This is what I felt when I would hold my baby girl.
When I would finally get her down for a nap or bed I would have to wait for twenty minutes to put her in her crib or she would bolt awake crying. Then the times where she would wake up after twenty minutes regardless became more and more common. Soon I was getting her down for a nap and just letting her sleep the twenty minutes on me while I watched her older brother from the rocking chair. Let's just say he ate a lot of fishy crackers, watched a lot more tv and got away with a bit more than I would have liked. But I was desperate for her to sleep, to relax, to heal what could ail her, to grow. I was her nap-time hostage, she had to be held the whole time.
Then it converted to days and nights when she wouldn't sleep at all, even if she was being held the whole time. She would be wailing and squirming through a tense body and furrowed brow. Many times I would be just praying and crying along with her. I would obsess over every detail, every nuance. All the while asking myself if she just needed some tough love or if there was really something wrong with her. My mind was a whirlwind of doubt and analysis on what could be bothering her and how to fix it. I didn't want to 'label' her as colicky, fussy, refluxy - worried she would grow into this label. Doctors didn't seem to quick to label it either, optimistic that she would 'grow out of it'. I felt a strong message to just 'hang in there' til she gets a bit older.
|The first time she let me simply rock her to sleep. You can see her pout, she wasn't happy about it.|
After a few visits to the doctor I was able to see a pediatrician who recommended Zantac for gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). This medication only seemed to worsen it so we took her off after a week.
Needless to say this takes a toll on a whole family. If I as the mom, with the breastfeeding abilities, felt helpless you could imagine how the dad felt. Don't get me wrong, he tried to share the load all he could but there was another kid who needed our time and attention, a house to run, life had to keep going on following some sense of normalcy. Much of her care would default to me and I just accepted that.
|We are funner than we look (except when we aren't)|
Eventually I would go to bed dreading the mornings. I knew I would be met by a day of a straining, unhappy baby and feeling incapable as a mother. It was like a consistent droning rather than a blast of fog horn - but it wears your down. There were days were I would say to God at the end of the night, 'I can't take one more day - this has to be the end of it - I can't go on like this'. I wanted to just put her in her crib and walk out the door, not to run away, just more of a physical statement of my sheer exhaustion, fading hope and utter helplessness. These are the days were only God supplied patience, humility, energy, determination, love and compassion that was draining out of me like sand in a sink hole. Only grace could fill in that growing emptiness in my heart that I couldn't on my own.
After the GERD diagnosis didn't seem to fit, it was back to the doctor again. The doctor started throwing around the terms 'esophagitis', 'endoscope', 'referral to the children's hospital'. The thought of having a tube put down her throat just made me shut down, not to mention an esophagus biopsy. I was nervous that it would be an invasive test with inconclusive results and I wanted to buy time to find some other options.
In the meantime I became a night-nursing expert in esophagitis and was reading more and more that it can be related to food sensitivities (eosinophillic esophagitis). I decided to cut dairy and gluten out of my diet, at least for three weeks to see if it would help. Well three weeks was more than enough time to see positive changes in her (I have also noticed I have to avoid bananas and tomatos as well). I also consulted with a naturopath who subscribed probiotics, colostrum and a homeopathic treatment - which would help to heal the damage to her digestive system and esophagus.
Everything shifted. She was suddenly nursing with voluntary ease. She started to be happier throughout the day. I was so relieved, not just that she was getting better but to have that peace of mind that I wasn't a crazy mom - that something WAS causing her discomfort. I was also relieved that I always stepped back in and tried to soothe her when I thought it was time to try some tough love. I was relieved I followed my instincts and that they were correct.
To finally feel that she wasn't in pain was also the confidence I needed to start pushing her in sleep training. Now I was getting to a point where I could have a life back. I wasn't listening to a crying baby all day. I wasn't held hostage on the couch for each nap. I could put my baby and toddler to bed at the end of the night and they would stay asleep. I wouldn't be embarrassed when company was over or have to leave public settings because she was shrieking non-stop. I finally had an answer, a new diet regime and a daily schedule that is a little onerous, but it works and that's all that matters.
It's been a long haul with my baby girl. Nine months later her cries trigger an autopilot response in me. An involuntary tension in my gut spurring me to stop the crying, a dread that she is reverting back. I go into analysis mode - What could be bugging her? What did I eat? What did she eat? How can I fix this? Fix it, just fix it. It's hard to respond and not react. I am working on being more conscious of this as this anxiety (has) can spill into ever other facet of my health, my home and family.
Being my daughter's mom has been one of the most difficult and humbling experiences of my life. It has amplified issues I deal with personally as well as in our marriage. She has rocked our world, but it has also been a blessing that these issues have come into the light where we can acknowledge them and begin working on them. I want to find contentment even when things are hard. I want to fill my heart and home with peace even when I have no idea what is going on or how to fix it. Turns out this makes a pretty pin, but its damn difficult!