On Crying: An Embarrassingly Emotional New Mother’s Tears Dissected—or at the Very Least, Explored

22.  Crying a river. Constantly. I don’t recall crying a drop during my pregnancy—except for when I realized I was being laid off just on the horizon of my fifth month. That was boohooing the obvious, though. A certain little episode during which the rubber band holding the top of my jeans open to a manageable point dislodged and traveled the length of four cubicles at the aforementioned job, where I was a rookie, no less, didn’t even generate a droplet. But once Eloise made her way from the womb into the universe formerly known as my life, the tears flowed like Boone’s Farm® Strawberry Hill on a high school junior’s Friday night.

Breastfeeding, or breastbeating, as I called it in the early days, caused many an overdramatic incident. Couldn’t do it during our hospital stay to save my life, in spite of calling upon at least five different nurses to properly insert my left and right one into the wee bearn’s pie hole. I’m already prone to a rather ego-deflating affliction that causes me to well up when discussing anything slightly emotional; so when I had to admit to Nurse Unthrilled to Hear from Me Again that I had to send Eloise to the nursery because I hadn’t slept in thirty-some hours and could neither feed or soothe the baby properly, I did so half choking on the frog in my throat. Who knew frogs could be so riddled with guilt and disappointment.

Nurse Unthrilled wasn’t the last at that establishment to deal with my dramatics. Eloise suffered mild jaundice upon discharge from the hospital; but because I wasn’t able to put out (for Eloise, not my poor husband), her bilirubin levels escalated, landing her back in the nursery a few days later. As the standard coming-home-with-baby story tends to pan out, no sleep was had by anyone in our house in the preceding days. So when Nurse Funny, but Sarcastic Enough to Make Me Uneasy asked whether I would be coming by the hospital every three hours throughout the night to nurse Eloise, I was horrified. You’re right—to tears! Not only was I painfully aware that we still sucked* as a breastfeeding duo, I knew that I was much, much too tired to endure such an evening. Although my heart crumbled into little bits admitting to myself that Eloise was better off getting a night full of supplements (did I mention that she was losing weight by the day?), I knew it was the right decision. Actually, I didn’t know, just like I don’t feel like I ever truly know the right thing to do where the baby is concerned—but I felt as though it couldn’t hurt.

After a rather life-altering—at least for that day—night of rest, my husband and I went to fetch our Eloise, who had magically (in an artificial formula kind of way) gained weight overnight. The question “Would you like to nurse her?” caused much dread, but I bucked up and gave it go. After only fifteen minutes of fumbling while sitting beside another breastfeeding mother the nurses dubbed SuperMom for her superb skills, Eloise latched on and nibbled for about five whole minutes. Although my tears remained safely in their ducts while we were in the nursery, my bleary peepers went all glassy again just because one of the nurses wished me well and urged me to get some rest. All my wounded soul heard was, “It unfortunate that you’re such a spazz. We’re really concerned about your ability to parent, so please get a hold of yourself before we report you.”

In what seemed like some sort of horrid test of my ability to remain composed, Eloise had to visit the pediatrician about once a week to weigh in and have her color assessed. The first couple times, her weight continued to drop by a couple ounces, which prompted her doctor’s order to once again supplement with formula after breastfeeding. I hadn’t become a La Leche League-er or anything, so I didn’t protest and strictly adhered to the rules. Confident that Eloise had gained weight, I strolled into her next appointment with a big smile. When I learned that she had lost another two ounces (the nurse even tried two scales for me), I broke down first in front of a third-year pediatrics student and then our pediatrician, who was called in when it was obvious the perplexed student hadn’t yet read the chapter on dealing with burnt out and broken new mothers. Thankfully, our go-to pediatrician (there are four from which to choose at any given time), is a very laid-back, “Just go have a big chocolate shake” kind of guy. Somehow, being told that ingesting ice cream would help the milk come in and make my breastfeeding problems go away quelled the blubbering right quick.

There have been hundreds of incidents since these examples transpired. I sob when Eloise cries with particular gusto. I sometimes cry when I feel completely wiped out at the end of the day and am not rescued immediately when my husband arrives. I bellyache over my inability to finish a book. Don’t even get me started on the state of the house. It’s okay, I think. I mean, it would be more conducive to just about everything and everyone to be more solid, but who’s really hurt by a few tears here and there?

If you’re familiar at all with the world of cry-it-out (CIO—acronyms—lord!—another new mom thing I can’t wrap my head around), you’re probably familiar with tension releasers and tension increasers. I’m not sure which way crying serves me. I’m pretty sure I’m always tense these days, though.

*Bad pun realized after the fact.

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