Weeping, Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth: My Story of Surviving a High Crier
It was 4 a.m. and I was on the floor in my living room, sobbing. The rest of my family was asleep, except for me and my 3-month old son. I looked at him, through my veil of tears, and realized I wanted nothing to do with my little baby.
Casen was born December 9, 2004, at 8:49 p.m., after a very fast 80 minute labor. He was 6lbs. 7 oz., with light brown hair and blue eyes; he appeared to be absolutely perfect.… I would like to say this is the text for a joyous birth announcement, but the reality of my story is more akin to a life and death survival guide.
I am a professional woman. I am independent, strong and educated. By all indications, I “should” have been able to handle a baby, especially baby number three, after all, I’d survived the first two with enough desire for another! But this baby was different. This baby cried. Not a little. Not once in a while. Not a sweet little whine. He cried ALL the time. No matter what I did.
Our first few weeks at home were wonderful. I cuddled and kissed my darling little boy, enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our family and tried to figure out what kind of routine we would have when life got back to normal. Little did I know, the new “normal” was not what I had planned.
Journal Entry: “January 9, 2005: Today Casen is one month old. It is hard to believe he is growing up so quickly. He is such a precious little one and I love being able to cuddle with him. He is fussier than my other babies, but I think it is mostly because he likes to be held. My Mom is here staying with us for a week. It is wonderful to have her. Not only is she giving me a much needed break, but she is amazing with the kids. I don’t know what I would do without her….”
Soon, I had to find out what I would do without her, as her visit ended, and still the fussiness continued. We had tried everything we could think of, warm baths, car rides, swaddling, snuggling, bouncing, singing, vacuuming and a variety of indigestion pills for me, just in case something I ate was upsetting his stomach through my breastmilk. Still, nothing worked, and now I was at home, alone, in the middle of January, with no prospect of a holiday or break anytime soon. I was the one in charge so there was no choice but to deal with it.
Casen’s crying started in the morning, shortly after he woke up. He fussed much of the morning, then would fall asleep mid to late morning. When he woke up from his nap, he would be better for a while, a little more playful, and I would always hope that his fussy spell was over for the day. But usually, it got worse as the day went on. By the time my husband, Tolan, came home from work, Casen had been crying for hours straight. I was on the verge of crying myself, and our other little kids were just trying to get some attention from me. Often times, food was burning on the stove while I was trying desperately to get the baby to stop crying before Dad came home. But rarely, if ever, did my tactics work.
After about four weeks of nearly nonstop crying, I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. The minute the crying began in the morning, the previous hours, days and weeks of crying would come back to my mind and I was tense, upset and frustrated. His pediatrician said it may be gas pains or colic. I tried gas drops, colic drops and any other kind of “drops” or solutions that might work, but all to no avail. I took him to lactation specialists, a chiropractor and on multiple trips to his doctor. I wondered if the doctors were missing something, or perhaps worse, if the problem were really me.
Journal Entry: “February 9, 2005: Today Casen is 2 months old. It is hard to believe what I was going through on this day just two months ago. It seems so far away now – almost like a dream. Life has certainly changed since then…3 kids have proved to be a challenge for me. Casen cries much of the time. I feel guilty when I let him scream, but I can’t get anything done if I don’t, and it seems no matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. My nerves are “shot” from his crying after a while, yet at times when he is in my arms, calm and peaceful, he is such a sweetheart. Oh, the joys and struggles of parenthood.”
By this time, I was really starting to become frustrated. I got lectures from people in the store because I couldn’t calm my crying baby. I had suggestions from well-meaning strangers who thought maybe I simply hadn’t tried the right things, and while grocery shopping I even had an off-duty firefighter scold me for putting my baby down in his car seat while he was crying and obviously in pain or in need of something. I went home and bawled. What in the world was wrong with my baby??
I started asking everyone I knew if they had solutions for me…I heard about reflux and liver problems, genetic diseases and uncommon illnesses, but nothing that helped me with Casen. One woman told me he was probably allergic to my breastmilk or the formula, so I should put him on an all carrot juice diet. After consulting with our physician, the carrot juice idea was out, but I did try a series of different, expensive formulas, none of which seemed to have any impact on the crying. The only differences I could see were in our wallets and in my frustration.
