My ease into motherhood this time is linked to my comfort level with crying. Getting comfortable with crying- the phrase sounds counterintuitive. Yet, it is a significant part of our lives as parents, listening to crying, and one thing I have found is we can calm it, but not by pass it all together.
We are wired to respond to our baby’s cries; crying ensures we care for their needs. Our babies cry to say “I’m hungry”, “hold me”, “I need a diaper change”, but also “I don’t like this”, “Everything is so new”, “This is hard”. I have also observed my babies cry simply to let off steam, or as my 3 year-old reminds me often if I ask her why she is upset: “There’s no why’s to it!”. Babies, toddlers, and kids cry. Mamas cry. Papa’s do, too. It is a part of our human expression, and remember: babies are adjusting to the newness of the human experience. We can help them adjust by accepting. We help older siblings adjust when we accept their cries and feelings of this enormous transition. And we help ourselves when we allow our own feelings to flow. This one is big, because whether we are first time Mamas or fifth time Mamas, there are bound to be tears of adjustment, hard days, and thin, thready emotions.
I don’t think it is healthy for us to numb out to cries or to stop it at all cost. I understand the desire to make it stop - I live with a few highly emotionally beings, myself included. In order to truly process, we have to feel heard. Isn’t that what we learn about healthy communication as adults? Our babies want that, too.
With my first baby, I stopped the cries at all cost. I nursed constantly, for all discomforts. I sang and shushed and stayed up all night bouncing or nursing some more. I felt I was responding to his cries in the most heartfelt way I could. I loved my baby and didn’t want him to have a second of unnecessary suffering.
A few things happened:
1.) Everyone around me saw a happy baby while I felt the enormous weight of having to keep him smiling and silent.
2.) I didn’t help him develop emotional regulation skills beyond nursing, so when our nursing relationship ended, and I could no longer solve all the problems as he grew in toddlerhood …
3.) He had a lot of crying to get out. And I had a lot of learning to do to teach us both how to calm our emotions. There are no free passes to emotional intelligence.
So, I’m learning we can listen. We can comfort if that is what our child needs. We can check to make sure all needs are met. We can say “I hear you. This sounds so hard for you. It is hard for me, too” and mean it, and I truly believe they understand that. In this way, our children receive valuable information from the beginning: “All feelings are allowed here.” As parents, we begin to help without rescuing. I am not an expert, but I am always learning.
More information about understanding our baby’s cries and helping ourselves calm down so that we can help our babies calm down can be found here. Janet Lansbury's site is full of ways to whole-heartedly support ourselves and our children in the parent-child journey.
Read PART 1 of How my 3rd time's a charm & your 1st time can be