This week's post comes to us from Cindy Dwyer at "A Reason to Write". When I happened upon Cindy's site, I immediately liked her - quite possibly because we have so much in common. We are both of Irish/Italian descent, both possess business degrees, and both find expression through the written word a necessary creative outlet. The only difference seems to be the fact that Cindy hails from Connecticut while I hail from good ole Missouri. (In all honesty, I'm kind of envious of Cindy's geographic location. I have always pictured New Englanders as highly intellectual persons who sit before the fire reading classic literature or sophisticated periodicals like The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. The women wear black turtlenecks and slacks while the men wear jeans and a corduroy sport coat with suede patches on the elbows. They engage in highly intelligent conversation and debate the qualities of a good brandy. Ah, yes, the good life, don't you think? Anyway, back to my guest....) Cindy possesses a sharp mind and a quick wit - both qualities I highly value in a fellow writer. And if you don't believe me, take a gander at some of the award-winning essays she has written, but make sure you read this post, first! Then, head over to her site and peruse her other pieces. I promise you will be entertained!
By Cindy Dwyer
|Babies conveniently fit right in the crook of a mother's arm|
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If nature were kind, it would bestow upon each new mother…an extra arm. This wouldn’t have to be a permanent appendage, perhaps it could fall off around the same time her child’s baby teeth do.
No matter how strong a woman – or her support structure – there will be days when those little bundles of joy overwhelm her. I survived my share.
Despite what “they” always say, I couldn’t decipher the meaning of my newborn son’s cries for quite a while. Neither could my husband, although he would never admit it. Since I was nursing, Rick’s canned solution to any cry lasting more than a few minutes was to sniff Alec’s bottom, declare it odor free, hand the baby to me and say, “Here, stick a nipple in it.”
But sometimes, being a human pacifier wasn’t enough to stop Alec’s cries. When all else failed, I began to heed wisdom from the old maternal threat “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Before I had kids, I hated that expression. It wasn’t loving or tender, certainly I would never treat my children with such disdain, I always thought. But after the birth of my son, I finally understood.
He would cry. I would try to feed him. He would cry some more. I would change him and rock him. He would still cry. I would sing to him. Maybe once in a while I made up snarky songs about little boys who didn’t stop crying, but I sang them to familiar nursery-rhyme tunes, so he never knew the difference. He would just cry.
One day I was beside myself, dangling at the end of my rope. It was so hard to remain patient and loving, especially on so little sleep. I began to pretend there was someone else in the room helping me with the baby. “Let me calm him down, and then you can hold him for a while,” I’d say to my imaginary friend.
While that helped me calm down and not feel so alone, I worried I was losing my mind.
On this particular day, I was so desperate I called my neighbor, knowing if he were around, he would help me with the baby for a few minutes. And that was all I really needed. If I could just sit down for ten minutes and have a nice hot cup of tea, I could deal with a few more hours of crying until Rick got home from work. But there was no answer at my neighbor’s house.
Even left to my own devices, I knew my agitation was feeding Alec’s. We had created a painful little pattern, and there was no one around to help break the cycle. In tears, I paced with Alec in my arms, holding him extra gently to compensate for my erratic strides across the room. I begged him, “Please tell me what you want. I fed you, changed you, and rocked you. There is nothing you could possibly have to cry about.”
If he was crying for no reason at all, how was I supposed to fix the problem?
And that’s when it hit me. If he cried for no reason, all I needed to do was to give him something to cry about that I could fix.
Suddenly, hope appeared out of the gloom. I lit the teakettle and with a lighter step, I walked into Alec’s room. I gently placed him in his crib, his least favorite place to be. But he’d be safe there, and certainly no less happy than he already was. I added a couple soft toys and a book, talking to him softly about each one as I placed it next to him in his crib. “And here’s Pooh!” I exclaimed with the same excited enthusiasm a game show host might use.
Alec snatched his beloved Pooh from my hand and tossed it to the floor. I placed Pooh in the crib again. When Alec flung Pooh back out, I left the stuffed toy where it fell. Steeling myself against his pathetic cries and out-stretched arms, I turned and left the room.
I poured a hot cup of tea and sat down on the sofa. Now, at last, Alec had something legitimate to cry about – being alone in his crib. And, more importantly, it was something I could fix – right after I finished my cup of tea.
Actually, I only made it halfway through the cup before I went in and got him. This time I was able to recognize the change in his cry. It had shifted from the “I’m going to bawl and there’s nothing you can do about it!” cry, to the “Hey, why am I stuck in this stupid crib if I’m not sleeping?” cry.
As soon as I picked him up, Alec calmed down and hugged me close. I had fixed the problem.
So the next time you’re alone with a baby who won’t stop crying, and your patience has run out, go ahead and give that child something to cry about that you can fix, because that extra arm? Well, you know that’s never really going to happen, right?
Cindy Dwyer is currently seeking representation for her manuscript My Roots Are Showing. These narrative nonfiction humor essays explore the quirks of her family and portray her acceptance of the fact that she is turning into her parents. The only thing left to do is to prepare her husband for the inevitable.
How about you - what is something you wish Nature would have (temporarily) gifted you with when you first became a mom? Have you ever "accidentally" found a solution to a tough mothering problem? Let us know in the comments section below!
If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact me at dhsticklen(at)gmail(dot)com. I look forward to reading and sharing your stories!