18 February 2014

The Attack of the Fussy 5 Month Old

So I have slacked on my blog once again…  This is why I will never try to make money with a blog, I simply don't remember to post.  Since October I have frequently thought about writing a post, I just haven't quite gotten there.  Well, here I am, writing a new post.  :-)

First a few quick (very quick updates):
  • Samuel turned 2 last month!  The day after I turned 28 to be exact (some days I am amazed at how close I am to 30).  He enjoyed his birthday and adores his tricycle that he can't pedal yet because his legs are too short, maybe by summer he'll be able to?
  • Samuel LOVES cars, trucks, trains, anything that is a vehicle.  He enjoys spending his days finding new surfaces to roll his vehicles over and sometimes ends up quite precariously perched on top of things to do it…
  • I started teaching my second online class (German) with Wittenberg Academy.  This is a classical Lutheran high school and we are developing a middle school curriculum.
Ok, told you those would be fast!  Now to talk about what the title of this post is about, the attack of the fussy 5 month old.

Recently my daughter turned 5 months old, also recently she has rekindled her "joy" of having screaming fits.  This has made life very tough for the rest of us.  Normally when she's crying Samuel always gives a concerned look in her direction (he truly is a doting older brother).  When she cries as much as she has been it also sends all sorts of emotions through the parents dealing with her, specifically me, as the Mom that stays at home and spends all day with her.

Some reading this may recall a post recently about how she is crying a ton and I needed prayers and not advice.  That was followed up by a post about how I deleted a post that was not about my daughter because people started giving me advice on how to make my daughter happier (and all things suggested had been tried and failed).  Now I would like to explain a little of what was going through my mind.  This post is not going to be a pretty one and is definitely NOT about the joys of parenting.  This post is purely about the frustrations and pain that can go with parenting.

Last fall when my daughter was about 3 months old we started taking her to a chiropractor because starting around 2 months she started getting really really fussy and really really spitty.  I was convinced that her spit up was not a reaction to anything in my milk (yes, we nurse), but a reaction to her fussing, so we took her in to see if the chiro would help reduce the fussing and thus the spitting.  I am happy to report it worked and life became happy in the Venteicher home.

Then the last 3-4 weeks happened.  About a month ago she started getting really really fussy, but just in the evenings.  I figured her witching hour just got worse and rolled with it the best I could at first.  Well, starting about 3 weeks ago she started getting fussy all day long.  So 2 weeks ago I took her back to the chiro, but it didn't do much good this time.

I do not want to go into the things we tried or didn't try because I worked on trying different things and lots of things didn't work.  I had my suspicions, but it takes a while for things to have an effect.  So I had to patiently wait through all the fussing and screaming fits.

I was working on slowly tweaking things to see if it helps.  I do not think it is good to change everything at once for a day or two and then try something new, to find out if things are working, it takes time and patience.  Unfortunately at the time of posting I needed prayers because I was rapidly running out of patience.

It was about that time that she would start crying and I would literally start bawling.  I just could not take it any more.  Several days after posting that I needed prayers I resolved that every time she started getting even the slightest bit fussy I would change her diaper (if I hadn't just barely changed it already) and just put her in her crib, shut the door and crank the music.  This may seem cruel, but it is something I had to do.  I opted to lay my baby down in her crib and just let her cry there instead of keeping her close when I knew I was not in an emotionally good place, I was shutting down quickly and the sound of her cry made me want to run away.  That week I also had some people come over to take care of my daughter for me for a few hours in the evening when she would cry the hardest.

I am happy to report that by the end of the week I had regained my emotional control and was able to care for my daughter without worry.  I think that break from each other really helped.  I stepped back and instead of frantically trying to calm her and constantly not succeeding and just getting more and more frustrated, I retreated.  Babies need their parents to be able to care for them with a clear head and I clearly did not have one.

Slowly the things I had been doing to help her become less fussy started having an effect, I think at least.  But then again maybe it was nothing I did and she just started to be more content with life.  She is still fussy and only very very recently slowed down, but at least it isn't constant like it was.  Ruth is still a baby after all and babies do cry (just the amount of crying she was doing was quite unusually high).

Following is exactly what I was thinking throughout all this and part of why advice was so unwelcome, especially in a public forum like facebook.

It was simply this.  I just can't do it.  I cannot make my daughter happy, satisfied and content.  I am trying everything I can think of and nothing is working.  It is not possible I cannot do it.

Then I realized how strangely that sounded like our salvation in Christ.  Without Christ we have to hold the law perfectly to get to heaven.  We simply cannot get to heaven on our own merit because the law holds such high a standard we are all going to fail sooner or later.  It is simply impossible.  That is exactly what I was feeling with Ruth, it was simply impossible for me to console her and hearing more and more advice was like hearing more and more about what I have to do to get to heaven.  The only problem was I simply cannot earn my own salvation, it is impossible for a sinner like me.

The law (advice) just seemed to condemn me even more, like it was saying, you simply aren't doing enough.  You need to try harder and do more and things will be good!  Only that simply wasn't true, the harder and harder I tried to make her happy the harder she seemed to cry…

However, I believe that Christ came into the world to save us of our sins by dying on the cross and bring us to heaven with him in new life.  The greatest thing about it is we don't have to do anything.  Christ did all the saving work for us, there is nothing we can add or take away from it to save ourselves.  We simply cannot save ourselves.  We need Christ because without him we are condemned by the law.

This is why I only wanted prayers and no advice.  This is why I may be thankful later to go through this hardship, because it reminded me that I cannot do it all and that I cannot save myself.

When I posted that I needed prayers, maybe I should have posted something like this, "Hey everyone!  I need to be told the gospel.  Right now I am feeling worthless as a parent and I just need to be told the gospel, oh and lots and lots of prayers."

If you are a parent with an inconsolable child (call it colic, call it the period of purple crying, call it whatever you want), know that it is not your fault.  Do your best to feed, diaper and love on that child, but know that sometimes it just isn't enough.  Know that some times there is nothing you can do to stop the crying.  I had some ideas of what I could do to make it better, but ultimately all of those ideas could have failed and all of those ideas took time to try out, none of them were over night solutions.

Know that you are doing the best you can and you are an wonderful parent to your child.  Your child's fussiness is NOT a narrative of your parenting.  My heart goes out to you if you are in the midst of a fussy child.  The only advice I would give is to find someone to help you, or you may find yourself is a really bad place.  I wish I had people come over sooner to give me breaks from my daughter, but thankfully I had a clear enough head to know that I could not deal with her any more and needed to set her down and walk away.  Going through this last phase of fussiness put me through more emotional turmoil than when Samuel was in the NICU.

Are we in the clear to not go through a fussy bout like this last one?  I hope so, but I really have no idea, for now I'll enjoy the calm and wake up tomorrow to another good day hopefully.