Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Crying It Out
For several weeks now my counselor has been urging me to consider the use of antidepressants. And it's no wonder. Several weeks ago when Eden wouldn't stop crying in the lobby of the doctor's office, I could have walked out of that lobby and left her behind, believing I would never look back. Postpartum depression, unsurprisingly, hit me like a truck. With my history of depression and emotional trauma, anyone could have seen it coming, and the recommendations to medicate myself began even before Eden was born, and have continued.
"No. I'm just going to tough this out. I'm going to cry this out." I feel no sense of shame associated with the use of antidepressants. I'm a believer in their effectiveness. I accept the medical facts which indicate that some people will only have a normal life with the assistance of psychotropic medications. I'm just not convinced I am one of those people.
As the weeks went by, I did cry. I always had the sense to step back from the situation and cry, but I did cry. Sometimes that meant that Eden had to cry too. Sometimes we cried together. Sometimes I cried as she fed contentedly, her primal need having been met and all of her newborn demands satisfied.
I'm certainly not the first mother to feel as I do. I'm certainly not the first mother to wonder if I'm doing anything right at all. "They" say that's how you know you are in fact doing something right, when you're assessing your actions.
The trick then becomes to find a balance that works for you. Every parent wishes that their child never had to cry, experience pain, feel hunger. But that's part of life. When Eden made it to Day 11, when she was born healthy with a long life ahead of her, she was also on track to experience every one of those things.
I recognize my calloused nature as Eden cried herself to sleep in her bassinet today. I've grown weary of her dependence on the swing to fall asleep during naptime and decided today, she was going to cry it out. After rocking her to a light sleep, I placed her in her bassinet for her scheduled nap. Now used to her routine, she'd already shown the signs of being tired and ready for that nap. Having become reliant on the swing to rock her through her naptime, she cried as soon as I set her down, which is when I decided to test the recent bit of information I've read that the average baby her age will cry for 5 to 35 minutes before settling down to sleep. I guess 42 minutes is close enough. I should take pride in her strong-will and determination, really.
"They" also say that a baby's cry is irritating to an adult as nature's way of pushing us to soothe that baby. It makes us want to fix whatever's wrong. Perhaps I lack that instinct, because as Eden cried I was primarily annoyed that I couldn't hear the television.
That is not to say that listening to Eden "cry it out" was easy. I forced myself to stay in the room with her, though I was occupied with other things, knowing if I was going to do this, I must not distance myself too much from the situation. I wondered what kind of damage I might be doing to her infant psyche, how this crying session will manifest itself when she is 13 years old. Maybe now she'll be a sociopath. I questioned what kind of mother straightens her hair and watches "Devious Maids" while her 2-month old baby cries. I almost caved. I have caved in these situations before. I see nothing wrong with caving, and being that mother who picks her child up and soothes her after a given amount of time, or even with the mother who holds her child for the duration of her nap. I just don't want to be that mother. I want to be the mother who loves her baby enough to let her cry, because sometimes she's just gonna have to cry. That's life.
In less than three weeks I have to return to work, and I won't be there to hold her through her naps. I don't want to go - I have to go. I simply can't hold her for the rest of my life, as much as I might want to.
There will be times when I won't be able to soothe the hurt or fix the wrong. There will be times when all I have to offer is an embrace, a fruitless remedy done only for comfort. There will be times when I won't even be able to give her that much. I would love to create a world where Eden never has to hurt. I just can't.
When Eden woke for her scheduled feeding with a whimper I took my time to respond to her as I finished preparing her bottle in the next room. When I leaned over her bassinet she appeared relieved to see me, and I was relieved by her relief. I thought she might be mad at me. She looked into my eyes as she drank her bottle, and continued looking at me even when I took the empty bottle away. She sat on my lap and cuddled with me for the duration of the hour, observing her microworld in the living room from the security of my arms, leaning against me knowing that I was there, even if she couldn't see me. That's what I want for her. I want her to be able to lean on me, even as she grows more and more independent. I want her to know I am always there, even when she can't see me. I want her to know that the adage is true: It hurts me more than it hurts her, even when I don't show it. And I will rarely show it. I want her to know that I am doing the best I can, that I've given her all that I can. Sometimes my all means that we both just have to cry it out.