For days and weeks on end, I listened to crying all day long, most days for nearly eight hours, usually in a three-hour crying block and a five-hour crying block. No matter what I did, he would not stop crying and I could not get the crying sound out of my head. He was still waking up frequently in the night; I was sleep deprived, exhausted and truly on the brink of sanity.
I didn’t know what depression was really like, but I was beginning to wonder if this was it. I constantly had negative feelings and did not want to listen to one more minute of crying from my baby. For a while, I distanced myself from him, rarely even using his name, calling him “the baby” or “that baby” instead of Casen. I didn’t even want to have a baby anymore and I began to regret that he was born.
Journal Entry: “March 6, 2005: I have struggled so much in the last week, it is hard to put into words. Casen is still fussy, as usual. I just don’t know how to deal with a baby who is crying all the time. I feel terrible because the difficulty I am having with Casen is causing me to resent him. I love him so much, yet I can’t deal with him. I feel guilty even writing the words… but he is a very fussy baby. He is screaming now and sometimes I don’t know if I can stay sane. Trenden and Lindi are feeling the effects, too. All of us have been struggling more with the daily routines of life. I cry everyday and lose my temper just as often. I am having a hard time even being happy…”
In the early hours of a cold March morning, I sat on my floor, crying and trying unsuccessfully to calm the baby. I decided that I was a failure as a mother. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my baby, and I certainly couldn’t fix it. I was so angry at this innocent little baby that, at times, I didn’t even like him anymore. I wanted to get away from the baby and the relentless crying. I was so desperate, I thought I would try anything.
My one saving grace during this time was the small breaks I would get once in a while when a friend or family member would offer to take Casen for a few hours. I began to count down the hours until those moments, and use the memories of those hours as fuel to keep me going until the next break.
I had never before felt so awful about myself or one of my children. I didn’t like myself, my baby or my life. My husband would come home from work and we would talk for hours about what we could do to help me to be happy again, for my happiness was gone. We would toss ideas around, but in the end, I knew none of them would work. My baby, whom I loved so dearly and brought into the world, was causing me so much grief and pain, I couldn’t even function. I began to think I would never be the same again. I had terrible thoughts about leaving my family, just to get away from it all. And though the rational part of me know I didn’t really want anything to happen to my baby, I found myself running through scenarios in my mind where Casen became sick and died, or was given up for adoption. I could never bring myself to tell anyone about these feelings because they were just too horrible. That is how I began to think of myself…as a horrible person who would do anything to escape the crying.
Just when I thought I could not survive one more day, things started to get a little better.
After several months of daily crying, I noticed Casen began to improve. He did not stop crying overnight, but slowly, and surely, his bouts of crying lessened in length and decreased in frequency.
By the end of the summer, Casen was nearly a different child. It was hard to look at him and remember how hard it had really been. But, for five months solid, he cried inconsolably for nearly eight hours a day. By his sixth month, he was crying less and finally, by eight months, he seemed like a normal child.
Only after I had survived Casen’s months of crying did I learn about The Period of PURPLE Crying and find out that my experience was not unusual, that in fact, one in four babies is a high crier and many mothers have felt exactly the way I did. I also learned that infant crying is the number one trigger to shaken baby syndrome and other forms of infant abuse. That night, I prayed and thanked God that during all the frustrating days of crying, no one ever never “lost it” with my baby.
Casen is now a normal, happy, healthy three-year-old boy. Well, if normal means that he thinks he is Spiderman and is somehow able to convince everyone to lift him up so he can climb the walls and shoot his webs, then he is normal. He has no remaining signs or symptoms from his once fussy days. In fact, he is now a big brother to the fourth child in our family.
On April 23, 2007, another little boy, Daven was born into our family. Weighing in at 5lbs. 15 oz., with light brown hair and blue eyes; he seemed absolutely perfect. Daven’s days of crying did come, but they were manageable. Whenever he would get particularly fussy, especially in the evenings, my husband would look at me and say, “It’s OK, Jodi, he is having a PURPLE moment, just put him down in his crib. He will be fine.” Even having a name to call it helped us to communicate with each other about what the baby was going through and what we were experiencing. But, most importantly, understanding the properties of crying, and knowing that the time of high crying was temporary, made those weeks bearable.
I still didn’t like to hear my sweet little baby crying, but this time, I knew he really was going to be just fine, and so was I.