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Challenge: Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

She just cries harder

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My little girl is just two months old. Fair-skinned, deep blue eyes, and sometimes curly hair that I’m certain is turning a shade of strawberry blonde. She has chubby cheeks and pouty lips, and a birthmark that covers one eyelid almost entirely.

She. Is. Stunning.

I know every inch of her little face. Every crease in her pudgy legs.

I know that when she’s startled by a loud noise, every toe on each foot stands at attention.

She loves her binky and her favorite pastime is watching the ceiling fan spin slowly.

It’s funny how I know all these things about my little girl, yet every time she cries, it feels like a mystery.

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Sometimes she’s just hungry, and sometimes, just tired. But, pretty often, she cries when nothing seems to be wrong.

It starts out normal enough. Subtle whimpers turn to tears. I’ll check the time – maybe she’s hungry a little sooner than usual?

I prepare formula, then lay her in my lap. Cradling her head gently, I bring the bottle to her quivering lips.

She just cries harder.

I begin trying to sooth my little girl with her binky. Maybe if I hold her closer or a little more upright, she’ll snap out of it?

She just cries harder.

I begin gently bouncing her. My legs move her tiny body up and down to the rhythm of my own heartbeat.

She just cries harder.

I see my daughter’s eyes squeezed tightly shut. Her face is beginning to redden and her breathing almost sounds panicked. She scrunches her cheeks and mouth in such a way that with every cry, I swear she’s trying to say, “ouch!” I bounce my legs harder and less rhythmic. I hold her tighter to my chest.

She just cries harder.

I move baby girl from my lap to over the shoulder. I begin gently patting her back. Maybe a different position will help? Maybe all she needs is to burp? I pat gently, moving my hand slowly up and down her back. I pat to the beat of my heart, which is now faster and fluttering.

She just cries harder.

I’m standing up now – using my entire body to bounce not-so-subtley. My beautiful girl’s tiny body is trying to squirm beneath my bear hug, but I’m holding her too close. Maybe she’s in pain? Does her belly hurt? I wonder if I’m holding her too tight. Am I making her feel worse, when I’m supposed to make her feel better?

I sit down, laying her across my lap again. I cradle her head in the crease of my elbow. I take a deep breath.

Let’s start over.

Again, I offer the bottle. I have a gentle, but firm, hold on her wailing body. I’m waiting patiently for her to close her mouth and latch.

She just cries harder.

Feeling a pang of defeat, I stand again and bring my girl to her swing. She continues to cry, using all of what little might she has to arch her back, as if she’s trying to project her screams. Maybe she’s frustrated with me? Maybe she just doesn’t understand why I can’t get it right? I set her in the swing and fasten her buckle.

The mechanical rocking begins and the music plays.

Her crying slows.

And then her breathing.

Her eyes look heavy, so I tuck a soft blanket around her arms and legs. I think, this is it. This is the ticket. I’ve finally gotten it right.

She sways back and forth.

Her eyes blink.

Back and forth.

Her eyes close.

Back and forth.

I turn off the living room light.

Back and forth.

I tiptoe out of the room.

Back and forth.

I stand in the hallway, listening to the soft clicking of the moving swing. A moment or two passes before I realize I’m holding my breath, and I begin walking toward the kitchen.

I sigh with relief. I’ve successfully calmed her! Maybe I’m not sucking at this mom thing after all?

The coffee pot warms. I stand, watching it, as I make a mental checklist of all the household chores I will accomplish in the next hour or so.

I reach for a mug. I choose a coffee pod.

I…

I hear a whimper coming from the next room over. It’s just barely noticeable over the clicking of the swing and the soft lullaby. Maybe she’s just shifting her position? Getting more comfy?

The whimper turns to tears.

My girl is crying again.

It feels like this vicious cycle continues all day: crying, soothing, calming, repeat.

Crying, soothing, calming, repeat…

Until my eyes begin welling up with tears.

At just two months old, my baby girl has the power to make me feel love, joy, and frustration, all at the same time. I’m in constant awe of how much, yet, how little I know about this tiny creature. Her crying is a mystery to me – but I know one day, these hard times will feel like a distant memory.

Until then, I will continue to hold her close while she cries harder. I will probably continue to question my parenting. And, I’ll most likely cry many more times, myself.

I’ll continue to hold her because I am her mama.

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