Preface: I'm being more honest than I usually am in this post, and it has taken me about a month to write. I'm not great at sharing personal stuff online with a straight face, and while I don't believe I should have to be good at that, I felt like maybe this post could help someone else out there who might run into this, or is going through it now.
A human being's existence would never be solely for another person's benefit or learning (right?), but sometimes I feel like my entire experience as a parent to Catcher has so far been one beast of a training simulator. What does the simulator teach? Patience. Or it's supposed to. I, however, am not some flying ace. I'm not Anakin Skywalker in the pod race scene, more like Anakin in the strangle everyone with my mind scenes, especially for questioning my authority. More on that later.
Patience is not easy for me, and in some ways I feel like I've been a little cavalier in the past. It has struck me that my patience has been tested very little in life - comparatively - when one considers what all has occurred over the last year and a half of my life, and exactly how I've handled it.
That said, I feel like I waited a long time for the echoing sweetness of these sounds and this face:
At his 6 month well-baby check up. And 'well' he finally was
Having an acutely painful, super hard, super exhausting, super traumatic labor and delivery, followed by a 5 day hospital stay for you and your baby who is not doing so well and then the beastliest recovery ever? Score 1 for the patience simulator.
Having your baby be super unhappy for the first 4-5 months of his life, 13 hours or more a day?
Patience simulator 10 pts, you 0 pts.
In fact, this is my favorite picture of him, but it also sums up exactly how he was for the first 4 months of life. It is still on my home screen on my phone and my mother's:
The EEG Test
Taking your baby to his 4 month appointment and begging the doctor - through tears - to either perform a miracle, or an exorcism, and make your baby stop crying, i.e, get rid of his pain. Only to have the doctor feel on an 'off chance' that he might be having mini-seizures and tell us to rush him as quickly as possible to primary children's to run an EEG ("It's probably nothing though, but just to be sure,") while mom and dad suffered near nervous breakdowns (emotional breakdown is more like it). Only for the test to confirm what our suspicions were all along; that he's NOT seizing whatsoever, he's just trying to lift himself up like MOST BABIES DO, and as we had assumed and so had the tech in neurology. That's 500 big points for the patience simulator (and one thumbs down for doctors scaring the crap out of you for no reason because they thought that they should check everything in fear of lawsuits). However, you DO get these really sad, but really adorable pictures of your baby with electrodes on his head:
No idea why I look calm in this picture, considering my general anxiety at this time, but then, there it is
Kid was a total trooper and slept for the whole study
Poor head, poor hair, poor baby
Next, we have your baby not thriving in weight and finding out that even though he's nursing around the clock (like every hour) you have lost most - if not all - of the nutrient-rich, fatty stuff that your supply should have, that would help him to gain weight. 100 points for the patience simulator.
People telling you that it's probably your uptight, first-time-parent attitude that's causing your babes overall discomfort. Ohhhhh simulator, you really TKO'd with that one.
(note: I do think there is some truth to this advice, and have given it myself before. People take on our energy, however, it just wasn't a particularly helpful thought 4-5 months into the whole mess, when everything I could possibly do had been exhausted, time and time again. At that point, it felt more like an attack on me than empathy and helpfulness.)
Not losing a single pound while nursing around the clock, while most everyone else tells you how the weight seemed to just suck right out of them. B-ZOING!
Getting sick 3 different times to the point that you couldn't lift your head, much less take care of your baby. His constant crying and justifiable need for attention has now lost you some work and some clients. Now you're just being cruel simulator.
Getting over the changes that a baby puts your body and your entire life through. Uncle, uncle, uncle!
(NOTE: the last three gripes are shamefully selfish because they're about me, and I feel guilty even having gripes about myself since having this kid, which makes me want to gripe. I'm just trying to be honest about all of the places I've been mentally.)
Not being able to go anywhere or do almost anything because your baby screams to the point of vomiting every time you take him in a car, to a store, on a walk, to visit a friend, etc. You begin feeling like a prisoner in your own home, or at best, a shut-in. People start asking why you don't just ask for help, and your answer is, "The help I've had so far has gone as far as saying, "I've never seen a baby like this before," which just about does you in emotionally, and stupid though it may seem, makes you decide to not ask for help anymore. Your child is a suddenly a Gonzo, a Tigger, and now you feel like protecting him even more. This also does a NUMBER on your marriage, even if you're lucky like me and have a husband who will not quit, just like you.
Then, miracles! Or delusion. But I'm going with miracles.
One day, or within several days, it's like magic; magic other parents take for granted. He isn't crying so much, he's sleeping great, he's smiling more of the day than he's crying, in fact he's laughing. He's happy to take walks. He's happy to just be. He's finally gaining weight, and you're finally losing it. When he's upset now, you're almost completely calm because you know he's being upset in the way that normal babies are from time to time. In the words of our infant chiropractor, "He's what a baby should be."
You and everyone who knows starts speculating about what changed. What happened? You know what happened. You know deep down inside what happened, and you're keeping it as close and as dear to you as you possibly can, and mostly because it was a lot of things, and some of them could be deemed controversial in this day and age, and you, quite frankly, don't have any extra patience for any questions about your actions. You've become a 5-star general, and people who have judgement of your actions will be politely told that it is the "Fog of war!"
However, for the sake of helping other struggling parents out there that may have what is termed as an 'unhappy baby' I offer this:
Don't give up.
Do NOT let doctors, nurses and friends gaslight you. You are Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941) only this time your husband probably is poisoning you slowly with your own milk, erm, figuratively obviously (Tom knows I don't like milk). You are not crazy! You are not a bad parent, you are not an 'uptight first-time parent' either. You have to tirelessly search for the answer to your baby's happiness, and you have to be patient and spend every day believing that it can change. I think that's called faith? The only way to beat the simulator is to finally and actually be patient. And eventually you'll get to experience a lot of this:
PS) I realize I didn't say enough about my long-suffering husband in all of this. He has worked just as tirelessly, while also working a career, just to have a happy, healthy baby, and a happy, healthy home life. He rocks this father and husband thing hardcore.
PPS) I am fully aware that we could have gone through much worse and that there are parents and babies doing that everyday and that I should simply be grateful. I am...beyond comprehension. This is merely one lens to look through.