Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Babies Cry

The Darwin clan is on vacation with extended family, and the living is easy. The youngest member of the family, however, was not living easy the other day. We had eight hours of driving to get through and seven-month-old William did not find that living easy. He would scream until we stopped, be cheerful for as long as we remained at the rest stop, and the resume screaming as soon as he was put back in his car seat.

People who aren't around babies as much seem to get frantic during one of these hour long crying jags where you know there's nothing really wrong and that you'll never arrive at the destination if you pull over every fifteen minutes. There's a deep conviction that when babies cry there must be something Wrong that needs to be fixed.

But the fact is, babies don't only cry when they're sick or hurting. At seven months old the world can be a confusing place. Things happen for reasons that seem unclear. On some days, people strap you into a seat where you can't move much and keep you there for many hours before you magically arrive at a place that looks and smells somewhat different from the usual house, even if the people are the same.

While the rest of us, who have the luxury of understanding why we're in the car for long hours out of the day, may express our discomfort by becoming sullen or sarcastic or arguing, for the baby there is only one option: to cry. Just as you can't make others in the family snap out of their mood induced conversation tactics, there's not really anything you can do to stop the crying. Baby is cramped and tired of his seat and does't want to be confined in the car anymore. The car can't stop. And so, because crying is his only way of expressing his frustrations, he cries.

At some deep level, we're programmed not to sit easily when a baby is crying. Our instincts tell us to make it better and stop the sound, which in many cases would indicate that there was something wrong. But when you have to cover miles and it's the car seat that's causing anger, there are limited options other than to let baby express his entirely human feelings in the only way that he knows how.


bearing said...

And there are limited options for dealing with our innate programming to feel anxious, uneasy, even sorrowful when we are subjected to the sound of babies crying inconsolably. I don't know about MrsDarwin, but it's almost intolerable for me to be in that situation. The milk lets down, my heart pounds, and eventually we're going to have to stop the car for at least a few minutes. It reminds me of being carsick in its intensity -- the need to pull over and hold the baby and soothe him.

Luckily, our babies have mostly been okay with their carseats, although they all have had their limits.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

On our recent trip to Virginia I spent an hour of the trip going and an hour of the homeward leg in a torturous stretch with my arm almost out of its socket so that Lucy in her car seat could hold my hand. As long as she had a grip on my finger she wouldn't cry but as soon as I let go she'd wail. Like Erin I find the crying intolerable, the arm rack is a preferable kind of pain.

Jenny said...

My ability to tolerate a crying baby depends on how old the baby is. Once the baby hits a year old, my ability to tune out crying increases quite a bit, but before that, I find a crying baby excruciating. Physically painful. The milk let down is strong. I cannot tolerate it.

Mine all seem to go through a phase as fairly young babies where they will ride in the carseat without problems as long as I do not open my mouth. If I speak, they realize I'm in the car and then it's "Wah Wah Wah Wah" until we get to where we are going.

MrsDarwin said...

I'm sorry to say that I have a Promethean ability to block out a crying baby or noisy children, so it doesn't really agitate me to ride in the car with one. Sometimes, though, the sound does break through my noise barriers and make me irritable. I'll re-pacifier as often as necessary and let the baby hold my hand or suck my finger if I can reach him, but I'm also up for just letting him cry if I know that there's nothing wrong but regular car agitation.

Christina said...

With my first, I felt that horrible urge to comfort. It was truly excruciating to be in the car with her crying. But for some reason, with baby #2, something snapped. I just couldn't be bothered by it anymore-- we had to get there and the rest of us could just deal with the crying. I also realized at some point that as long as the baby is crying, he's breathing. So sometimes I worried more when the crying abruptly stopped!

Anonymous said...

Van or minivan.

Dad drives.
Teenager sits up front.
Toddler behind Dad.
Middle kids in the third (or fourth) row.
Infant, rear-facing, center of second row.
Mom sits next to infant and nurses the infant without unbuckling any seat belts.

Works until Dad gets sleepy, anyway.

Another comment: Mom's instinct is to comfort crying infant. Dad's instinct is to kill whatever is preventing Mom from comforting crying infant.