Cue Hootie and the Blowfish. But on a more serious note, in addition to battling postpartum depression and my own fear of failure, another struggle I face daily is learning how to let Ellie fuss and cry a bit. I don’t mean letting her get to the Donald Duck Cry point, but you know…whimper a little, maybe wriggle around. I tend to (in very first-time-mom fashion I might add) rush to her every whimper, grunt, and whine. This makes for some very difficult days. Last week, I went pee while holding her and with both my dogs at my feet because I couldn’t bare putting her down and hearing her cry from the other room. Do you know what its like to wipe and pull your pants up one-handed? It’s a circus event in case you were wondering. Kind of like the clown riding in the little car. Amazing, confusing and terrifying at once.
Well today, I finally let her cry. A couple weeks after Ellie was born, I visited my work to let my coworkers see her and because frankly, I miss my coworkers/work in general. Honestly, I just miss being around big people. I told them I’d be back in a few more weeks for another visit so they could see how much she had grown since she grows like a weed.
Ellie and I decided to make that trek yesterday. She is going through a growth spurt at the moment and it’s taking it’s toll on both of us. First of all she has just completely stopped sleeping during the day. She used to take two, beautiful, long, glorious naps daily. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Its been a week and there are no more long naps. She takes these stupid little 15 minute catnaps. And they are the worst because no matter how much I should know by now that the nap is short-lived, the minute I put her down in her rock-n-play and see her soundly sleeping it gives me a glimmer of hope that this will be the long nap. I am consistently let down. Not only does she take these baby snoozes, she will only take them ON ME. If I put her in her swing, or her rock-n-play, or her soothing motions seat….within five minutes she’s fussing, thrashing and grunting like Serena Williams during Wimbledon. I know I know, you’re thinking “Let her work through that.” I have people. It results in fussing and then all out crying. So she is extra clingy. She is also eating like a linebacker. I swear if the bottle or the boob isn’t in her mouth she starts this heavy breathing and moaning as if we withhold food from her. So if you haven’t guessed…yesterday was a rough day to chuck her in the carseat and to see people. She was in rare-form.
But I was feeling dangerous and we hadn’t left the house on Thursday and I figured it was time to see sunlight and breathe some fresh air. Go figure, Ellie slept like an asshole Thursday night. She didn’t take a single cat-nap all night and would not go to sleep until 12:45. Then she slept from 12:45-5:00am. I nursed her and fed her a bottle until about 6:30. And then she refused to go back to sleep. She would drift off to sleep in the middle of feeding and I would swaddle her and put her in her rock-n-play and within ten minutes she would be punching out her swaddle and forcing me to suffer through her baby wrath. I got so physically tired and emotionally tired that I laid her in bed between Matt and I so that if she was going to fuss and grunt and thrash, I could at least lay down and maybe sleep through it. Wrong Courtney, so wrong. She was good, too good. Her tactics were pro. Kick, punch, grunt. Pause for 3 minutes to let mom’s eyes close and maybe drift to sleep. Begin again. It sucked. We both woke up miserable and fussy and were headed out to see and be nice to people. Godspeed to us.
She was almost asleep at the end of her morning bottle, eyes slitty and lazily glugging on the bottle nipple like an obese fish. I saw this as my opportunity to toss her in her carseat and head to SCADD. While she was half-awake, I effortlessly put her in the seat, adjusted the seatbelt, clicked it into place and tightened it. Within ten seconds she was red in the face, crying, and clawing at her chest like someone who woke up in a straight jacket at the looney bin with no recollection of how they got there. Seatbelt straps are not her friend. I quickly grabbed her bink and within seconds she was pleasantly sucking away on that little godsend. I put her in the car and away we went. Within five minutes of leaving our road I sensed it. I didn’t hear anything and she hadn’t even cried yet, but I just knew it…she spit out her binky. She slowly started fussing, and the fussing progressed to whimpering, and then she started crying. I began to panic. One of my worst fears is Ellie crying while I’m driving. Not that I’m concerned she is in pain or in harms way by any means, but more so because I know I won’t be able to handle listening to it and not being able to sooth her. So I did what I thought was the only rational thing to do. I pulled over on the side of the rode and rushed to the rear passenger side to put her bink back in her mouth. She was instantly relieved. Her face returned to its fair color and she quietly sucked away. I hopped back into the front seat and we resumed our journey. Five minutes more into our drive and I felt it again. She spit the goddamn link out again. Slowly but surely her Donald Duck cry erupted from the back seat. It was stabbing me in my heart. For another solid minute I refused to pull over…maybe less than a minute. Because before I knew it I was on the side of the road plugging her pie hole up with the link again. All was right in the world.
