I went in to parenthood prepared. I had a decent amount of baby experience and figured I was as ready as someone can be to have your life up-ended by a tiny human. My husband and I discussed cloth diapering (we wanted to try it), sleeping arrangements (Pack-n-Play and crib only) and birth plans (unmedicated hospital birth with a doula). I knew that all of our plans needed some degree of flexibility as we figured out what worked best for us. Then our fuss-a-saurus, E, was born.
I should have suspected we were in for it before I even went into labor. E remained firmly frank breech for all of my pregnancy. No amount of chiropractor appointments, yoga or spinning babies techniques made a difference; this child was stubborn! So, disappointed, we scheduled a c-section and let our doula know we didn’t need her after all. Even that didn’t appease our tiny dictator; she wanted the birth on her own terms and sent me into labor a week before her scheduled arrival.
As she was removed from me, I listened anxiously for her first cry, signaling she was healthy and safe. I have never heard a newborn cry that loudly! My goodness, this child got her mother’s lungs. She wailed, and continued wailing until she was five months old. She seemed to have two settings: “somewhat annoyed” and “Dear God I’m dying! Come save me!” Nothing made this infant happy. My husband and I joked that she hated life. I had dealt with fussy babies before but this one took the cake. And, no surprise, I could not tolerate her crying for any length of time.
This itty bitty person required us to re-think everything we had assumed about parenting.
To make it more complicated, our perfect offspring was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at birth and was sent home in a full-time harness, then upgraded to a brace and is now in a cast from mid-section to ankle (to knee on one leg). So there went our cloth diapering plans and our sleeping arrangement plans. Luckily, her hip dysplasia was not uncomfortable for her and she was otherwise healthy, so it wasn’t the cause of her life-apathy.
Turns out, E disapproved of my parenting style. She had made the decision that we needed to do some attachment parenting techniques. If I wore her, nursed her often, and slept next to her, she stopped screaming. It was the only thing that calmed her down. As she hit four or five months, she figured out how to move a bit and was willing to entertain herself without me for upwards of 7 minutes! It was glorious. She still preferred to be worn and only slept next to me, mostly so she could drink from the tap at any hour.
We didn’t plan to do any Attachment Parenting as my husband and I figured babies liked to play on floors and sleep in cribs. Nope, not this baby. So, we adjusted. We bought baby carriers. I bought shirts with easy access. We enjoyed the cuddles.
Now that she is in a spica cast for the next several months, I am grateful for the attachment training our daughter gave us. She doesn’t fit in most strollers, high chairs or car seats now. She can’t lay flat to sleep. (Also, diapering is a new, exciting adventure.) Having her in a cast is a lot like having a bigger, heavier version of her one month self.
Now we’re just using what we’ve learned — we wear her for outings, errands and hikes. Although she is significantly heavier with a body cast, we are used to lugging her around at this point so it isn’t too much of a hassle. Co-sleeping makes it easier to adjust her in the middle of the night to help prevent pressure sores and other cast excitement. She actually lets us sleep a little better now that she can’t swing her legs into my face in the middle of the night.
I do look forward to the day we get our grown-up bed to ourselves and I am anxious for E to be done with her hip problems but these days in a cast aren’t as difficult as I had anticipated. We are used to an angry baby and E is significantly more pleasant now than she was the first four months of her demanding existence. She has figured out how to crawl and stand without mobile legs and can make it across a room at record speed, much to the dismay of our cats. She has also modified her cry to include a third setting of “move me over there! I want something.”
For the next offspring, whenever that may be, we plan to do more baby-wearing and so on — so I am positive that baby will hate to be held, refuse to nurse and require long stretches of solitude. Babies are just tricky like that.