AS IT turned out, the first sign that it was going to be a tough and testy day taking care of Isay was staring at me all along every time I looked at the little girl I was cradling in my arms.
Except that I didn’t see the sign. It was pointed out to me by the wife when the day was over.
“You put Isay’s dress on backward,” she said. She had just arrived from work and was beginning the tedious process of cleaning and sterilizing the bottles to store tomorrow’s expressed milk.
“No way,” I protested, rather vehemently. “Only someone really dumb and stup…”
“The buttons are supposed to go at the back,” she said.
It was a mistake begging to be made. First of all, who puts freakin’ buttons at the back?! That’s the best thing about men’s fashion. There’s really no room for confusion. Buttons? Front. Zippers? Front. How do you even button or zip up dresses from behind?!
And then there’s the fact that I had things pretty easy since assuming more responsibilities in raising Isay after the wife’s maternity leave was over. A tough day was looming. That was today.
Even before I had put on Isay’s dress the other way around, I had already made the day’s first mistake: I used a hand cloth for Isay’s bath, instead of her wash cloth.
Anyway, the mistakes were only the beginning.
I’d written before that Isay loves her baths. She saves her sweetest smiles for bath time. She loves getting lathered up and she loves getting rinsed and stomping her feet into the water that collects at the bottom of her baby bath tub.
So when she started crying a lot during bath time, I knew I was up for quite a day.
Isay isn’t much of a crier. We’ve been very fortunate when it comes to that. There are only three things that set her off: Hunger, wet nappies and sleepiness. And once you catch her cues and fill whatever need she’s crying for, she quiets immediately. Today, nah-uh. She cried through bath time. She cried when dressed her up (might have been because I had her dress on backward). She cried when I carried her upright (usually her favorite). She cried when I cradled her. She cried when I tried to feed her. She cried when I lay her on the bed or on the crib.
Because of my disorder, I tend to start panicking when there are problems I cannot figure out. For some strange reason, I was quite the picture of calm. I admit, I lit up the SOS beacons on social media and internet forums trying to find an answer. If there was an ocean nearby, I’d bottle up a message and throw it to the waves. But somehow, I managed to find enough lucidity and clarity to latch on to as I tried to unlock Isay’s tantrums.
The only thing I could pin the whole episode on was that Isay had quite a long day yesterday. It could be she was tired. Really tired. You might ask: If she’s tired, why don’t you let her sleep?
Unfortunately, a tired baby is the hardest baby to lull to dreamland. Babies don’t process tired and sleepy the way adults do. While adults wind down when they are tired, a baby will sometimes get hyperactive. Compounding the problem was that Isay had just had her bath, something that makes her sleepy. So my little girl was now both tired and sleepy which is kind of like a parental double whammy.
That’s why she was acting up. And the more she threw tantrums, the more exhausted she was getting, the more she was fighting off sleep, the crankier she was getting. When there are two of you handling the situation, the first recourse would be to put the baby down and let your partner have a go. That way, you don’t build up frustration, which your baby can sense.
Alone? I knew I had to address one issue first. And fast. Because she was approaching her next feeding hour. Meaning she was about to get hungry soon. Yeah, triple whammy. Trying to solve both fatigue and sleepiness at the same time would only make things worse. Because that meant putting her to bed. And a tired baby is really going to find it hard to sleep. So I decided to relax her first.
Turns out I was too late. In the midst of deciding how to deal with her exhaustion, she began sending out hunger cues, sticking out her tongue and sucking on her hand. Now I was in deep nappy poo. But signaling her hunger actually bought me time because she’d stop crying when her hand was in her mouth.
I decided to act fast:
- First, I lay her on a soft flat pillow to relax her.
- I stroked her hair and sang her songs. I was dead set on dealing with her fatigue first.
- She began responding and her crying lessened. But it would still have been too much of a gamble to try feed her. I figured it would be best to address her sleepiness next.
- I had read somewhere that babies who are fussy feeders nurse calmly when they are close to sleep. So as her cries became fewer and her body language calmer, I picked her up and slowly rocked her.
- She was fighting off sleep, but not as forcefully as when I tried rocking her after her bath. Patience would really come in handy here.
- I walked to the ref and pulled out a milk bottle to warm.
- While the bottle was warming, I continued rocking Isay to sleep.
- By the time the bottle warmed, Isay showed signs of surrender. The exhaustion had dissipated. She was ready to sleep.
- To let her go to bed then would risk having a really hungry and angry baby when she wakes up. So while she was still half awake, I slipped the nipple into her lips. She accepted it without protest and began feeding.
- She managed to finish her bottle just before lights out.
Crisis averted. But it was a testy three-hour challenge that really hastened the parental learning process for me. She slept a solid 2.5 hours and when she woke up, her crankiness had fully evaporated. She fed without the slightest fuss and hit a new milestone.
While Isay isn’t much of a fussy baby, she is a spoiled sleeper. She needs to be cradled or hugged before she can sleep. This time, having been well-rested and well-fed, she rolled over to her tummy and then took a nap by her lonesome.
She slept another two hours and when she awoke, she rewarded me with this: