As the parent of a fussy baby who sounded like he was in the worst pain possible for at least a few hours each day, I was confident he had some type of medical issue.
My husband and I dragged our screaming infant to the pediatrician about once a week for a while…pleading for her to do something to help him. Was she sure babies couldn’t have opiates? Absolutely sure?
I never thought I’d feel angry at my baby but to my horror, I did.
I was alone with him a lot and when he would go on one of his jags, it felt like he was yelling at me specifically. With every “WAAAAAAAAH,” I heard “You are missing what is wrong with me. You aren’t helping me. I don’t feel safe. What you are doing isn’t enough! You are a bad mother.”
It was not Dominic’s fault at all and rationally I knew that. I felt such grief for him…that I couldn’t figure out his baby code…that he had to suffer instead.
There was also exhaustion, anger, fear and confusion. I had an overwhelming amount of murky emotions to trudge through each day in my role as Dominic’s mommy and I never knew when my anger switch would flip.
It seemed that when my frustration, fear or hurt got too intense, it would turn to fury instead, as if that were more appropriate – to be angry at my own helpless child. As you may also have experienced, feeling resentment toward Dominic led to an excruciating form of mommy guilt.
Mommy guilt sucks. It fed into the whole cycle.
You would think I would have gone to a counselor with all this darkness inside me, but I didn’t. I barely mentioned it. It was so wrong, I told myself, to feel anything negative toward this innocent baby. But yet I did.
I thought of hurting him sometimes. I would be holding him and feel my whole body tense up with frustration from his cries. And I would think of throwing him. Obviously I didn’t.
I loved my son more than anything, screaming or not. I still do. My emotional response to his crying was a warning sign that I needed more help than I was getting.
What kept me from getting that help was shame.
I was ashamed of how I felt. I thought maybe someone would decide I wasn’t a fit mother or at least not a good mother. I wondered about this myself. Was I a good mother when I was capable of feeling so angry with my newborn?
Looking back on those first few months, I can say, Yes, I was a good mother. I did the best I could. I didn’t harm my son. I researched on the internet everyday and tried all sorts of techniques, swaddling products and food sources.
I slowly, but surely, began to talk to other parents about how I felt, which was validating. I found out that others before me had thought about harming their baby during a crying spree. It is actually during crying spells that most babies are shaken or harmed by frantic parents pushed passed their limits.
Some things that really helped me to get through this “blue period” of parenthood were:
- Doing research on crying, causes, and calming methods.
- Getting empathy and camaraderie from other parents of fussy babies via The Fussy Baby Site.
- Purchasing The Happiest Baby on the Block program and using the 5 S’s (Praise God! Something that actually worked!)
- Talking with my husband about it. We found that we were both feeling angry with him and were able to help each other when one was sounding a little overwhelmed.
- Focusing on the positives of Dominic’s sensitivity. He has an innate sweetness and tenderness to his character and he just draws people to him when he is happy. He has a beautiful soul and has a lot of passion.
- Getting out of the house with him. It usually distracted him from crying and often he’d fall asleep in the car. Amen to that.
- Singing to him. He would almost always love that- and I will say this confuses me because I am no Janet Jackson. Not even Janis Joplin. I would sing and he would smile at me with such a tenderness like it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. And that would make me smile. It calmed both of us.
- Date night. We had a baby sitter come almost every weekend to spring us so we could go out to a movie/ dinner. It was something we longingly looked ahead to when in the midst of a difficult week. I would highly suggest this to any families who aren’t currently getting out as a couple. Our fussy baby inadvertently fried our nerves like it was his job which often ended up turning us on each other. When we were out together minus the mini, there was time to reconnect and HAVE FUN. It was like vacation.
My intention in this post is to let you know that you are not a bad parent if you are feeling angry with your little one.
It is normal to wish you could trade your baby in for the silent model or to feel resentful at your spouse for leaving you along with him again. It is common to become furious at your baby when the crying won’t stop. You aren’t alone.
And you shouldn’t keep yourself isolated. Keeping all those volatile thoughts inside is the worst thing we can do as parents of challenging babies. It does nothing for the bonding process or the parents/baby as individuals. No one is getting what they need with all that resentment in the way.
Talk to someone about how you are feeling. See a therapist or find a good friend who won’t judge you. I was so surprised how UN-shocked people were when I would tell them how I was REALLY feeling!
A very good mom I know once told me she once fantasized about throwing her colicky son out of his nursery window one sleepless night.
I was so empathetic to that and we actually laughed a little. Thoughts are just that. Thoughts. What counts is that they don’t turn into actions.
Amanda is the owner of Ready or Not – A Baby Planning Service. She is in love with her toddler and her husband and derives much of her writing inspiration from her family experiences. To learn more about Amanda and what she does to help pregnant and new parents, please check out her website at www.readyornotbabyplanning.com.
Photo Credit: m_bartosch