the screamer

ScreamI’ve nicknamed her the screamer. Though she is only 4-months old, she has the ability to silence a room and bring a shock of terror across her mother’s face. She’s my second child but I’ve had way more panic attacks with her than I ever had with little man. One person told me that we all think we’re great parents until we have our second child.

For baby girl’s 2-month appointment, I brought in a whole list of questions to our pediatrician. I laughingly told him that I didn’t have any questions with now 3-year-old little man and here I am with a laundry list for baby girl. He told me that’s common. Essentially, we don’t know what we’re doing with our first child (read: deer caught in head lights) and with our 2nd, we expect everything to go like it did with our first. When it doesn’t (as of course it never does)…

If baby girl had been like little man (and yes, there are snickers out there among you readers who secretly prayed we wouldn’t—just couldn’t—have another baby like little man because it just wouldn’t be fair), she would have been on a perfect eat-wake-sleep 3-hour nursing schedule by a week old, happily cooing away when awake, yawning and closing her eyes anywhere, sleeping in anything when it was nap time, and laughing with belly laughs whenever you made a face. That was little man. That is not baby girl.

Now baby girl also hasn’t had the same entrance into life as little man. At one week old, she caught a cold from her big brother which put her in the NICU for 2 weeks and caused her mom and dad and grandparents and whole community really to cry and pray for her to pull through. The first few days, I didn’t know if she would. She was forced to wear a full breathing mask, stuck with an IV, later graduated to a feeding tube and oxygen fastened to her tiny little nose, finally allowed to bottle feed and then glory hallelujah after a week allowed to nurse. We spent two weeks trying to have someone with baby girl as much as possible and juggling care for little man and I was pumping every 3-4 hours around the clock and crying more than I have ever cried. After 2 hours of sobbing in the ER on the first day, I asked a nurse for a tissue. He held out a box for me to take one. I glared at him and took the entire box. Quickly a mountain of white mascara-filled mess piled up next to me.

There were times in the NICU that I could not comfort baby girl. But I chalked that up to the presence of tubes and wires attached to her. They actually had her on baby valium the first couple days. I learned she was a fighter. And I learned she was a screamer. No sweet little waa’s were emitted from this thing. No, fully belly screams, face bright red, little fists clenched—that was baby girl.

When we finally were able to bring her home from the hospital, the screaming didn’t stop. It actually got worse. Looking back, I almost can’t believe that time period was only about 3-4 weeks long because every day, every moment of those weeks seemed like an eon. I wore her constantly because it was the only way I could get her to stay calm or to sleep. And I’m no spring chicken anymore! Every muscle in my back hurt. My husband and I took turns walking and walking her to get her to sleep and we would ever so slowly unclip the sides of the Bjorn and inch her down towards her upright little bed praying the eyes would stay closed. We each wore these wide-eyed fear-stricken looks and were hesitant to ever take her out in public. My husband stashed ear plugs everywhere. The neighbor offered to start leaving beer out for his nightly walks.

And I had a birthday in the middle of all this. We tried to go out for dinner with my family and it dissolved into a mixture of screaming, pacing, shoveling down our fancy meal, and a wide eyed look from my brother and his wife which I’m sure translated into a conversation involving “we are never having kids” on their way home. On my actual birthday, I tried to take baby girl to the mall for a few hours in a desperate attempt to get out and pretend my life was normal. More screaming.

I had a pitty party on my way back from the mall. All I wanted was a a mani/pedi and a few moments of quiet and it was my birthday gosh darn it and I’m turning 37 which isn’t old but it sure isn’t young either and here I am stuck with this little thing and why won’t she stop screaming! Why won’t she Go the F*#% to Sleep (a book which I had totally laughed off with little man since the writer surely didn’t do any sleep training with his child…unlike yours truly amazing mom who did). I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to yell at baby girl go the F to sleep!!!

But then as I was driving back from the mall (with intermittent crying from the back seat), I reminded myself that I’m trying to focus on daily counting the gifts in my life. I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts last year and was so affected by her challenge to daily decide to be thankful for all the little gifts that we receive every day that I’ve been really trying to live like that. I’m thankful that I have a baby girl—a now healthy baby girl (I adore my little boy but so so wanted a little girl too). I’m thankful that she smiled at me yesterday—even if it was gas. I’m thankful for my healthy energetic little boy (even if he had 6 time outs yesterday and threw a hot wheel at me last week). I’m thankful for my hard working so involved husband. I’m thankful that I fit into all my clothes, damn it (the only good thing about all this stress!). I’m thankful for my friends who brought me lunch at the hospital and the force of women from our church who delivered dinner nightly for 2 weeks. I’m thankful that I still have my milk supply after all that pumping. I’m thankful to be exactly where I am at 37: two beautiful children, a good man for a husband. So what if this birthday sucks and I can’t go out with friends this year. I’m sure I will next year.

I resigned myself to having a colicky kid. Now, I am a sleep trainer in philosophy and even with baby girl, I was trying to get her on a 2-3 hour eat-wake-sleep cycle. I had decided that getting her to actually sleep was more important than where she slept and focused entirely on the routine, even if it meant carrying her for hours a day. But I couldn’t actually try to get her to put herself to sleep without any sleep aides or crutches because that only dissolved into red face fist clenched fury. So for all of you out there dealing with colic or reflux, you have a different animal on your hand. I get that now.

About the time I was going to pack a bag and run for the hills, my mom sent my husband and me an article saying that probiotics had given relief to some colicky infants. The user reviews were so amazing that husband left work and bought BioGaia drops that afternoon. During a scream we sprayed them into baby girl’s mouth. The directions said they would take 3 days to work. The next day I was texting husband pictures of the video monitor showing baby girl asleep in her own bed. In her bed! Not on me! I had rocked her to actual sleep (not intermittent bouts of sleep and screams) and been able to transfer her to her little upright bed and she had stayed asleep! Glory hallelujah.

Within days I had a calm, smiling baby. My logical husband realized baby girl had been on antibiotics in the hospital which would have stripped her gut of all bacteria—good and bad. Babies have immature digestive tracks, as it is. So she really wasn’t an ornery baby, just an uncomfortable one. Now we were sad. When we mentioned our results to medical people around us, they would respond, “that makes sense—probiotics are a good idea.” Why didn’t anyone freakin tell us this four weeks ago? So to anyone with a colicky baby, two words: probiotic drops. They might not help your kid…but if they do…the world will suddenly appear in color again.

A month later we were out to dinner with a mass of extended family the day after Thanksgiving and baby girl slept in her stroller for part of the time and was then passed between me, husband, and nana gracing us all with her sparkly-eyed wide-mouth smiles. As we left, an older couple flagged husband and I down and said, “that is the quietest baby ever.” I looked at them with an incredulous you’ve got to be kidding me look. Driving home, I told husband that I still think of her as the screamer and still feel like any moment she’s going to erupt. But she only does so on occasion now and for consolable reasons (hungry now tired now).

So for us, probiotics were a miracle. I’m so thankful that the hours of screaming a day are behind us. And I guess I can say that I’m thankful that the screaming reminded me to check my attitude and strive to be the person I want to be. Forcing myself to think about the gifts in my life helped a lot. Choosing to be thankful for my every day gifts changed me and made me happier (and I’m sure a less frenetic wife and mother). Why couldn’t I go out on my birthday (sob sob)? Because I have a beautiful (I would tell people during the screaming stage, luckily she’s pretty!) and healthy baby girl. And for that, I am SO thankful.

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