Nothing in life prepared me for the moment when I realized that I could not stop the crying.
Six weeks old and Tessa begins fussing in the late afternoon. All normal. By dinner, fuss morphs into cranky cry and I turn on my best maternal charm. Swaddle. Gently bounce. Walk around the house. I know how to have the happiest baby on the block. After all, this is my second child.
Night falls and cranky cry transforms into inconsolable wail. She’s merely having a bad night. Dim lights. Sing lullabies. Vacuum. Swing. She screams. And screams. And screams. For hours.
Suddenly—finally—sleep. Tomorrow will be better. But it isn’t.
By the time week 9 rolls around, I am having visions of gently placing little Tessa in a basket and setting her afloat in the brook behind our house where I am hopeful that she will fetch up near a loving pack of wild animals who will raise her as their own. I fantasize about this more often than I should.
My pediatrician informs me that she has colic—a meaningless diagnosis to make mothers like me feel not so alone.
I am sad. I fight with my husband. I wish I was working instead of home with a baby who hates the world at night. I wish my maternity leave would start when she is 6 months old and easier to love.
People blame my breast milk. I alter my diet. Eliminate broccoli or tomatoes or dairy. People blame our activity during the day. Overstimulation. All of that eating, sleeping, pooping, and tummy time. My pediatrician swears that one day—just like that—the crying will stop. I don’t believe him.
Week 11 and I explain to my husband that I have to meet the girls for dinner. I need to remember what the real world was like before the crying. I need a drink. He pretends that my plans are no big deal. Later that night, in bed and close to sleep, he whispers, “Please don’t leave me alone with her.”
I consider canceling dinner. Guilt. When I leave the house, she is just getting started. My husband stands in the doorway watching me back out of the driveway. I can see her tiny body bouncing up and down against his shoulder—the ritual of the past 6 weeks.
Hours later when I enter our dark house, I am greeted by glorious silence. Everyone sleeping. I crawl into bed and ask how the night went. Of course I know the answer.
“What?” I ask.
He mumbles again.
“I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
He turns to face me. “She didn’t cry,” he says as quickly as possible in hushed tones.
“Huh? What do you mean she didn’t cry?”
“She didn’t cry. Shhh. Let’s not say it out loud.” He rolls over.
And the crying stopped. Just like that.
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