Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Twila Paris gives me heart palpitations, or The "Bad" Baby

       Last night, to be funny, Brett opened his computer and started playing a lullaby by Twila Paris.  I immediately felt like I could not breathe, my heart started beating faster, and my stomach got knots.  I tensely laughed and only somewhat kiddingly told him to turn it off before I had a panic attack.
       You see, when McKenna was a newborn, she was a "bad" baby.  I know that's a horrible thing to say, and I don't really mean it as it sounds.  Bear with me.  My friend has five kids, and we joke about "good" and "bad" babies all the time.  Her five were all basically "good" babies.  They slept, a lot, as newborns.  They napped.  Regularly.  For long periods of time.  They slept through the night at relatively early ages.  They were good-natured.  They could be toted around in carriers to church, restaurants, and assorted other locations with confidence and grace, because they were "good".  They could be put down on the floor or in a swing or a bouncy seat, wide awake, and would lay there, cooing and smiling and generally being, well, "good".  And thus, she has five of them. 
        McKenna was not a "good" baby.  She was adorable and cherished and it was not her fault, but she was not "good."  As a newborn, she hardly ever slept.  And if she did sleep, it was in someone's arms.  She wouldn't sleep in a bassinet until she was about three months old.  Brett and I took turns holding her in bed with us while we slept for three months.  Not kidding.  It was the only way any of us could get even a few hours of sleep.  And even with that, she woke up all the time.  We knew we were breaking all parenting safety rules, and we were somewhat afraid one of us would drop her or smother her, but we were just so tired....
        In addition, she hardly ever napped during the day.  And again, if she did, it was in someone's arms.  So we held her.  ALL DAY LONG.  We mocked all of parenting books that gave us estimates of how long our child should be sleeping (16 or more hours, in stretches of 3-4 hours at a time, even during the day????)  Ha.  McKenna was hard-core.  She might occasionally fall asleep in her swing, but that didn't usually last very long.  And we could sometimes get about five or ten minutes out of the bouncy seat...  As first time parents, we tried everything we could think of to help her calm down and sleep.  One of those things was the Twila Paris lullaby CD.  We played it all the time, during the day and in the middle of the night while we paced around holding her as she wailed and screamed and didn't sleep.  For months.   
        Pretty much she just cried.  And fussed.  And cried some more.  The poor girl had horrible reflux which caused her to puke constantly.  And I mean constantly.  We tried gripe water and mylicon drops and Zantac and I went off milk for two weeks, and none of it seemed to help much.  They didn't officially say she had "colic" but the word kept coming up in conversations.  Apparently colic and reflux are thought to overlap considerably these days.  Whatever you want to call it, it was terrible.  She puked non-stop for five months.  We went through about 20 bibs a day during the worst of it, and probably 3-4 outfits for her and 2-3 for me.  No one ever saw her cute little clothes, because she had to have a bib on 24-7.  I finally gave up and just walked around covered in puke for a few months.  The laundry was just too hard to keep up with.
       We didn't even bother going to church for several months, because we knew she would just be screaming and we would have to leave and so what was the point?  We tried to go out for dinner with her and some friends once.  We took turns holding her in the outer foyer of the restaurant while she screamed at the top of her lungs for an hour.  Gee, that was fun.  Same scenario during dinner with our parents at a restaurant.  We took her to a Christmas party too- and she was held by one of us or one of our friends in the basement for about an hour and a half as she cried and cried and cried.  So, when I say she was a "bad" baby, you see what I mean.
         We had tried for a relatively long time to get pregnant and it didn't come easily for us.  We had prayed to be blessed with a child and God had finally answered our prayers.  So to have our long-awaited precious baby here with us and to have her be miserable and in pain and unhappy all the time was so sad and frustrating.  It just wasn't what we expected.  Brett and I would take turns holding her during the screaming periods, and we wouldn't even really talk about it, except to sometimes say, "I just wish she was happy..."  We would mostly just exchange appalled, exhausted, resigned glances and shake our heads, wondering what the heck we had done and how we were going to survive.  We loved her with every bit of our souls, and we were so incredibly grateful for her, but it was just hard.  This was not the newborn stage we had envisioned in our minds.  I kinda wanted to smack everyone I knew who had a "good" baby and then had the nerve to complain about stuff.  Whining about their babies "only" taking two hour naps or "only" sleeping 7 hours at a time at night.  Puh-lease.
        And all the books about sleep schedules, etc. just added insult to injury, because, in my opinion, (I put that phrase in there to ward off insulted comments from people who drank the Kool-Aid...) they convince people with easy babies that they have somehow created their "good" babies, thus inferring that we had created our "bad" one.  And let me tell you, all the attempts at scheduling and crying it out and trying to force her into our routine was a complete joke.  Those books were clearly not written for babies like ours, and I certainly didn't need to be made to feel like a failure because I couldn't get her to happily drift off to sleep every three and a half hours.  As if.           
        And then, sometime between five and six months, in the midst of being sick with Kawasaki Disease, her reflux started to get better.  And she stopped crying all the time.  And she smiled more and played more and didn't need to wear bibs all the time.  And she started sleeping better, and sometimes even slept through the night and napped in her crib.  And we started to feel more human.  We went to church and took her out to public places with less fear of having to run out the door due to a complete baby meltdown.  And now we are blessed with our playful, fun, busy girl, who is still pretty intense and still doesn't nap much, but is much easier to manage and rarely cries.  We wouldn't trade her for anything, but I'll take these days over the newborn days, thank you very much...
         So, Twila, I'm so sorry, but when I hear your lovely songs, I am transported back to the "bad" baby days, a time in which I was lucky if I got a total of four hours of sleep at night and our days were full of screaming, painful, stressful, anxiety-producing angst.  They trigger symptoms of my own personal PTSD.
       Brett isn't home...  Maybe I can just delete that album from his computer.  Somehow, I don't think we'll be using it again.  Even if we have another "bad" baby.

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