He thrashed on the bed & wailed as I simply tried to pull on yoga pants with one hand, another hand trying to keep a paci in his mouth. A paci that never soothed him because nothing soothed him. I grabbed my video camera & flipped it on, his red face filling the screen & my shaky voice saying, “Momma just needs to get dressed, buddy. Shhh-shh-shhh.” Sweat poured down my back & I hurried out the door with a diaper bag on one shoulder & a baby carrier on the other. He cried for the entire twenty minutes to the pediatrician, but “cry” wasn’t even the correct way to describe the painful ear-piercing screams that I had been living with for weeks.
My baby had reflux & I was getting sick in my own little head & we were a bad team in those moments.
I sat in the pediatrician’s office & begged him to help & I showed him the video of my crying baby with my frantic voice. He recommended new formula & a new medicine to help calm the reflux & then he looked at me & asked me what I was doing for myself.
I said in a small voice that sometimes I put him in the crib for five minutes & walked away but it wasn’t enough & I was the worst mother ever. Not only did I need to put my baby down, but five minutes was never enough to calm my nerves & get me set.
He squatted down beside me while the nurse held my baby & said, “Mom, that’s not long enough.” I stared at him & stuttered how the books & everyone said to tend to my baby, to put him above me, to be selfless & how I would create distrust in our relationship if I walked away. “No way,” he said. “Listen, the biggest thing past getting this reflux under control is getting you to take a few breaths. Make sure he’s dry & fed & clean. Then put him in a safe place – preferably his crib – & then you get the hell out of dodge for fifteen minutes. Twenty if you need them. Get in the shower or go sit on your front porch but get somewhere that you cannot hear him cry.”
It felt wrong the first time I laid him in his crib after feeding & changing him & he still screamed. But I knew I was at a tipping point & I walked away from him. I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes & I climbed in the shower where I sat with my arms curled around me & I couldn’t really hear him over the water. At the timer, I got out & found my baby right where he had been – dry, fed, & still screaming but with a momma that felt a little more calm.
Maybe it’s not advice for everyone & maybe it’s not what the books say, but in that moment, his words bought me a little more time before the tipping point.