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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Being Prepared for Stomach-turning Situations

21.  Not being mentally prepared for stomach-turning situations. As I mentioned last time, flu ravaged our house early in the season. Actually, no—the stomach “flu” isn’t actually the flu, I read, but rather some gastrointestinal virus that makes a mess of pretty much everything. In this instance, hardcore symptoms lasted about 36 hours per individual, the first being me, and the second poor little Eloise. I suppose where I went wrong was skimming through the parts in baby books that discussed what to do in the event of an illness. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Eloise was immune to illness, but I figured that it would be easy enough to sort out when she did finally succumb to the world of germs. And I guess I presumed her first illness would involve sniffles or some coughing—not projectile vomiting over my shoulder about twelve times in the space between breakfast and her afternoon nap.

I don’t know that I would’ve been any less startled had I read up on infants and stomach viruses, but I may have felt a little less desperate as I waited for the pediatric nurse to return my call. (She was supposed to get back within an hour, and don’t think I wasn’t back on the horn when her call was two minutes overdue.) Also, unless you frequent a pediatric unit with five patients, it’s likely you’ll get the quickie treatment that I received: “Yeah, you’ll need to do this for five minutes, and then after three minutes . . . and then you might want to . . .” WHAT? “Please repeat, for I think I have vomit in my ear canal.” Those nurses field such calls so frequently in one day, one can understand their hurry; but perhaps they forget new motherhood and how it feels as though every little decision you make just might harm your child for all eternity. My kid has struggled with sleep for much of her baby life, and all of a sudden she decided to sack out, without her little sleep bag, on the living room floor. I thought she was done for.

So, this is why I suggest reading the chapters on stomach bugs and, now that we’re amid ever-mutating flu strain season, the flu chapter as well.* Although I had instruction from the nurse and help from other mother friends, I don’t think I followed every step exactly; however, somewhere deep down my mothering instincts kicked in (perhaps for the first time ever), and we made it out of the illness unscathed. Not my clothes, though. I went through four shirts before I opted to throw a bath towel over my shoulder. And that wasn’t even my idea; it was my husband’s.

*Make sure you have your Pedialyte on hand, too. No one wants to risk vomit in the car. Ew.

Illin’

20.  Getting sick. Getting sick and taking care of a crazy kid? Being sick and then taking care of a loopy sick kid? Still not feeling up to par, taking care of a mending, but rather irritated kid, and trying not to feel slighted by the universe when your husband becomes sick? The answer is yes, all of these things suck. Get a shot, or whatever will remedy all sickness. It’s horrible.

On Revealing Cluelessness to Others

19.  Being openly clueless in front of other mothers/parents. (I have a feeling this will have multiple sub-entries.) The other night, I went to visit an old pal whose new little lady is a mere two weeks old. I was with it enough to sanitize myself upon entry into her home, but for some reason, I was reluctant to hold my friend’s tiny bundle of joy in the presence of her, her husband, and her sister, as if I’d never held a new baby before. In fact, I was never actually comfortable holding Eloise when she was a newborn. Never felt as though I was doing it quite right (which might explain my horribly wrinkled left arm). Anyhow, that was Ms. Missteps is More Clueless as a Mother Than We Thought, Exhibit A. Exhibit B went as follows:

[Pal, Pal’s husband, Pal’s sister and Ms. Missteps exit newborn’s nursery.]

Ms. Missteps: Oh, it’s just so wonderful. You guys did a really great job.

Pal: Thank you!

[Ms. Missteps examines the mini camping tent-like structure sitting near the door.]

Ms. Missteps: Oh! That’s cute. Little Sara will love that! How fun.

[The three other adults look at each other and then at me.]

Pal: That’s for the cat.

Ms. Missteps: Oh.

To be continued . . .

At the Playground

18.  Allowing myself to get freaked out by dirty children who want to touch my infant. I know children get dirty; and somewhere deep inside, I know Eloise will, one day, run amuck with dirt on her knees and heaven knows what in her hair. (Actually, maybe not. My husband has a similar fear of child filth.) But really—I know kids must be kids and, more importantly, should be allowed to be kids, even if that means scampering about like a dirty hippy. In fact, in the last couple months, I’ve become heartened by the fact that Eloise really seems to love sitting in grass, playing in leaves, and digging tiny ditches like a wee squirrel. I try to embrace her admiration for the outdoors by plopping her down on the lawn whenever I can, even though I’m not so partial to what lurks beneath. No need to project my nonsensical scaredy-cat-ness.

I’m really trying my best not to project my fear of dirty children onto Eloise. I want her to enjoy other children at the park, rather than have her say, “Ew, you’re gross” when she begins talking. Today was difficult. We were settled on our blanket at said park—Eloise was both enjoying the blanket and off-roading at her leisure—when two little blonde girls came up to play a clumsy variation of catch. Blonde Girl B’s nanny was ready to pack up and go; however, Blonde Girl B wasn’t into that idea. Instead, she came over and sat on our blanket. Now, before I say this, I know I’m ridiculous, so no need comment about how terrible I am. But all I could think was, Hello, little blonde girl. You’re very adorable, but just because we were looking at you does not mean we want you to sit on our blanket. Where the hell is your nanny? Oh nanny, blanket encroachment over here! And then Blonde Girl B calls over to Blonde Girl A, “Come sit on the blanket!” I was saved, though, because thanks to the short attention spans of 3-year-olds, Blonde Girl B decided she wanted to do a cartwheel about .5 seconds later. But then Blonde Girl A ended up coming over, sat on the blanket, and hollered to her mother, “Look at this cute baby!” and started touching Eloise’s hand and face with her little paws. “The baby might want some alone time with her mommy,” the mom hollered back. Smiling through my trauma, I replied, “Oh no, it’s okay, haha [but perhaps you might want to shovel all that dirt from beneath your child’s fingernails].”

As I write, I feel both amused and ashamed. Admittedly, I just haven’t been out there (there meaning the world of playgroups and playgrounds and parks and places where kids congregate and [gasp!] interact) enough to get used to the fact that tykes will play and hold hands and share germs. And admittedly, as soon as that mother and her little one were out of sight, I wiped Eloise down with an antibacterial wipe, which I use only in such emergencies.

PS: If the mother of the touchy-feely little girl ever happens upon this, and it sounds vaguely familiar, please accept my sincere apology. I know I’m mean. I’m working on it. Your child really is cute, and she’ll surely be a friend to all.

The Scream

17.  Not knowing how to make bad things stop. Like screaming. Eloise screams with joy, screams with sorrow. She screams when I’m not looking at her and when she wants a bite of my cereal. She screams really, really loud. Please, forces, provide me with the know-how to rectify this situation.* I don’t want a hearing aid before I’m 35.

*I have read here and there that to ignore/not respond to the screaming is the best solution. I’m not sure (not that I know the actual solution). From afar, it seems as though parents who embrace this tactic have the kids who fling rice and beans at you while you’re getting your salsa at the local Mexican joint or who “harmlessly” attempt to maim their mother while you try to converse with her in the bread aisle at the grocery store.

The Woes of a Mother

16.  Worrying too much, part one of infinity. This morning, when I handed Eloise her personal spoon to fidget with during breakfast, she began trying with an impressive amount of eagerness to hold the spoon handle with her toes. This went on for pretty much the entire length of the feeding. When she was six months old, she fed herself smashed banana with a spoon as though she’d been doing it for years. Now, at ten months, she’s gone primate. Should I worry? She’s also quite fond of clapping and banging plastic objects together to create inventive rhythms. Just yesterday, she decided to include her head in the mix, banging the plastic objects against her little melon. I’m trying not to worry.