And then it happened AGAIN. This time I held my ground. We still had 10 minutes left in our trip plus the added five minutes I planned to spend in the Starbucks Drive-Thru. Those ten minutes were comparable to ten minutes into a run on the treadmill. Arduous, miserable, and you kind of want to die. I was watching her in the rear-facing mirror, face beat-red, screaming, flailing her arms and legs. I saw one of her knit booties fly off her foot in an angry “fuck you mom,” act of protest. I kept hushing her and sweetly saying, “Almost there Ellie, Almost there baby,” with my foot like lead on the gas just dying to get to Starbucks. I decided that is when I would give in to her screaming demands. We peeled off the highway and flew down the exit ramp. Starbucks was only a minute up the road. We hit every goddamn red-light. I dared to look at her again and watched her second bootie fly in the air. Double fuck-you mom.
When we got to Starbucks she had slowed her crying but I wasn’t taking any chances with withholding the bink. I got out of my car with a speed I haven’t had since pre-pregnancy. Not even waiting to get to the rear passenger door, I just hopped in the back seat on the drivers side. And the little shit was smiling. Not a fart smile. A genuine smile. A smile that could only be compared to the smile Squints Palledorous gives Wendy Peffercorn after he fakes drowning to plant a wet one on her while she’s giving him CPR in the Sandlot. I fished the binky out from underneath her bottom (how the hell does it even get there really) and said verbatim, “Suck it Ellie. We have five more minutes in the car.”
I obviously meant the pacifier but I was not entirely mad at the double entendre. She was a jerk on the way to my work. And her cries were purely due to not getting her way or what she wanted. I learned a valuable lesson this day. First, if I plan to pull over three+ times on my way to places I better factor it into our estimated arrival time. Secondly, I should not ever pull over due to Ellie fussing or crying, because she needs to learn how to self soothe. It is my job as a parent to protect and care for my child to the best of my abilities, however she needs to develop coping skills so she doesn’t fall apart on her own when faced with serious problems. It’s never too young to start working on this. Especially given that she was in a clean diaper, warm clothes, well fed, and in no pain. Spoiler alert: THIS IS SO HARD. Just tonight Matt and I had steaks for dinner and we put Ellie in her swing so we could enjoy a hot meal for once. She was wriggling and grunting and half-crying the entire meal. I found myself so focused on her discomfort that I shoveled my meal in my mouth, hardly swallowing, so I could be first to grab her.
I used to get infuriated when sancti-mommies would criticize other mom’s for holding their little ones too much. But after the binky incident, do I think I am raising a spoiled baby? It’s an isolated incident and too early to draw any conclusions. But one thing I know I need to work on is developing a balance between being her savior and letting her grow to be independent and autonomous. And right now I suck at it. Every single day she develops more of a personality and I don’t want her drawing associations between crying/throwing tantrums and getting what she wants when she wants it. I need to be vigilant and develop a bit of a back bone. It’s crazy how I am assertive and have cojones with pretty much everything in my life, and my 7week old has me cowering and shaking in my boots. But tack it on to the list of things I need to improve upon so I can be a better mom to Elliot. Not the best. Never the best. But a better one.
*Ellie Donald Duck Crying. Quack.