Screaming (hers) and crying (mine)

Yes, I’m blogging again today. Mostly because Ramona decided she wanted to sleep around the time I was going to take her out for a walk and try and sort us out for a bit with some fresh air and exercise. The walk has been postponed until she wakes up from her nap and I can take her to the park and pop her on the swings for a bit.

I’ve been doing some Googlechondric type research on the screaming thing. I would ask the health visitor but when Ramona was a colicky four week old she took three days to get back to us to say “oh, yeah… um… maybe baby massage?” and I have faith in my own ability to Find Stuff Out about my baby.

Part of the problem is that you search for ‘screaming’ and get ‘crying’. She’s not crying. She’s not even upset half the time. She’ll be sitting playing and will suddenly just shriek. She’ll be smiling, cooing and babbling happily then stand still and scream, over and over. No tears, no warning, no indication (reaching, signing, body language) that she actually wants anything. It comes and goes without warning or apparent reason. But there’s always a reason… right?

I do have a theory that it’s partly teething related, and it must be frustrating for her to have been teething since she was about three months old and still not to have a single tooth to show for it. A little Anbesol liquid can help, but not always. And I don’t know whether it’s a case of screaming = teething or if that’s just an extra factor that doesn’t help.

One of the reasons I think it might be tooth-related is that she’s just started refusing to eat properly. She weaned quite early and has always been a decent eater, following a pattern of small breakfast, medium lunch, hearty dinner and enjoying fruit and yogurt snacks. But now it’s no breakfast, infinitesimal lunch and snacks but, bizarrely, decent dinner. I think her tummy has also been bugging her as she’s alternately strained then filled nappies copiously, and I know tummy upsets can go hand in hand with teething.

Some people have suggested when babies do this they’re just ‘finding their voice’ but if so I rather hope she’ll misplace it again and get back to the lovely ‘ma-ba-da-ta’ noises she was making before. My ears are actually hurting from the onslaught.

It might also be ‘look what I can do’. She’s been making funny faces and hissing noises for the last week, a bit of a cat-like ‘ssssss’ that makes us all laugh, her included. So there’s no reason why the screaming can’t be part of that kind of experimentation too.

I’d say it was for attention, but she’ll do it right in the middle of my singing or playing or something else that’s totally focussed on her and that she’s otherwise hugely enjoying. I can’t be consistent about ignoring it, because I can’t ignore it in public, but a couple of times I’ve just stopped what we’re doing and sat her down with some toys. After a bit she’ll just play quietly for a few minutes, and then grizzle for attention for real. So I might continue trying that for a while.

I’m guessing it also doesn’t help that she hasn’t yet figured out how to pull herself upright using just the furniture (if you hold out a hand, she can). She also struggles with pulling herself into a sitting position and hates being on all fours – that’s why she won’t crawl, though we do try to get her to play on her tummy when she’s cheerful so that she can develop the necessary arm / neck strength to move herself around more.

In the meantime, I admit I’m struggling. I’m relying on Mum’s help more than before, and passing Ramona to Ashley when he gets home so that I can have half an hour to myself. I haven’t had time to run properly for a week or so (or rather  I haven’t had the energy), which is why I want to get a good, brisk walk in today. I might have to start going first thing, before Ash leaves for work, as I think the exercise will keep me sane and God knows I could do with being fitter to keep up with her.

I’ve had a couple of moments in the last few days where I have just broken down and cried. Poor Ramona got quite upset seeing me lose my smile, which happens so rarely in front of her. But despite being surrounded by mums I simply don’t know any others at the moment who have had a child that did this. It’s only thanks to the wonders of the Internet that I know I’m not alone. I can’t meet up with other mums and get Ramona distracted playing with another child because if she screams (and she will) they’re bound to worry about their children getting distressed – I guess I would. I also can’t help thinking they’ll judge me and assume it’s something about my parenting that’s caused it.

After all, I wonder myself, at my lowest moments.

So altogether my confidence as a parent isn’t exactly soaring at the minute. As if to balance it out, I’m doing other things like finally going back to my long-neglected Monster Book, and flicking through Twitter to keep up with work news and friendly gossip.

Right now, though, I think I’m going to put this aside and take my cue from Ramona; it’s nap time.

The Shrieking Shack: Baby phases again…

Poor Ramona. Life at nine months old just isn’t as easy as we think it is. We look at her being carried everywhere, having a lovely buggy, having people fall over themselves to talk to her, cuddle her, play with her and forget how it seems from her perspective.

Being carried everywhere? Only because I can’t move myself and I want to. (She doesn’t crawl, and refuses to try but can stand unaided for up to a minute and do some holding-on shuffling)

Making new friends? Having strange people talking at me and invading my personal space.

Being cuddled and played with? Mostly good, until I need to communicate what I want and NO ONE SPEAKS MY LANGUAGE.

She has learned one sign – ‘milk’ – and occasionally uses it, and the babbling is picking up pace, which is great because it means that some time in the not-too-distant future we might hear the beginnings of speech. She even tried to moo back at me over the book about the cow. We take the ability to speak and communicate so much for granted, and here she is talking away and not being understood. It’s frustrating for me, so it must be doubly so for her because she knows what she means and I don’t!

So, with every milestone – the standing and shuffling have been coming along really well this week – comes a bout of frustration and that means her shrieking phase is back. I know not every baby does this, but she can’t be the only one. It’s alarming; she’ll be sitting playing quietly and suddenly take a deep breath and ululate painfully and repeatedly. And I will wince. And wince again.

I had to step out and count to ten yesterday, and let Daddy deal with it for a while, which he did with patience and calm. I wouldn’t have shouted or lost my rag at her of course, because she’s a baby and she can’t help it, but I could feel my sanity slipping away and took the opportunity to regroup. After all, you simply can’t find the energy to sing songs, create distractions, read, play, sign and soothe if you can’t think straight.

It didn’t help that we made a Major Parenting Mistake yesterday (note to new parents and parents-to-be: you will make one of these most days. Learn from it). We went to a lovely family lunch day out charity thingummyjig. And it was one error after another. Her morning nap was cut short. Her lunch was late. There was too much noise. There were strange people pookey-pookey-pooing right in her face. I will never forget Ramona’s look of horror as my dad was holding her and this very kindly lady stroked her cheek and ba-ba-baaed at her. Separation Anxiety Stranger Fear Fail Alert!

We both felt like terrible parents for putting her through it, although she did sleep through some of it. I hope she doesn’t hold it against us for too long; at least we have learned our lesson about what she can and can’t tolerate right now.

Meanwhile plans are full speed ahead for a summer holiday road trip. Some of the family think I’m nuts for wanting to put her in a car for a few days (no more than about five hours driving per day, broken up) but she’s fine in a car and a wriggly little excitement monster on my lap, so I am not putting this kid on a ‘plane. I find flying stressful enough, thanks! I’ll take each issue as it comes, allow for lots of breaks, and learn from each day’s inevitable mistakes. Like every other parent, I’m flailing in the dark and making things up as I go along anyway.

Sometimes I take heart from the fact that all the descriptions of really successful, intelligent people include a bunch of kids who drove everyone crazy with their incessant energy and curiosity. Maybe Ramona’s ants in her pants and screaming are just signs that she’s too bright for this recalcitrant baby body; maybe she just wants to grow up already, thank you very much. Maybe I’m one of Amy Chua’s Western parents making excuses.

Or maybe I just love my daughter so damn much that even when she’s driving me stark raving bonkers I will find the good in every situation and go after it hell for leather.

Yeah, maybe.