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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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crying

Sizing things up

I think I’m slowly getting used to looking at boy things. And I’m trying to prepare myself for all that newborn crying. Arddun had heard a 3-month-old baby girl wailing today after she’d woken up from her nap, and that had turned into a teaching moment about how babies cry because that’s how they talk. Because they don’t have words yet. Crying doesn’t always mean something is very, very wrong.

A good reminder for myself, seeing how it’s been a long while since I’ve had to personally deal with the full-throttle fury of a hungry newborn who will not wait. It’s always distressing to hear a baby cry… but it’s also very natural for them to do so.

Baby crying - the song of his people

The other thing I’m trying to get used to again is the tinyness. Tiny baby clothes that can almost fit Arddun’s potty-training doll. Tiny shoes. Tiny hats. Tiny sunglasses. My gosh-aww moment yesterday was when I opened a pack of newborn nappies and realised how tiny they were next to Arddun’s most recent size.

Comparing newborn diaper to Junior girls's diaper
How tiny is that little man’s butt gonna be!

Can’t believe we’re going to do it all over again. The prospect both delights and terrifies.

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While you were weeping

After a long afternoon out yesterday, Arddun and I were drowsing on the couch before her dinner time – she, in the crook of my right arm snuggled under the covers and quietly monologuing to herself while I did a quick surf on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed listings.

It was a harmless enough exercise – flicked through a couple of writer’s blogs, and then came across a post entitled Dear Mom. It was a long one. And for about 95% of it, I was okay. It was personal, it was honest, it was intimate, and it talked about things I didn’t always understand without context.

But then I came across this paragraph –

I feel you especially profoundly today, our shared birthday. I am now 36. You would have turned 57 today, if only you hadn’t stopped breathing at 52.

And then something inside me broke. Tears spilled. And before I knew it, I was crying in front of my toddler.

I think I’d always made a subconscious effort not to grieve in front of Arddun so as not to alarm her unnecessarily. I had been a bit of a sobbing wreck when we did the walk behind the hearse, but had pulled myself together by the time of the cremation and the funeral service. I hadn’t cried at the eulogy. I think all of us in the family were determined to give my mother that hearty farewell, that celebration of life, that true homecoming feeling. And when I did cave in to the heartrending pain, it was usually in the dead of night, right in the gray between wake and sleep, where man and child were deep in slumber and I was by myself for that while. And I got pretty good at crying silently, mouth curled in a silent scream.

Grieving can be such a private thing, which is an ironic thing to say since I’ve now gone and blogged about the process. But back to my original point – I think I’d always determined not to let Arddun see me cry. At least, not at this age. So it was really quite alarming yesterday when I read that paragraph and the dam broke and I was utterly unprepared.

She noticed the shift in the air immediately, and sat up. She stared at my tears, which were pouring out my eyes faster than I could wipe them. I contemplated running out of the room, but there was the logistical challenge of removing myself quickly (shifty pelvis, big belly, lumberous frame). I was also now conflicted: should my daughter learn that grown up girls cry too, and that it’s not a thing to be ashamed of?

“Are you okay?” she asked eventually, evenly. Her eyes were big, and I made myself look straight into them. They were searching mine in return, trying to comprehend. I was glad to see she wasn’t freaked out, just genuinely curious and understandably concerned.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?”

“Because I was thinking of Grandma. I miss Grandma.”

She tried to sit on my lap, which is rapidly shrinking as the days pass us by, so she soon gave up and got off the couch entirely. Then she walked over to the other couch and pulled a tissue out of the box. She handed it to me wordlessly.

“Thank you,” I smiled. The smile was still watery, but at least I was now distracted.

She crawled back into the couch and resettled herself in the crook of my right arm. And then she placed her tiny left hand over my right. And just left it there, in companionable silence. And the richness of that – the realisation that my girl has empathy in spades, and such an instinct for comforting others. The warmth of that solidarity, if I could call it that. The sudden, visceral yearning for a camera so I could take a snapshot of that little hand over mine.

I fumbled around for my mobile. And as if reading my mind, she asked me to take a bunch of selfies.

And so we did. And gradually the ache dulled, and the calm returned, and with it the smiles.

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The Crying Game

If I believed in karma, I’d say I’ve just been bit.

All those times I’d claimed how I cannot stand the sound of children crying? Oh the irony. Because some days, I’m convinced that I have the cryiest baby around.

“Cryiest” does not exist in the English language but dangnammit, it should.

Arddun head-butted my bony collar bone this afternoon. No real harm done – by which I mean no bruising, bleeding and mild concussion. But it’s given her license to com-plete-ly lose it and she’s been crying for 90 minutes since.

No, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and no, I’m not having a freak-out. I’m just resigned to it, that’s all. I want to take a nap because I am still rather knackered, but I haven’t quite mastered the art of sleeping through histrionics yet (yet!), so I’m sitting here to blog about it instead.

