It had been a hard day. I had been at home with my two daughters. My two-year-old, who was home from preschool sick, and my 4-month-infant. I had played with play-dough and colored outside with chalk to keep the toddler entertained. I had baby-worn my littlest while my oldest played in the yard. We swung on the swing, we sang songs, I changed countless diapers, and chased my two-year-old around with an ear thermometer. I made chicken noodle soup for dinner from scratch. I managed (with a baby strapped to my body) to get my oldest into her crib at bedtime with no meltdowns. As I sat in my living room playing with my baby (she would go to bed shortly), I took a deep breath. I had not slept for continuous hours at night in literally months, and despite that it had been a pretty successful day, I felt empty and drained. I had changed so many diarrhea diapers, I had Nose Frida-ed out so much nose goop, and I smelled like baby vomit.
As if sensing my moment of weakness and exhaustion, my baby began to cry.
I picked her up. She cried. I changed her diaper and put her in her jammies. She cried. I tried to nurse her—usually my go-to trick for instant pacification—she turned her head away and began to cry even harder, arching her back and flailing her limbs.
I swaddled her tightly and began to rock her, but that seemed to make her more upset.
Desperate times called for desperate measures: I cradled her in my arms and began to run in place – something that usually eventually calms her down. She continued to scream. I ran more vigorously in place, and then began running up and down the small hallway of my apartment. I unswaddled her, I undressed her, I put her to my skin. She cried hysterically. I took her temperature (it was normal), I massaged her tummy, I bicycled her legs. She cried until she her tiny face was purple. It seemed that she could not be mollified.
In that moment, I felt like my well of patience, which for months seemed never-ending, had suddenly dried up.
I had no idea what to do to calm my baby down. I laid her down carefully in her swing, swaddled and screaming, and took a deep breath. I felt my anxiety rising, as sadness filled my spirit. I was completely at a loss. I sat down a few feet away from her and cried. “I don’t know what you need,” I said to her between my sobs and hers.
As she screamed, and with tears running down my cheeks, I Googled: “What to do when you reach your wall with your baby?”
Surprisingly, I didn’t find any results to help me.
The top results were about how to build a wall, what to do if a baby bird is stuck in your wall, and how to hang a dream catcher on a wall in a baby’s room. I found one mom-blog article about a mom who got a little frustrated with her not-sleeping baby, but the writer-mom had concluded that it was such a gift to be with the baby that the struggle really wasn’t that unpleasant at all. None of these resonated. I was searching the internet for some strand of hope, some feeling of camaraderie that could pull me up and out of my despair. But, in the echo chamber of the internet where you can usually find anything you ever want to hear, I found nothing. I cried even harder.
What I wanted to find when I Googled “What to do when you reach your wall with your baby?” was someone to say something like this:
Mama, I hear you. Mama, I have been in your shoes and I understand. You are doing the best you can. Is your crying baby safe? Are all her needs met to the best of your knowledge? Is she healthy (as in, not suffering from some kind of sickness, illness, cold, etc.) If you answered YES to all of these questions, then I am telling you this: step away. Go into your bathroom for a few minutes. Close the door if you need to. (She is safe, right? It’s okay to step away.) Splash water on your face. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing the best you can. You are okay. Your baby is okay.
Or, I would tell that mama to go into the kitchen for a few minutes and eat some ice cream or drink a glass of wine. Call a friend, call your mom, or heck – call me. Step outside and take three deep breaths. Feel the air fill your lungs, feel the sun (or the moon) on your face, and tell yourself that you are doing your best.
Mama, you know this: babies cry. That is how they let off stress and communicate. Take a break for yourself for a few minutes. Turn on an old Britney Spears song on Spotify (I prefer an oldie like “Crazy,” because it seems apt to my baby at that moment… “You drive me crazy, I just can’t sleep… you drive me crazy, but it feels alright. Baby thinkin’ of you keeps me up all night.”), turn up the volume and just dance like a fool. Fill your heart with music, or your tummy with ice cream, or your eyes with tears. It’s all okay. Let it out. Then, when you are done, go back in there and try again to soothe your baby. You can do it.
So, to the search engine-gods of Google, please find these words with your sophisticated SEO: “What do I do when I reach my wall with my baby?” Please share these words across Google and optimize them. Please move these words to the top of a search when a mama (or dad, or nanny, or caretaker) reaches her wall. Get these words to her. Help her find strength in these words.