Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Car

Fiona, day two... before she knew what hit her (one of the only moments of sleep in the car we've ever witnessed, and the only photo possibly ever of her in the bucket)

So this is just a word, for those of you who are blessed with subsequent babies. It is also a reminder to myself.

Just because you are babylost, you are still also a normal mother, with normal emotions and normal capacities... you are actually still a human being... and this can be hard.

My struggle of late, beyond the nuances of juggling three children which I am pleased to say I believe I am handling with relative grace, involves the car.

It involves the car, my rural home, and one furious, screaming Fiona Clementine.

Unlike most babies, who can be taken for a car ride to induce sleep, all of my babies have despised the car, and Fiona is no exception. During my pregnancy I would often say that this one was going to have to sleep in the car... she'd have no choice. With two older siblings going to two different schools, both 12 minute drives from our home and 7 minutes apart, she was going to be a prisoner in the bucket for at least 45 minutes each day, and that would be if we didn't have anywhere else to go. But alas, the dark side of babywearing rears its ugly head, and not only does Fiona Clementine refuse to sleep in the car, but even the sight of the bucket in our hallway can send her into helpless cries of despair.

And thus begins what has become the bane of my existence. I dread each moment I spend transporting my older children (or myself) anywhere, because with very few exceptions every single second spent in the "golden van" is marked with the loud, piercing newborn cries of my sweet fourthborn. Her crying is hysterical and very loud, with nary a pause. When she gets really cranked up, and quite hoarse from having gone at it for an especially long time, she is reduced to these quick, barky yelps. But it is crying, all the time, every time, and my nerves are frayed and almost shot from it.

What to do, what to do?
Silly woman, you should carpool, perhaps you are saying, imagining me burning these fossil fuels for nothing. But alas, there are no other children in our town who commute to the neighboring town for school, and so this option is lost.
What about your husband, is he such a lazy goodfornothing that he cannot help you cart these two big children to and fro to relieve your little baby from some of her trials? But again, alack and alas, he teaches school and leaves for work at 5:30 in the morning and returns after school is out. And he has no flexibility with his schedule, of course.

So I am alone, hands tied, head downcast each morning as I strap my sweet Fiona Clementine into the blue bucket for her torture session.

"Does it make you want to cry?" asked my dear friend Erin, also babylost.

"No," I answered, and I'm sure she was surprised. But it's true. It doesn't make me want to cry, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall with frustration. I feel awfully, awfully sorry for Fiona, and my heart bleeds for her, but it is my absolute inability to do anything for her that is the predominant emotion.

So today we were on our sixth leg of travel, our sixth full-tilt, high decibel wailing trip home, and the kids had been slow buckling themselves into their carseats, and it had been sleeting down my back as I waited kind-of-but-not-really patiently for them to do so, and now I was finally driving and she was screaming and for the first time, I didn't coo softly at her from my perch behind the wheel, but instead my voice came out sounding as exasperated as I felt and I said to her, "Could you please stop crying?"

I truly did, for a brief moment, feel that exasperation, and I felt like an almost normal mother for being fed up with my newborn. Because I am, after all, human, so those emotions do happen...

And then in comes the babylost part.

Because my cousin's baby, Andrew, whom many of you remember, was diagnosed with his leukemia at somewhere around 11 weeks, and Fiona is now nearing 10 weeks. So now that I've birthed her alive, and gotten over the hump of accepting her as born alive and strong, now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, analyzing what I suck out of her nose for signs of blood, worrying about everything she does as a potential sign of a lurking killer. I am obsessed and fantasize about asking the pediatrician to run bloodwork on her just in case... and at the same time I also can see, with my other eye, that she is robust and healthy and has displayed no signs of being uhealthy at all.

But, back to the screaming in the car...

of course, after I asked her to stop crying, I realized this: of course now something is going to happen, because I didn't appreciate this moment. I wondered what was wrong with me, when for a year of my life I day dreamed about the cries of my infant and now here I was asking her to be silent, as if one baby's silence hadn't been enough to almost kill me. I felt as if I had committed a true wrong against her, when in true fact, I was just being human, I was just being human.

So this is my message to myself, and anyone else who needs to fill in the blank to their own situation. I absolutely love this baby with all my heart. And while it breaks my heart that half of her awake time in a given day is spent screaming in the back seat, I really don't have any control over this. I am doing the best that I can. And if I get frustrated, this is because I am human, not because I am ungrateful. Charlotte has taught me a great deal about being grateful, but I am sure even she, could she have had the good fortune to be here for the ride, would have wanted Fiona to stop crying.

