Words to Get You Through

We've all been there; that moment where we'd rather jump out the window than go and pick up our screaming baby and try to fruitlessly settle them back down for the four billionth time of the day.  And baby's are smart.  They will settle down just long enough to allow your cheek to touch the pillow. Long enough for you to close your eyes, and even breathe a sigh of relief.  Just long enough to let your guard down the tiniest bit.  Then they release hell with a new found fury that will make your entire brain ring.  We've all heard of parents losing their marbles when their babies need attention from someone already at the end of their rope.  In the best scenarios, Mummy or Daddy will put the screaming baby into their safe crib and the desperate parent will lock themselves into a closet, hug their knees, and rock themselves into insanity.  My own mother said that once she put my brother and I into our cribs, went into the bathroom, and took a hot bubble bath.  She wouldn't even answer when my father returned home from work a few minutes later, pounding on the bathroom door demanding what was going on.  When she didn't respond, he knew it had been a particularly bad day and to leave her alone. 

And we've all read the horror stories of the worst case scenarios.  But we don't need to talk about that.

I have been at the end of my rope numerous times.  I'm ashamed to admit that I've thrown a bowl full of salad against the wall and sobbed right along with my baby before.  I've curled up in bed and held her in the crook of my arm and we both cried together until we fell asleep.  I am ashamed of these things, but I know I shouldn't be.  I have no one to help me when my husband is at work.  I would love to be able to call a friend, or relative to come over to the house to just give me 10 minutes of a break sometimes.  But there is no one.  So first and foremost, I can't stress enough how important it is to have a friend, neighbour, or relative who is ready to step in and save you when you need it.  And if you already have someone, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE HELP THEY ARE OFFERING!  Don't be proud.  Don't be embarrassed.  Sometimes all you need is 20 minutes. 

So, because I'm on my own, if Little Poppet starts purple crying I need special tricks to get me through.  I'd love to pretend that my heart is in it 100% of the time, and I'm as patient, loving and cheerful as Maria von Trapp.  But the truth is that I need to turn off my brain in order to get through sometimes.  If you're like me, these things don't make you a bad mother, they just make you a mother.  

First and foremost, it needs to be said because some people reading this blog will inevitably say to themselves (or me) ZOMG YOUR BABY CLEARLY HAS MEDICAL ISSUES!  or OMG YOU'RE IGNORING YOUR BABY AND IT NEEEEEDS YOU!!!!  So, go ahead and make sure your baby isn't in pain.  Make sure they're changed, they're fed, they're warm, they're not gassy, or they're cared for in every way you can imagine.  They're tiny little people who have no other way of expressing themselves when something is wrong.  Usually we know the difference in their screams though.  The "I'm in pain" scream is very different from the "I'm screaming because I'm screaming because I'm screaming!!!" scream.  Consult a doctor, on-call nurse, emergency, or any medical professional immediately if you think you're baby is in pain and you can't figure out what from.

So now that the disclaimer is through, let's assume that your little one is screaming because it's a full moon and a shadow on the wall reminded them that one day your milk will dry up.  Here, then are some of the mantras and tricks I've developed over the months with Little Poppet that have gotten me through (and I hope you can relate, or they can help you too):

* I don't try to figure out WHY little poppet is doing what she's doing.  If you've checked all the above and more, and still don't know what the deal is, just say, "Baby's gonna baby".  This is what they do.  There just isn't a reason sometimes, and trying to figure one out will drive you crazy.  Dads in particular, try to "fix" things.  Sometimes you just have to admit that a crying baby isn't broken.  All you can do is comfort them.

* Don't take it personally.  I know I was joking above about them knowing exactly when you lie down to finally sleep, but truthfully this is NOT about you.  They are crying because they are out-of-sorts, somehow, and are trying to communicate this unsettled feeling.  Tell yourself they're scared.  Tell yourself they're feeling unloved.  Tell yourself anything that gets your attitude flipped back into caregiver mode.  Tell yourself anything other than asking, "why are they doing this to ME?"  It's those thoughts and feelings that get parents into trouble.  It's what fills them with rage, resentment, and makes them lose their marbles. 

* Don't anticipate doing anything for yourself.  Are you hungry and hoping you can just eat in the next 15 minutes?  Are you exhausted and just hoping you can catch one wink of sleep as soon as your baby sleeps?  I know this is cruel, but you must put those things out of your mind right now.  You will only dwell on them and feel more and more desperate when you can't have them.  If you can't put it out of your mind, then go ahead and put the baby down in the crib and take 10.  Eat that salad.  Lie on that couch and take a deep breath.

