And feel his feels he does. When I was pregnant, in one of the breastfeeding guides I read, they said that my baby would give me subtle hunger cues when he wanted to nurse. That I better pay attention, because these clues would be subtle. Well, mere hours after his birth, I realized my baby is anything but subtle. His hunger clues include loudly honking and rooting furiously for his next meal. He makes it pretty obvious that he’s not just hungry… He’s starving! If I’m slow to unhook my nursing bra, the crying will begin.
Oh, the crying. The crying! I know that babies cry. But my baby cries so quickly and so furiously that at six weeks old, I took him to the pediatrician just to make sure he was ok. Colic, they said. He has colic. Colic is a term that will forever drive parents completely crazy. If you research colic, you quickly find out it’s a catch-all diagnosis for “We haven’t a clue what’s making your baby cry. But physically, he’s just fine. He just cries a lot. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’ll stop in a few months.” We tried every trick in the book to cure Sammy of his colic. Swaddle blankets and white noise machines were brought in. I started a crazy diet in attempts to make my breastmilk more digestible. I obsessively tracked every sleep, feed, and poop on an iPhone app. We’ve found ourselves camping out on the bathroom floor, in the dark, rocking our little newborn for hours, because the only thing that will soothe him is the bathroom exhaust fan. We’ve felt lost and desperate, trying to help our poor crying baby. We thought that if we just tried hard enough, we would find the answer, the one thing that would help him stop crying so much.
Well, my friends, it’s three weeks later and I can’t say that my baby is crying any less yet. He still cries every evening, and often times nothing we do will console him. But something has changed, alright. I have. And my husband has. We realized that there really, truly is nothing wrong with our baby. We don’t believe that he is in pain from gas or digestive issues (while this may the case for other babies, our little one doesn’t appear to have an upset tummy, he usually giggles when he farts) . Our baby, we believe, is just highly sensitive. He cries because he’s a newborn baby with an immature brain… He’s just barely left the womb and now he’s trying to process all of the new sensations he’s feeling. He cries because he is telling us that he is here. He cries because it’s the only way he can communicate with us, and he desperately wants us to know that he has something to say.
So we listen. We make him as comfortable as we can. We hold him close. (In fact, for most of the day I find myself wearing my little boy in a sling or carrier, since it’s clear to me that he needs to be as close as possible at all times.) We constantly tell him how much we love him, even while he is crying out. We take turns comforting him, and find ourselves laughing at the things that have gotten him to stop crying (spinning in an office chair, singing Opera, doing a bad Adam Sandler impression).
Our baby is sensitive. He isn’t broken. There’s nothing wrong with him crying in our arms if that’s what he needs to do. It took me a few weeks to realize that there will be days when my baby has been fed, changed, and still just needs to have a good cry. And that that’s ok. It still isn’t easy to listen to my baby cry. It breaks my heart. But I realize that as he gets older, in a few more weeks, as his brain develops and he gets used to being outside of the womb, the crying will get less and less frequent. But we will still be there to hold him when he does cry, and he’ll remember that.
There aren’t enough sensitive men in the world. And there are even less parents that have raised little boys to embrace their sensitivity and become sensitive, compassionate men. I was blessed with a little boy who has a lot of feelings inside him. And every day, for the rest of my life, I will be there for my son. To teach him that it’s ok to cry. Mommy and Daddy will be there for you, my sweet boy. It’s ok. Feel your feels.