgmental looks, I'd bet my left boob that a lot of them were thinking 'Glad it isn't me for once!' and our Grandmothers got to put the baby in the pram out in the garden without judgmental looks! I'd better warn you, it can seem even worse when they're toddlers, but remember that some one is always going through the exact same thing as you! You are not alone!

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  3. love it! i followed you on offbeat bride and i'm so glad your over here too 🙂 i definitely wore my first son the first 6months of his life, it was the only way. we'll see how the baby #2's go.

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  4. a friend sent me this article and I feel your pain. I have found being back at work to be a God send and I can actually function….but of course I have to fight the guilt when people say "but don't you just want to be with him so bad?" and I am happy to be away for a few hours and, i don't know, eat a meal with both hands without bouncing or rocking.

    1 agrees
  5. Whoa, except for the colick this felt like reading my own biography. We fled the little college town we were in, though, after a pregnancy + eight months of isolation to go home. Now I'm finding that the old crew just doesn't understand why I can't "just leave the baby" and go out at night with them. I've found myself getting really angry with them, but this post helped change my state of mind. They can't know and while it is sad to think I have to move on, maybe that it is what I (gently) need to do.

    Hey offbeat mama, you should host a playdate/group service! Like a dating service, but for mamas in need of other, like (or like and different) minded mamas. Hehe.

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  6. Hey Rodrigues, your post is so honest and genuine, I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing your experience so that other women know they are not alone. It's great that you had your partner's and sisters' support with this!

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  7. While I think sometimes the solution is, in fact, new friends – I think other times you just have to be mindful to give your old friends time to adjust. Speaking as someone who is currently childless but is just starting to have many mother friends, it's not always an issue of permanent incompatibility – sometimes you just need to give us a moment to catch on to the way things are now. Never having really spent any significant time around moms trying to care for babies or young children while simultaneously hanging out, my recent experiences have all been learning experiences. I had to learn to keep talking while the baby wails, just as I had to learn to watch my language around the older ones, and to be patient with and find ways to work around my friends' newfound inability to stay on the phone for more than 5 seconds. You're adjusting to life with a newborn, and your good, true friends will adjust to life with YOU adjusting to life with a newborn! Just be patient with us, we're working on it!

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  8. You rock. This is really nice to read – my mother-in-law has been joyfully reminding me on a daily basis that my husband was a very colicky baby who never slept, so the issue is looming rather gloomily on the horizon, and at this point (2 months out) it's on of my biggest stresses. Your article reminded me that a) whatever happens happens, I get a baby out of it no matter what and b) you make it work. You just do. Woot.

  9. awesome, well written post Rodrigues. so glad you found a way to cope!

    none of my friends or coworkers were even thinking about marriage, let alone kids, and I was definitely out of that realm. it didn't matter to me, because I knew I had a wonderful family at home.
    my first son was very colicky, my second wasn't, so there is hope for your second to be an easy baby!

  10. awesome, well written post Rodrigues. so glad you found a way to cope!

    none of my friends or coworkers were even thinking about marriage, let alone kids, and I was definitely out of that realm. it didn't matter to me, because I knew I had a wonderful family at home.
    my first son was very colicky, my second wasn't, so there is hope for your second to be an easy baby!

  11. awesome, well written post Rodrigues. so glad you found a way to cope!

    none of my friends or coworkers were even thinking about marriage, let alone kids, and I was definitely out of that realm. it didn't matter to me, because I knew I had a wonderful family at home.
    my first son was very colicky, my second wasn't, so there is hope for your second to be an easy baby!

  12. awesome, well written post Rodrigues. so glad you found a way to cope!

    none of my friends or coworkers were even thinking about marriage, let alone kids, and I was definitely out of that realm. it didn't matter to me, because I knew I had a wonderful family at home.
    my first son was very colicky, my second wasn't, so there is hope for your second to be an easy baby!

  13. awesome, well written post Rodrigues. so glad you found a way to cope!

    none of my friends or coworkers were even thinking about marriage, let alone kids, and I was definitely out of that realm. it didn't matter to me, because I knew I had a wonderful family at home.
    my first son was very colicky, my second wasn't, so there is hope for your second to be an easy baby!

  14. I just wanted to echo this statement — it seems like while some childless friends aren't interested or able to transition, others step into their roles as as "aunties" and "uncles" with a little help and patience. I think it's really REALLY important for kids to have childless family friends around, so I think it's worth being patient with friends who show an interest. 🙂

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  15. I agree and realize that this is the situation for a lot of friends of new parents. I don't mean for my experience to equate to "your childless friends will misunderstand and abandon you."

    We had one friend in particular who came over time after time, asked questions about Jonah and our parenthood experience, invited us to barbecues and such. She was very obviously a novice with kids yet invested in maintaining our friendship and being part of our family's life. Unfortunately she was the only person we knew who tried to hang in there. But I know many new parents have a network of friends who are not only willing to work through the new challenges of parent-friendship, but are excited to do so. I really commend childless people who are able to do this, because it is really hard to make parenthood adjustments when you're not the parent.

  16. lol, you're much more patient than I. When I see a baby crying in public, I want to pull my hair out and punch a wall. I give moms & dads all the credit in the world, because the moment baby goes from "cute and smiley" to "screaming and crying" or "oh look, he/she just [insert bodily function here]" I'm like "Ok, I'm gone!"

    1 agrees
    • I think this is true in some circumstances. Like, for me, if you take infants or even five year olds to a fancy restaurant and they scream or throw things, I think that's a little rude. If they don't have a kids menu, then kids aren't welcome, and that's okay sometimes. It's the times such as on an airplane when babies cry for understandable reasons that I am totally empathetic. Your ears hurt! You're afraid! Your routine is messed up! But if the kid is crying because they're bored, then maybe it's time to find a more kid-friendly venue or at least prepare somewhat for boredness.

      1 agrees
  17. As someone who is childfree (not childLESS as some people phrased!) it's hard for me to understand the stance of "if baby cries in public, so be it!" because that's an insta-gone for me, but hey, you've got to do what's therapeutic for you! I hope things get easier for you, but I'm sure you'll all be fine. good read.

    4 agree
  18. Wonderful article, thank you. When I had my lil girl I developed serious depression and she had colick, not a winning combo. She cried for 3 months, we couldnt put her down or she would scream. Some days I would just have to put her in her crib and walk away while she wailed, for one minute to breathe and told myself I was a bad mother, that she sensed it and that was making it worse. I felt like the house was a prison, I would carry her outside to the front yard and stare at the street, trying to remember what freedom felt like. I felt trapped and like life was over. Thankfully that all got better with time, It really does. Thank you for your honesty

    1 agrees

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