I got an email from a very kind woman asking me to write a post on Shaken Baby Syndrome and I thought it was a great idea.
Not that Shaken Baby Syndrome really needs awareness, I mean, we all know you shouldn't shake babies, but what I did want to raise awareness about is that you may want to shake your baby. Oh man, you may really want to shake your baby.
I remember before I had my first son, I would see some news headline about some woman that had shaken her newborn and think, "How can you do that? How can you shake that helpless little baby? What a monster". Then I had my son and then I was all, "Oh yeah, I totally see how this happens."
First you hear their little cry at around 4pm and the hairs on the back or your neck stand up and you think, "Shit. It begins." you go in and you pick them up. "There, there." You feed them. Change them. Burp them. Rock them. Drive them around the block. Sing lullabies at the top of your lungs. Plead. Cry. And nothing, NOTHING makes it stop. "Hush, hush little one" quickly turns into "What the hell do you need from me?!?!?!? For the love of Christ, STOP CRYING!!!!".
Well, it turns out that babies have a Period of Purple Crying (I guess Period of Incessant Fucking Crying was already taken). Have you heard of this? No, me neither and that's why I'm writing this because I think I would have had a better time of it had I known that this crying is a normal part of a baby's life and not something that needed fixing.
Turns out this period of sustained crying can happen when a baby is between 2 weeks to 3-4 months and is often mistaken as colic when, in fact, it's just a normal, yet brain numbing, part of a baby's development. Not surprisingly, it is also the most common time for a baby to be shaken and that shit isn't pretty and none of us wants to go there.
So, a Period of Purple Crying campaign has been launched to create awareness about this *trying* time.
They've created a website to fill you in on the details and have also started a Click for Babies knitting campaign to recruit knitters and crocheters across North America to make purple baby caps which will be distributed to parents, along with information on the Period of Purple Crying. (I suppose purple earplugs are a choking hazard.)
Now, you may be reading this in terror thinking, "Oh great, now I have this horror to look forward to", but this isn't meant to frighten you, like my breastfeeding or after birth post, I'm never a fan of hiding the ugly to shelter unsuspecting parents of what *could* happen because if it *does* happen, you don't feel prepared and you feel like you are the only one this is happening to. I have yet to meet a parent that didn't have a witching hour in their house so you are not alone.
Obviously, you want to rule out anything physically wrong with your baby in the 8 billion doctors appointments you have when they are a newborn. My friend's baby didn't stop crying for a 48 hour period until they figured out that one of her hairs had wrapped around the baby's toe and was cutting off circulation causing toe tourniquet syndrome. (Yep, someone named it so you can label your guilt). Acid reflux and cranky bellies are also something to look into. But once you know that you're dealing with a healthy kid, here are my handy tips for making it through this tricky time:
• Put the baby down in a safe place and go pee. Everything seems better when you're sitting on the toilet.
• Get an Mp3 player and listen to music. Even if you can still hear the baby it drowns out that upper octave that only a 2-month old and Mariah Carey can hit.
• Get earplugs. Again, just enough to take off the edge.
• Try to sing Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song so it sounds like your baby is taking the "AHhhaahhhhaaa" part.
• Bounce on an exercise ball and watch tv while your baby is strapped to your chest in a carrier. You may as well whittle your ass off while you lose your mind.
• Find one of those little old ladies that stop you in the mall and tell you that these are the best days of your life and give them the screaming baby. Fun fun, Motherfucker.
• Find a slightly deaf relative to just hold the baby while you sit outside and cry.
• Write a nasty email to your spouse (or Gwyneth Paltrow) telling them how much you hate them and how you want to smother them in their sleep. Then don't send it. No point in burning that bridge.
• Go for a walk with the baby strapped to you somewhere noisy. Babies love it when they are steeped in chaos and your exhaustion. An outdoor market, a busy street, or a college bar should do the trick – you get the gist.
• Do the "Aum" sound that Buddhist Monks do repeatedly while holding your baby on your chest. My Father-in-Law has perfected this sound and put every baby he held out like a light. He seriously should be rented out to new parents.
• Tell your baby your worst secrets ever. Who the hell are they going to tell?
• Draw a moustache with eyeliner on your baby's upper lip so they look like an angry dandy while they cry.
• Cry right along with them and see who can outlast the other like a Boo Hoo showdown.
• Vacuum. You may as well have a clean house to show for your insanity.
• Have a shower and blow dry your hair. Be fancy and oblivious to the screams like Celine Dion!
• Dress your baby up in a Halloween costume. I shit you not that I did this and it's pretty hard to get frustrated with a screaming skunk.
Hey, it's all worth a shot and the idea is to wait them out without drop kicking them off the front lawn.
I remember one dark night when I took my oldest son out for a walk during his witching hour.
It was the middle of February, it was wet and cold and I looked like someone that would have been cast as an old whore coming off a three-week drinking bender in a medieval period piece. My coat was open with him snuggly strapped to my chest and I was just shuffling down a busy street in the seedy neighbourhood we used to live in.
Two homeless guys were sitting in a doorway watching me walk by. They were already pretty drunk so I just kind of ignored them as I shuffled past. The one guy lit a half cigarette he had picked up off the ground and said, "Hey lady, how old is your baby?" I stopped and said, "5 weeks old." He just shook his head and said, "Man, that's rough". And as I stood there looking at this piss soaked drunk guy I said, "Yes! Thank you! It is rough." Then shuffled off a little happier as they went back to drinking some type of industrial solvent.
He totally got it. It's rough. Almost every parent goes through it so don't let it get you down. Drink, cry, scream, and tell telemarketers to go fuck themselves, but whatever you do, don't shake the damn baby.