Until two-odd weeks ago, I’d been pretty resistant to hormonally-induced mood swings. Fertility drugs? Left me equipped with my standard, fairly muted emotional range. Pregnancy? Still entirely myself; no unpredictable cravings or crying jags to report. But since delivery, I can feel waves of unfamiliar, gut-level emotional responses bubbling up from some previously unused part of my frame to do battle with my normally more dispassionate self. It is disconcerting, to say the least, and turns listening to the squawking of a random unhappy infant at Target into an entirely different experience.
In the hospital, I achieved an unprecedented level of delirious exhaustion because every little squeak and murmur coming from the hospital-issue bassinet sent my heart pounding and my nerves twanging. But when Theo was sent to the nursery for one of his twice-daily wellness checks, I’d fret guiltily and groggily until he was wheeled back into the room. “Is that my baby?” I slurred to the nurse who came in to check my vitals, who was wheeling her small cart of pulse- and blood pressure monitors. (She was also really amused. Come on, like I was the only sleep-deprived patient in the postpartum recovery ward.) After we went home, I (in the classic style of new parents everywhere) abandoned my plans of having him sleep in the nursery at night in favor of placing him within arm’s reach of the bed, because every little creak and half-cry forced me bolt upright, and I figured it was at least easier to be able to crack open a bleary eye in his general direction umpteen times a night instead of trudging down the cold, dark hallway. Never before have I felt so dominated by my own visceral responses.
And when it comes to Theo, the absurdly easy baby, the other shoe has indeed dropped — in the form of pediatrician-diagnosed acid reflux. (“Wow, he’s so talkative!… Actually, hear that sound that he’s making? That’s not normal; that’s him wheezing.”) For something that so recently made its appearance, it’s also remarkably acute: my sweet, easy kid was swiftly robbed of the basic pleasures of sleeping and eating, screaming and clawing his way through feedings and waking himself out of a firm double-swaddle doze to emit inconsolable blurts of red-faced fury.
Maybe the drugs are slowly kicking in, or maybe it’s the fact that we have resigned ourselves to basically never being able to place him flat on his back for any great length of time — more often than not, diaper changes still involve a sudden cascade of milk leaking out of his nose — but Theo’s slowly getting less outrageously burpy and less uncharacteristically angsty. And thank goodness — not just because it’s hard to watch him suffer, but because the alien force of those postpartum hormones made it such that I could only stare blankly at him, quivery-lipped and liquid-eyed, as he fussed.
But the advice to keep the baby upright or inclined at all times has given me a new sense of agency, as has my (highly uncharacteristic) decision to throw money at the problem. (I mean, we’re talking about something that can take a year to improve, and it’s not like life with a newborn involves a high baseline level of sleep and relaxation to begin with; also, with all of the hospital bills coming in, it seems like a drop in the bucket.) So behold, my weapons in this particular pitched battle:
- The Large, Plasticky, and Ugly: one remarkably unattractive baby swing (with pages of glowing reviews about its ability to soothe the refluxy beast on Amazon) with variable incline and the ability to move side-to-side as well as back-and-forth
- The Crunchy-Granola: one large fabric wrap carrier for keeping the baby both upright and content as I putter around the house
- The Hail Mary: one obscenely overpriced Swedish bouncy seat, also with adjustable, close-to-upright angles of operation
Important Swedish safety advice: always stare daggers into the top of your baby’s head.
- The Not Pictured: one janky-looking jacked-up pack-and-play topped with a donated vibratey seat in the bedroom (deliberately left unphotographed because, while surprisingly stable, I don’t wish to invite a smattering of well-intentioned emails gently lecturing me about safety risks)
- The Jury-Rigged Sleep Wedge Alternative: one crib mattress elevated via cardboard box, which I’m pretty sure is the nursery equivalent of putting your car up on blocks in an overgrown patch of crabgrass in your front yard
Perhaps I should cover the boxes with decorative wrapping or scrapbook paper? Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Hmm.
Like I said, I can’t report magical success yet, but I’m optimistic about Theo’s slow return to form. And maybe — just maybe — my one-time sleeps-like-a-log self might someday be able to successfully snooze through a light case of baby hiccups.