Thursday, February 12, 2009

Like Nails on a Chalkboard

Babies and children cry. It's what they do. They cry when they are hungry, thirsty, angry, uncomfortable, tired...you name it, that's why they cry. Experts will tell you that young babies have very distinct cries. They believe you can actually tell when a baby is hungry versus in need of a diaper change. When Gracie and Luke were newborns, we eventually got to a place where we could tell when they were tired and not hungry.

Once, though, there was a day when Gracie cry did not sound like anything we had ever heard. She was crying so hard that you could hear it rattling in her throat. She arched her back and would not allow anyone to hold her. It took us a bit, but we finally realized that she had awful gas. We were so desperate to help her, that we dissolved a peppermint candy in water and forced it into her mouth with a medicine syringe. Eventually, the peppermint did its job and she quieted down.

It can be hard to tell when Gracie is really hurting or if she is just upset. She can be quite dramatic when she does not get what she wants. She will start to cry and fall to the ground, rolling and kicking. Most times, we will try to ask her how we can help. We use the words she knows to try to figure out if it is something easy that we can help with. If nothing we say or do gets through, we ignore her because giving her attention usually makes it worse. Grandma usually says, "Oh, Gracie's having an attack!" and leaves the room. It is hard to do, but Gracie can really get herself worked up and everyone we have spoken with and everything we have read suggests that removing our immediate attention from Gracie will show her that her behavior will not get her what she wants.

The thing is, no matter why they are crying, the sound has a distinct effect on parents and others around them. When Gracie or Lukie cries, the other Twinsie will become upset and generally start to cry too. In my case, those hysterical cries, the ones I can't stop by comforting my children, are the cries that are like nails on a chalkboard. They hurt my ears, my head. They make my heart beat faster and I feel incredibly anxious. All I want to do is find a way to make it stop. 90% of the time, I can. The other 10% of the time is what has me worried all the time.

Last night, Gracie and Luke ate dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house. They love eating there. The food is warm and yummy and there is lots of it. For dinner, they had chicken, rice and beans. Lukie was a little uncomfortable on the way home, but I could hear him tooting and he was fine. Gracie was a different story. She started crying as soon as I put her in the car seat. She cried on and off all the way home, eventually falling asleep.

When I went to put her in bed, she woke up and started to wail. Her cry was that one that makes me cringe because I know there is nothing I can do to make it stop. She started flinging herself all over the floor, rolling, kicking and hitting. I tried milk, her binky, holding her, and rubbing her tummy. When none of it worked, I let her have time to try to work it out on her own. But after 5 minutes, she was still crying hysterically. My ears, head, and stomach were hurting from listening to my little girl cry. Honestly, I was exhausted and not thinking completely straight. I ended up picking her up and taking her to the car. I drove for 45 minutes with her still crying, trying to figure out what to do. Eventually, I called Nana who reminded me about the peppermint and I drove us home, all the while talking to Gracie about how I was going to take her home and make her feel all better.

She fell asleep before we got home, but I could hear the little catches in her breath from her extended bout of crying. I carried her inside and held her for over an hour. I patted her back and rubbed the side of her tummy. She stayed asleep until I tried to put her down. Then, the crying started anew. She screamed and threw herself around. I started cursing whoever gave her beans, knowing that it wasn't really their fault, but feeling irrational about it just the same. I tried giving her peppermint icecream, but she wouldn't open her mouth. Her cries woke Lukie, who started crying too.

Believe me, I was close to crying myself.

Eventually, Gracie fell asleep next to me on the livingroom floor, laying on her tummy like a stink bug and wrapped warmly in a fleece blanket. I carried Lukie back to bed and fell asleep next to him, still wearing my work clothes. An hour or so later, Gracie woke up and started to cry. I shot out of bed and snatched her up, patting her tummy. She snuggled next to me in bed and eventually fell back to sleep.

Ten minutes after that, she tooted. Crisis averted.

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