(and I also know that there might be something about her being held literally almost every second of her life except being in the carseat that might have something else to do with it... but that's another story for another day)


Hope's Mama said...

Oh, Carol. I hear you loud and clear in this post. We seem to be fighting the same battles! I too have screamed at Angus (not right at him, but in his general direction) to please be quiet, yet all I did for nine months was beg and plead that he be anything but quiet when he was born. I do try and remind myself I am doing the best I can. It is harder than I could have imagined.
You too are doing a wonderful job. You really are.


Lex said...

Car seat crying is the worst. We don't let our babies cry any other time, and then, suddenly, there's nothing we can do, and what must the baby be thinking? It's awful.

One potentially helpful bit: we had that same car seat for our third babe and he absolutely HATED it. Something about the side impact protection, I think (he'd get so sweaty). We stopped using it after 3 weeks and tried putting him in the convertible car seat and he was so, so much happier (he was also quite big, so he fit fine in the britax boulevard at that point . . . but I'm guessing that Fiona might by now as well?). Sometimes babies really don't like the car no matter what, but sometimes they just don't like the bucket.

I'd be happy to loan you our newer britax bucket if you want to try something slightly different. We're no longer using it for our babe (though he didn't mind it, and I like it 100 times more than the companion). This is Lex, from Cradle, by the way :) . We also have an extra britax boulevard if you want to try that one (I am a car seat technician).

Many hugs,


rebeccaeee said...

Britax seats are awesome....try it, if possible. My 3 1/2 year old looks at his baby sister in the car quite often and says "stop crying!" and then puts his hands over his ears. It is impolite at best. I've taught him to sing to her (though it never helps) and to help hold her hand, wind up her musical toys, etc to stop the crying. My girl sleeps in the car eventually. Fiona is just letting you know she's alive and well in that back seat. Being human is hard.

Beth said...

loved reading this. i have nothing to offer, being babylost but without the subsequent child.

but, i still loved reading it.

you sound like you're doing far beyond the best that you can.

Aimee said...

It may be genetic, given none of your children sleep in the car well, but I was wondering if you have ever tried an osteopathic adjustment on her? Given how she was born at a completely different angle then you are used to and she had to twist around to get out, she may have a pinched nerve. I have a friend whose son was exactly as you describe and after three visits to an osteopath, he was a totally different baby. Still didn't sleep in the car, but at least stopped screaming. It is worth a try.

Poor Fiona.

Poor Carol.

kris said...

Ahhhh. The curse of being human. I'm sorry Fiona is so sad in the car. It will get better though...and I like Rebecca's thought. Fiona's just reminding you that she is here.

Olivia said...

I have such a hard time with carseat crying. It makes me feel helpless and cruel. Thankfully, it doesn't happen all the time.

I hope she adjusts to the drive soon.

Erika P said...

"And if I get frustrated, this is because I am human, not because I am ungrateful."

Yes, Carol. I can relate, and it's good for me to hear this from another babylost mama. My parenting of Austin has certainly been affected by losing his baby sister this summer, and I too feel guilty now for getting frustrated with him. But he's three and asserting his independence just as he should be doing -- and sometimes he is just downright frustrating.

I think you’re doing a great job parenting all of your children, Charlotte included. Hang in there…

Jen said...

Lily screamed and cried in the car constantly as an infant and now screams about half the time... it's excruciating. When I lose patience with her and snap at her I regard myself with horror and immediately remember that it is a miracle she is alive. It makes it a lot harder to accept my own frustration. I also find myself cursing Car Culture and feeling deep resentment of the necessity of having to drive. I haven't figured out a way around this yet.

Such a good mantra you have, I am doing the best that I can.

TracyKM said...

There are a million reasons why babies cry in carseats. And the million ways to try to resolve it can make a mother crazy!
That carseat looks a little upright. Some are worse than others. It could be cold back there. It could be hot. Could be noisey. Could be carsickness. Could be lonelieness.
Some things that worked for us--a mirror on the seat back, or a big picture of you. Swaddle OVER the straps. Pre-warm the seat with a hotwater bottle. Swaddle with your smelly shirt. I would carry my youngest out in her pouch, then swaddle her tightly (over the straps) with the pouch. A pacifier worked wonders with my girls but not my son. Loud music instead of white noise of car travel.
I remember feeling horrible that I felt horrible about my son screaming in the carseat. It's terrible! My husband seemed to think they did it 'on purpose'!
However, I don't think something bad will happen just because you had some bad thoughts (otherwise my kids would be horribly messed up by now!!)