* Laugh.  Go ahead, you're on the edge of bat-shit-crazytown anyway, and if you don't laugh it might be a one-way ticket.  Plus laughing releases endorphins and serotonin that can actually make you feel better.

* Get out of the house.  If it's the middle of the day and you think your day is ruined because your baby won't stop screaming, you're wrong.  I've taken Little Poppet on walks and grocery shopping while she wailed.  And I smiled stupidly as though I was completely oblivious to every nasty glare I received or disapproving cluck from Judgy McJugdypants.  Baby's changed, warm, fed, safe and healthy, right?  Fuck right off then. 

* Which brings me to the ultimate skill you need to develop.  And this is a tough one because it goes against our instincts as a parent.  The very core of our parenting instincts say that we need to respond to a crying baby and figure out what's going on.  But sometimes we can't do or say anything to make them feel better.  So.... you know that sweet skill you developed to drown out your mother (or possibly your mother in-law) when she speaks?  You can see her lips moving, but you've moved on to your happy place.  Utilize that precious skill now.  Hold your baby, rock your baby, but zone the eff out.  I have watched numerous TV shows using closed captioning, while singing and rocking my screaming baby.  All I could do is comfort her.  And I waited the few hours for my husband to come home.

* Take a shower.  Take a bath.  Sometimes all you need is 10 minutes to recharge your parenting battery and you feel like a completely new person.  Sometimes your little one can use a break from your desperate comforting as well.  It's happened to me more than once that I've left to get that desperate bath and come back to find my baby singing herself to sleep.

* Have this precious talk with your husband or significant other NOW.  When he/she gets home and you give him/her the signal*, take the baby immediately; no questions asked.  I don't care if my husband is about to fill his pants with the worst diarrhea of his life.  He's taking the baby, because no one feels more desperate than I do.  

* And if you're in it together (as in, you're both home because it's his day off, or whatever) TAKE TURNS with the baby.  I don't care who needs to work what hours the next day.  Tag team comforting and loving this little baby so that the other can catch a wink of sleep, make dinner, or have a bath.  Decide on how long these shifts will be ahead of time.  And for goodness sake, take the baby out of earshot of the other person.  

* And finally, recognize that this really is temporary.  Your little one will get over it, and you'll both feel OK soon.  I promise you can get through this.  You have no other choice right? HAHA!  womp wwoooommmp

*'the signal' is usually either dead black soul-less eyes staring vacantly, or my head is spinning around 360 degrees and I'm speaking in tongues. 

The Trials and Tribulations of Teething

Now that Little Poppet is on the eve of her six-month birthday, I thought I'd take some time and talk about the dreaded teething; specifically, what we use to soothe our little girl.  

Teething can be a very difficult time in your home.  In our home, there have already been so many tantrums, much crankiness, and rivers of tired tears.  Plus Little Poppet has been acting up too (da dun dun tsch!)  Seriously though, there are some little ones who seem to take teething in stride, while others are a living nightmare.  Little Poppet so far has been falling somewhere in between.  The three of us and our angry cat have almost fallen into a bit of a teething routine.  Little Poppet has a few great days all in a row where the drooling stops, the crankiness is curtailed, and the sleepless nights make way for sweet dreams.  Then there are usually two or three days in a row where she refuses to nurse properly, can't nap or sleep, is irritable, her cheeks turn pink, she drools like a Saint Bernard, and chews anything and everything in sight (including some of my tender body parts).  

There have been nights that Husband and I have both agreed were worse than those of her newborn stage.  At least in the newborn stage the sleepless nights weren't due to her discomfort, and we had new parents adrenaline running through our veins to keep us going. 

So, how do we deal?  Well, we have a small arsenal of chewable things for Little Poppet to keep her gums happy. 

1. frozen washcloth 2. Vulli So Pure rubber soother 3. Nuby IcyBite Teether Keys 4. Vulli Fan Fan the Fawn 5. Silicon toothbrush/teether 6. Vulli So Pure teething ring

The frozen washcloth is probably the most satisfying soother for Little Poppet.  I bet it feels just the right amount of scratchy to her.  I took some of those hundreds of baby washcloths that were gifted at the baby shower, tied two tight knots in each, wet them and froze them inside a ziplock bag.  I have about 8 in there, so that when the one she's using warms up, I can grab a new one.  Then the drooly washcloth can go into the hamper.  Though I see no problem with refreezing it if you want to. I usually let Little Poppet choose what she wants to use, and she often chews one and throws it to the side in favour of something different.  She seems to love the textured little nubbies on the rubber soother, the long finger-like flexible appendages of the fawn, and the hard texture of the teething ring. She's so far not too crazy about the IcyBite or the silicon brush.