In the last 2 days, it’s started to dawn on me that I’m losing my sense of shame. Pre-baby, the sound of babies crying so grated on my nerves, I was convinced I’d whisk mine out of the room if mine made so much as a whimper that went on for Too Long (read: 1.2 seconds).

But the sad truth is, I’ve just become immune to the sound of Arddun crying. I’ve also lost the ability to think of more than one thing at a time because when she goes off her nut, all I can focus on is calming her down on the spot while teaching her how to comfort herself. To ask that I remove us from the room while I shush her would be to ask that I cook a six-course tofu meal while a man in a hideously gay jacket booms from the stage theatrically (just watched Iron Chef yesterday).

In other words, it’s just too hard, and it’d never dawn on me to do it.

Usually I can calm her down in ten seconds. This involves a lot of shushing in her ear till the noise of simulated ocean or womb or whatever drowns out her baby angst and she stops to admire the curtains or secretly pee in her diaper. All well and good when we’re at home and out of everyone’s way. Not so good when you’re out in public and alone with her, your tea has just arrived, and the baby change room is on the other side of paradise.

But the fact is, I have a stinkin’ suspicion that I’m being quite inconsiderate and I’m a little helpless as to the protocol here. Just yesterday, I had an old classmate complain bitterly on Facebook about a parent who let her child scream blue murder in the elevator while she benignly stood by to watch. And then today, just when my Coke Spider had arrived at the Coffee Club, Arddun decided to wake up half an hour early for her feed and was rather grumpy about life. I shushed her in five seconds, but that was all it took for the older couple beside me to roll their eyes and up and leave in disgust. And I was left sitting there wondering if I’d just turned into a public menace with my 5-second contribution to noise pollution in a suburban cafe.

Perhaps I put too much stock on what others think. Except I remember being just like them, and I remember how tedious it can be to put up with ill-behaved children. And I don’t want to inflict my child on others. I want her – I want us – to be a delight to have around. To be considerate of the needs of others, to be kind. But it takes time and I’m so green and unimaginative right now, it’s not funny.

Have to go. Arddun’s still crying and I think it’s time I gave my new neighbour’s ears a break. :(

The magical powers of midwives

So we had our last antenatal class this evening, which was all about what to do with the munchkin once she enters the world. Up until this class, we’ve covered the grizzly details of labour and birth, including

  • a real, live placenta hot off the press, so to speak.
    In fact, we had a bonus that particular evening because we saw TWO placentas – one that contained twins. Which is like saying that we had a bonus that evening because we got served a quivering mass of raw pork livers at a crazy Chinese restaurant, and then came back for seconds. (Also, nothing like looking at something that squishy and Sci-Fi Weird to reinforce the fact that your adorable baby is, in fact, like Alien.)
  • lovely powerpoint slides about pain management, complete with diagram of epidural needle cheerfully weaving up your spine.
  • what usually happens when it all goes to crap and you need an emergency caesarean. And stitches. Everywhere.

But this evening finally got fun. Because we had a real-life 3-day-old baby in the room, grizzly from wind and needing to give a good butt-fluff. And our midwife proceeded to mesmerise the room into a common state of Awwww… by demonstrating how to bathe baby.

And right before our very eyes, we saw her transform this tetchy, unhappy, piteously crying bundle of joy who loathed his bath yesterday, into the picture of utter contentment when she deftly flipped him over to his tummy and submerged his entire body in the bath, nothing but his chin calmly resting on her hand.

He basically laid sprawled eagle like that in the bath for a full five minutes without so much as a whimper, his eyes getting droopy, his face completely relaxed, his body in utter surrender, in suspended animation. He almost fell asleep, he was that cushy. It was the funniest, most precious thing I’d ever seen because he looked like a cross between an Anne Geddes moment and a drunken frog. I wish I thought to take a photo, although I’m guessing the proud father would probably not have appreciated my randomly taking happy snaps of his son and posting them on this blog. Some people are funny that way.

But wait, there’s more! For the magical midwife also demonstrated the ancient art of shushing a baby by flipping a super-secret switch on his forehead.

In Singapore, whenever we got decked out for Racial Harmony Day at school, we tended to wear someone else’s cultural costume. You know, Malays in sam foos, Indians in sarong kebayas, Chinese in saris, etc. And as always, there’s bound to be someone to make some lame joke about the bindi, and how it’s really a mute button. Whatever.

Turns out, this midwife has always known its real powers because before our very eyes, she stroked the middle of his frowny, fussy forehead and he became as tame as a bunny wabbit. Every baby, apparently, has an “off” button.

I’m hoping Blobette comes with instructions, but I’m guessing she won’t. I’m starting to believe that’s ‘cos some midwives might be hiding the manual.

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