How my son’s teething reminds me of his birth

Guest post by Kristin

We’re celebrating all kinds of births this week, so we’ve dubbed it BIRTH WEEK. Today we’ll be focusing on the magic of hospital deliveries.

Photos by Kristin.
It was cold in Ottawa yesterday. The Weather Channel was warning of a severe snow storm that didn’t actually materialize but it was still very windy with a combination of snow and rain for much of the day. My son Mac and I stayed indoors and had a great day. He got to do many of his favorite things including lying around naked, smiling at the cat, smiling at himself in the mirror, playing with applesauce, and bath time.

He was as happy as can be — and then today I woke up to a blood curdling scream. As I tried to soothe him he grabbed for my fingers and shoved them into his mouth. Not able to talk he was showing me. Inside his mouth I felt a razor sharp little tooth poking through his gums and knew we were in for a rough day today.

The poor little guy was in agony and couldn’t quite figure out what in the world was happening inside his mouth. My heart broke a little as his eyes pleaded with me to fix it Mama. So I scooped him up in my arms and spent much of the day rocking him and stroking his head. I gave him some Tylenol, a cloth dipped in breast milk and then frozen to suck on, and no less than one thousand kisses. When it was finally time to get dinner on the table I strapped him into the Ergo and let him rest against my chest as I prepared it. But every once in awhile the pain was too much for his Mama to soothe and he cried out. Muffled sobs and loud shrieks — baby was hurting.

As I rocked him I thought back to the day he was born — it was the greatest and scariest day of my life. In the middle of pushing him out into the world the doctor stood up abruptly and consulted the monitor. Before I knew it she was grabbing a vacuum and telling me that his heart rate was dropping and that they needed to get him out NOW. She disappeared between my legs with the contraption and after a few more pushes Mac arrived. His skin was a pale blue/gray except for the purple welt on his cone shaped head. He was silent and still.

Instead of having him put on my chest as I had planned, he was whisked away to a table across the room and a team of specialists quickly entered. They marched in single file as I lay there feeling more vulnerable and helpless than I ever imagined possible. I pleaded with my partner Tracy to please, please go check on him, go see if he is OK, GO! But she was too petrified to move — scared for my health and the trouble the doctors seemed to be having delivering my placenta and terrified for Maclean, she stood transfixed with her steel cold hand wrapped around mine as stiff as cement. I loved her and hated her for that.

When he was born he had an APGAR score of one. Medical staff use an APGAR test to determine the health of a newborn. Babies are given a score of zero, one or two in five areas (skin colour, heart rate, grimace response, muscle tone and breathing) for a possibility of 10 points. To put his score of one in perspective… zero is dead.

Each second that passed felt like an eternity. I couldn’t tell you if it took 30 seconds or 10 minutes but eventually he cried. HE CRIED! His little lungs worked overtime as he screamed out scared, alone, confused and cold. He cried and cried as the NICU team continued to shuffle around him sucking stuff out of orifices and monitoring stats. He cried for his moms and we cried too — tears of joy because the sound of his cry was the best noise our ears had ever heard. It was music and love and the sound of angels singing.

It wasn’t long after that (or maybe it was, time was so hard to understand) before his skin turned pink and he was wrapped up and handed to my wife. Safe in her warm arms the tears stopped. Well his did anyway — I was crying enough for all of us.

In the days and weeks that followed I felt bad for him when he cried. I did my best to soothe him but I secretly enjoyed the sounds as I remembered the deafening silence when the cries weren’t coming. So on days like today when tears and sobs and shrieks are plentiful I hold my child close to comfort him but I revel in his cries — always grateful for the sound.

Comments on How my son’s teething reminds me of his birth

  1. Loved this! Anytime I’m on an airplane or in a restaurant when a baby is crying I don’t get upset, it means they’re breathing. Besides they can’t talk!
    I love your story and the bond you have with your wee one.

  2. Beautiful —> “He cried for his moms and we cried too — tears of joy because the sound of his cry was the best noise our ears had ever heard. It was music and love and the sound of angels singing.”

    We didn’t hear our babies cry for almost a month after they were born (due to breathing tubes). The first time my husband and I heard our babies cry we balled uncontrollably. Later, “a crying baby means a healthy baby” became our mantra.

  3. Our baby didn’t really cry when he was born either. But I was too clueless to know anything was going on at first (and I have no earthly idea what his Apgar was!). I was handed him briefly, and then he was whisked aside, and I remember hearing “Now that’s a cry we like to hear” — he gave one strong cry — but that was pretty much it, but the one was viewed as very promising. The NICU team came in and they administered oxygen, and they transferred him to the NICU for a few hours for observation. I remember being handed him again before he left, and my thought was “He’s going to die and they want me to hold him before he dies.” My husband’s was “He’s going to be fine or they wouldn’t let us hold him.” Fortunately my husband was right. He even got to carry the baby up to the NICU. And after a few hours he was released to us A-OK.

    He ended up having colic, and what I kept repeating to myself was “But when he was born he didn’t really cry; this means he is OK.”

    It is hard to hear them cry, but you are right; it is often a very good sign, especially at birth!

    I have had people suggest to me that my epidural led to his breathing problems. I don’t know that I agree at all, but the thought does nag away at me, especially as we head towards another labor and delivery. So much guilt we throw at laboring women.

    Congrats on your beautiful boy!

    • Oh AnonMom I am so sorry that somebody made you feel like it was your fault. It wasn’t. And yes, knowing that the crying means they are OK can be so helpful when they are crying.

  4. I can so relate to this. My first son, first baby, took a while to respond. I remember that deafening silence. I remember laying on that bed, tears streaming down my face as the doctor sewed my up, asking my husband what must have been every half second if the baby was ok, if he knew what was going on, if he could make it better. It was the longest moment of my life. I honestly don’t know how long it was from the time he was pulled out (via vacuum too) to the time that he finally cried.

    But that cry, that magical cry! No better sound in the world. The nurses in the Mother Baby unit always commented on how calm I seemed for a new momma when he’d cry, and I’d always respond that I was just thankful that he could cry.

  5. Thank you for sharing this beautiful perspective. The next time I am irritated by a crying baby, I know I’ll think back to this story and be grateful!

  6. Oh now you’re making me cry here. I remember my daughter’s first cry. It was all gurgley but was still the best sound I ever heard.

Join the Conversation