And while we're on the topic of non-medicated ways of dealing with teething, let's take some time to dismiss discuss amber teething necklaces.  Do they work?  I'm fairly certain the healing properties of amber are comparable to... say... those presented by tying a doughnut around your neck.  I'm very skeptical of the claims that baltic amber has any analgesic effects--magical or otherwise.  More than likely these are made up, hyped up, and sold to desperate parents.  Then the myth is perpetuated through anecdotes by relieved parents who perceived either coincidental or placebo-induced positive results.  But I digress.  Even if amber was capable of relieving the pain of teething, I have two problems with using these necklaces on babies.  

The first being the very real choking and strangulation hazard.  I've heard the argument about the "individually knotted" beads that, when broken, don't allow the entire necklace to fall into a heap of beads and string.  I'm unsure as to why this solves the choking issue.  I've been told by our midwives and family doctor not to give anything with a diameter smaller than 4cm to Little Poppet, so unless those individual knotted beads are the size of a walnut it still presents a hazard.  The Canadian Pediatric Society says that if you can pass the object through an empty toilet paper roll, then it is a possible choking hazard.  And the strangulation issue is clear; it's a rope around a baby's neck.  'nuff said.  Though I've seen mums put the amber around baby's ankles and cover them with a sock, or only use it when they're being closely watched.  Sounds uncomfortable and inconvenient, but at least that seems to be a safer alternative.

The second issue I have is presented only in the instance where amber actually does work.  There's a lot we need to agree to believe for this to work, however.  We need to believe that succinic acid is present in the specific amber you bought.  Then we need to believe that it is released somehow from that amber.  Then we need to believe that the amount that is released is in such concentrations to be absorbed by skin and flow to the bloodstream.  And finally, we need to believe that succinic acid has analgesic effects. 

Phew!  Still with me?  "Screw you Occam and your stupid razor", right?  OK, so now that you're hypothetical believers, let's continue.  I've always been wary of fads.  And using terms like 'naturally occurring', 'all-natural' or 'used for centuries' holds little water with me.  Let's look at some other 'all natural' methods that have been used historically to treat the pain associated with teething: alcohol, opium, mercury powders, leaches and the practice of lancing, to name a few.  If succinic acid is released somehow from the amber and is absorbed by the baby into the skin and travels through the blood stream, I have issue with that.  It sounds like it would need to be at pretty significant concentrations in order to do this.  I don't feel comfortable with any untested analgesic chemical continuously leaching its way into my baby.  What is the dosage?  How many repeats?  See what I'm saying? 

At least acetaminophen has been studied, tested, and regulated.  So when Little Poppet is having a particularly awful time dealing with her sore chompers, we give her infant Tylenol.  Typically we give her only a half dose. "As little as gets the job done", as my dad always says.  It's easy to overdose on Tylenol, so we live by this rule of thumb.  A half dose is plenty to get her to fall asleep in comfort.  But we usually see if Little Poppet can deal with her discomfort first.  As I mentioned before, teething comes and goes every few days.  But it also comes and goes throughout the day.  Little Poppet will be cranky for 20 minutes at a time, and then fine for a few hours.  Or cranky for hours, and fine for a few minutes.  Or completely inconsolable and screaming in pain for... well I'm not sure how long because we usually give her Tylenol right away when she's like this.  We know the cry right away.

And the last method of dealing with her teething pain is one that I don't often hear mentioned, but it works often enough that I need to share.  It's distraction. Sounds weird, right?  But that's how our wonderful human brains deal with stimuli.  Our brains can only handle so much stimuli--whether it's pain stimulus or the stimulus of touch and feel books, or The Honey Trees singing Moon River.
So it can be distracted easily from the pain if you introduce additional stimuli.  Distraction is a very real pain reliever.  It's what got me through labour pain.   But this blog is just my two cents.  Do what works for you, what's right for your family.  However you decide to deal with teething pain and discomfort, I wish you the best of luck!