Let me just say that parenting a toddler and a 2-month-old baby has made me well aware that the struggle is real. So real that my husband and I have gotten into arguments over it. I can't focus on anything else when the baby is throwing a fit, and I swear that my husband doesn't understand why that is. Thankfully now that she's nearing 2 months old, the arguments have somewhat stopped, mainly because I think he's finally gotten the hint. But in the beginning, my colicky baby put a huge strain on my marriage, and my husband and I are still working out how to help each other and the baby. The baby would be in mid-fit when my husband would try to take her from me, offering me what he thought was a much-needed break and a chance for me to actually finish my dinner and get some sleep. I know he was trying to help, but what he didn't understand was that I felt like I physically couldn’t give up the baby. I couldn't exactly gracefully explain why that was, and because I'd just bite back with a sort "I CAN'T!" things would escalate pretty quickly from there.
When the baby gets into her fits, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I'm doing, her screaming and crying is literally the only thing I can focus on. My heart races, I start to feel stressed and anxious, and if I happen to be in the car driving – the palms of my hands grip the steering wheel so tight that I have to actually remember to breathe. Basically, I do everything I can to keep from panicking, and even that sometimes doesn't work. Every now and then I acquiesce and hand her over to my husband when I'm really desperate, but even when he takes her downstairs to give me a second to collect myself before she really freaks out, I still feel the pitch of her shrill screams deep down in my soul.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I cannot find peace until the baby is with me, and I kind of think it's the same for her too.
Even though it sounds like I'm exaggerating or being overly dramatic, I know I'm not. Not just because I have tons of friends with kids who've also expressed the same experiences, but because science happens to back me up on this one. There's been plenty of research to support the theory that mothers are hardwired to respond to their babies' cries. At 2013 study performed by the National Institute of Health Sciences found that women, especially, respond different to baby's cries than men do. After collecting data from 18 adults, both parents and nonparents, researchers in the study found that when the participants listened to infant cries, the brain activity in men and women differed. Interestingly enough, the brain patterns the researchers collected did not differ between parents and nonparents, either. Researchers found that women's brains were more likely to "disengage from the default mode," which meant that they were focused on the baby's crying, while men "tended to remain in default mode."
In those early days when my daughter freaked out, and even now, it's not like I feel I can't give her up because I'm trying to be stubborn and controlling, and I definitely don't think I have the magic touch. It's just that physically, mentally, and emotionally, I cannot find peace until the baby is with me, and I kind of think it's the same for her too.
Sometimes it bothers me that my husband might think I do this because I can't let go of control, but I try to remember that this is all new for him. He missed our first daughter's infancy because he was stationed overseas while I raised her by myself for the first eight months of her life. Even though we got to talk often and I sent him daily pictures, he missed the hard parts. The happy smiling pictures don't tell you about the upset baby crying because she is teething, or growing, or one of the many other million reasons she was fussy that day or didn't sleep at all the night before.
But now, years later, the fact that he was gone for most of our first year of parenthood with our older daughter is still taking its toll on all of us, and it's been most obvious since we brought our new baby home.
As tiring as it was parenting our daughter by myself, I didn't complain to him about it because being there for our daughter was a privilege, one he didn't have because he was off serving our country. But now, years later, the fact that he was gone for most of our first year of parenthood with our older daughter is still taking its toll on all of us, and it's been most obvious since we brought our new baby home.
I think it frustrates him that more often than not that he can't be the one to calm her. We've had some extra challenges with her that we didn't have with our first child, primarily being that she has colic, and I don't think he's used to not being able to help. When he came home from overseas, he jumped right in as a parent, and he really took to it and "caught up" with me. He was, in short, a blessing, and we were in sync right away. But even still, you don't know what you don't know, and you really learn that when you bring home a new baby. This time around, everything is different. Of course I don't hold this against him at all, but it's hard to explain in those frantic moments that I just feel like I physically can't give him the baby and I can't just tune her out, either.
Even though it frustrates us both — me, when he tells me to give him the baby, and him, when I tell him I can't — I am so thankful that he at least offers, because I know that I'm lucky to have such a supportive partner. Eventually, this season will pass. And I think my husband and I will be thrilled when it does.