If you’ve never lived with a crying baby, let me give you a little crash course.
In our house, it started at 4pm and lasted until 2 am. It started with a little whimper, then a fuss, then suddenly our son’s face would crumple and a huge wail would burst from his mouth.
As he quickly reached his first of many crescendos, his face would become a brilliant shade of purple. Once or twice, he even burst a blood vessel on his face. I couldn’t believe so much pain and unhappiness could be etched on such fresh, smooth skin.
And hopeless. When you don’t know how to help and you are desperately sleep deprived, you aren’t at your most resourceful.
The sleep deprivation isn’t just because you get to bed late after trying to lovingly, patiently, gently cope with an inconsolable baby.
Most new babies eat every two hours, so theoretically you could quickly feed the baby, sleep for two hours, feed the baby, sleep, feed the baby…and on it would go.
Sounds tough, huh? If only it were that easy.
The baby wakes up, you change his diaper (and often sleepers if he’s soaked them though), then snuggle down for a nice little meal. If you breastfeed, then it’s about 10 minutes a side, with a pat and burp halfway through. And if you aren’t patient enough to wait for that burp, the entire dinner gets barfed back up and you have a hungry baby and empty breasts.
But let’s say all goes well. You’ve now spend 30 minutes on feeding, with only 90 minutes until the next feeding. But baby is wide awake, so you spend a little time in the rocking chair or walking the floor or singing the only lullaby you can bring to mind. Or in my case, a Joe Cocker song, but I digress.
You go to lay your precious little bundle back in the crib only to discover that the sheets are soaked too. Laying the little fella down on his quilt on the floor, you quickly whip of f the fitted sheet, expertly tuck in a new one, and ease baby back to bed. One hour later you creep back to bed, via the washroom for a quick pee.
One hour later, it starts again.
Please be reminded that sleep deprivation is illegal under the Geneva Convention. Then there is the special torture inflicted upon parents who have crying babies.
We tried everything. Walking endless circles around our townhouse. Rocking for hours in a creaky old rocking chair. Rocking for hours in a new glider chair. Nursing. Not nursing. Soothers. Driving up and down the mountain where we lived by the university. Getting stopped by the police who thought we were casing people’s houses at 1am. Putting our son in his car seat on top of the clothes dryer while it was running. Putting him to sleep in a baby swing—that one worked until the swing wound down, then the screaming started again.
Oh yes, and all the remedies. Gripe water and such.
And as frustrated, as exhausted and as depleted as I was, I felt so terrible that my beautiful little boy was so miserable. Luckily, I had wonderful friends who supported me, walked him for hours under the streetlights so I could sleep in the evening,
My beautiful, but purple, baby.
Not everyone has that kind of support. Not everyone has emotional resources. Maybe the mom has postpartum depression, or both parents are teenagers. Maybe you didn’t even want a kid.
Maybe one day you snap.
You shake that inconsolable little creature and beg her to stop crying. You just don’t know how you can do it anymore. You want your life to change.
And in that split second, your life does indeed change. Now you have a baby with an irreversible brain injury.
Shaken baby syndrome. It sounds so easy to prevent, but in that moment of passion and exhaustion, some people just don’t know to walk away. They don’t know where to turn.
In British Columbia, where I live, the provincial Children’s Hospital is reaching out with an awareness campaign that reaches its purple crescendo on November 15th, Canada’s National Child Campaign.
They are asking people to knit or crochet soft little purple hats for newborns to be distributed at BC’s maternity wards to raise awareness of PURPLE Crying and shaken baby syndrome. It’ll be an easy entrance to education new parents about the normalcy of infant crying, and how to cope with it.
I’ll be whipping up some purple caps myself, and I think I’ll attach a little note of love to each one. It’ll say something like, “If your baby cries, that’s okay. It’s a big scary world and he or she is just getting used to it. He’ll get over it and so will you. Love from a mom who’s been there.”
If you’re on Facebook, then join their Facebook group and share the information with your friends. Encourage them to knit a few caps over the summer months.
PURPLE caps should be mailed by Nov 5, 2010 to:
BC Children’s Hospital:
c/o Claire Yambao
Provincial Program Coordinator, Prevent SBS BC
BC Children’s Hospital
4480 Oak Street, K1-209
Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4
“Crying Baby” courtesy of green health children
“Purple hats for purple babies” Courtesy of PurpleCrying.info