you probably know this, but babies cry. they don’t just cry. they cry like the universe is ending and our life is actually a total farce. elijah barely cried at all during the first couple of days, while we were still in hospital. paul and i were saying to each other, ‘hey, our baby doesn’t cry!’. needless to say, we were fooling ourselves. he started crying hard in our car driving home from the hospital. his face was so red that i thought he was feeling pain or something. it was probably him feeling something different in the air that would tell him he was no longer in the womb. it must have been pretty shocking — i thought he’d blow out the windows. i’m pretty sure his crying voice reached the top of mount everest.
when he was hungry, he wouldn’t cry too hard and his crying would cease when i fed him. but as the night fell and he got tired, he would cry harder and harder. building from loud crying up to ‘i can’t believe anyone is capable of crying this hard’ crying. paul used to say it was like a gear shift; 1st gear: mild conversational crying, up to 5th gear: unbelievable death-metal crying. i was thinking it was more like 28th gear. i used to visualize being blown away by the sound of his screaming and floating in the soundless universe.
he would start crying around 8pm. he was very punctual – true yamato spirit. paul and i used to joke around by counting down to 8pm and bang! he would start crying. it wasn’t that precise but close enough. we looked for an on/off switch or a volume dial in his body, but we couldn’t find anything like that. i guess babies in canada don’t come with such features. so we did our best to calm him down and make him comfortable by rocking and walking and cuddling etc. some people said he was colicky, but i think he was just sensitive and punctual. after pondering why he was crying that hard, paul and i came to think that he needed to get his extra energy out to help himself fall asleep.
it must have been hard for him to get used to a different situation – from the womb to the outside world. as an experiment, i sank my body in a warm bath and got out from it and saw how it would feel. it felt very cold and alone since there was nothing wrapping me anymore. maybe that’s how he felt too.
once he fell asleep, he usually didn’t cry hard in the middle of night, only when he wanted to be fed (every 2 to 3 hours). but suddenly, when he was four months old, he started crying all day and all night. his first tooth was coming in. no wonder he was putting his fingers or whole fist in his tiny mouth a lot. it must have been very painful and uncomfortable. after a few days, he settled down back to his usual pattern.
the magical day came at the beginning of the fifth month, in november. he just stopped crying that — cold turkey. he was like a different person. he still cries when he can’t get what he wants, but now he doesn’t just cry and cry for no reason. nowadays, when he cries, he sounds angry, not helpless.
to be honest, it has been pretty hard to get used his crying voice and to have to deal with all of the things he wants every single day. i didn’t want to get too stressed out because i didn’t want elijah to get a negative feeling. so i’ve had to find a way to go through this period somewhat positively.
- i used to ask elijah to cry even harder. since it’s an endurance game in a way, if i tried to stop him from crying, it would just accelerate my stress level because sometimes he just didn’t stop crying. so i said to him, ‘go ahead and cry. i know it’s a tough life. it’s okay to cry’. he would go ahead to cry even harder, but wish granted, i didn’t feel as bad as before.
- paul would pretend to cry even harder than elijah could. elijah realized he was not the only one who was crying – no prince treatment. he seemed shocked by it – rival!
- i would use his crying time for my exercise hour. since i had to rock and walk him for awhile, i might as well use the time for my own sake. i would work on my legs by doing squats. the longer he cried, the better. i got some exercise done – hurrah!
- teamwork. when i thought i couldn’t handle it, i gave elijah to paul and got the hell out of the room and be alone. paul was working long hours so this chance didn’t come very often, but even a few minutes of alone time refreshed me a lot and felt energized to go back to take care of him.
equipment and technique:
- hot sling. i used this a lot when elijah was very tiny. it wrapped him as if he was in the womb. he looked comfortable and right down to sleep. he outgrown this very quickly. i probably used it for a few months only.
- baby bjorn. this was useful since paul was able to put it on too. very comfortable. shoulder supports let us carry him without much pain. i used it to go for a walk everyday. he would stop crying once he was outside — once again, uchi-soto yamato spirit! and also we used it whenever we took him with us to buy groceries.
- bouncing ball. i have a big white exercise ball that i bought for decorative purposes. turns out this was very useful to rock elijah as i was able to rest my arms on my lap.
- swing. we should have bought one earlier — we got it just a month before he learned to sit up and pull himself out of it. elijah seemed to like being rocked to sleep — he had a few afternoon naps with this.
- making white noise by saying gentle and rhythmic ‘shhhhh’ sound in his ear. this was maybe the best trick. it always helped him calm down. but now that he’s older, if i try this he just cries harder.
if you are new parents and going through this tough period, hang in there. it’s tough, but this period won’t last forever. soon, you’ll be seeing happy baby smiles all around. ganbatte kudasai!