Abandonment and other life lessons

It’s really hard to get to the bottom of a fit of continuous crying. At least when the continuous crier is three months old and was just smiling like a loon two seconds earlier. Marta claimed the afternoon of sobbing and screaming after Nico returned from daycare that first day (last week) was on account of the fact that she felt abandoned. I wondered if three month olds could really feel abandonment.

In the early days of this whole baby thing, when I was reading the Dr. Spock book my mom gave me, I read some seemingly accurate explanation of his about baby crying. He said that at first babies only cry out of actual physical distress. They are hungry. Or they are gassy and it hurts. Or they are tired and need to sleep. Or they are cold. Or hot. But then at some point they develop the capacity, which we all know and love in ourselves, to feel abandoned, rejected, unloved, etc.

And, if Marta is right,–and I am now thinking she might be based on the number of unexplainable crying fits that Nico’s had of late–our baby girl has learned what it means to feel forsaken. And, man, does she let us know.

This weekend we decided to get the hell out of Lubbock. So we went to the peaceful New Mexico mountain town of Ruidoso (ironic considering ruidoso means noisy). It was a four-hour drive. And everything started out fine. We passed through Roswell and saw all the alien statues. We crossed into New Mexico and, in the distance, noticed something that actually looked like elevation. Our hopes elevated with that vista.

Then, with about 20 minutes left in the trip, Nico started to scream. And scream. AND SCREAM.

We thought for a little bit that we could make it through. Marta’s parents were in back soothing her. There were times when the screams abated and we fooled ourselves into thinking she might calm down–or better yet, fall asleep. But then she would wind herself up again and SCREAM. Until, finally, with about seven minutes left to go, Marta pulled over at an abandoned gas station, wormed Nico out of her carseat and held her to her chest. She instantly went quiet.

Because she felt safe. And loved. Etc.

Who knows if all of this started with that first day of daycare and her feeling alone among all the other infants. Or if she’s just growing up. I assume it’s a combination of the two. And in the mornings, when I am feeling philosophical (and Nico is not screaming) I am almost pleased with this change. It means she is becoming more miserable and insecure like the rest of us…er–I mean she’s becoming more human.

But then there are other moments. Those mid-scream moments. And it feels like the sun will never set or rise again. Because increasingly now, Nico is not calmed just by being held. It takes her a long while of being held, by various people in various positions, for her to recognize that she is loved and secure again. And in those moments I feel like I am trapped in a Beckett play. One that never ends.

And then I wonder sometimes if maybe we should have just gotten a parakeet instead.

Kidding. Of course.

But then also not. The worst thing by far about being a parent–at least in my three and a half months at it–is realizing that you created someone who, like the rest of us, is going to suffer. It shouldn’t be such a shocker, but it is.


12 thoughts on “Abandonment and other life lessons

  1. Yes, parenthood is damn painful (in addition to being beautiful of course). As parents we feel so responsible for everything! And we can’t be. Who knows why Nico was screaming? Maybe her tummy hurt. Maybe she saw a coyote being eaten by a boa constrictor. Maybe she’s just a big talker/noise-maker like Marta was as a kid (according to her mama). Nico is a beautiful girl and extraordinarily lucky to be born to you and Marta.


  2. One of the grandkids was a screamer (now a delightful 6 year old talker!). From about Nico’s age, when mom/dad weren’t able to do anything about it, I’d take her out of, usually the dining room where we all were, into another room in the house and walk/talk to her about paintings on the wall. We’d go from one painting/print/poster to the next. She settled quickly and I still walked/talked about wall stuff. Not sure what to make of it (outside quiet distraction) but it worked every time FOR YEARS! Yes, it CAN go on and on! Trevor was a screamer – Brett will tell you – and doesn’t scream any more! I hadn’t discovered the walk/talk routine with him…


  3. This parenting is hard all right. I never know what Molly wants from one minute to the next, and I’m left feeling totally inadequate. Although Molly doesn’t scream, she sometimes looks as if she might, and in some ways that’s even worse.


  4. ,,,, mmmmm ,,,, ” feel abandonment” ,,,,, at Nico’s age ,,,, in a car, with her mom voices around ,,,,, it doesn’t make sens,,,, mmmmm ,,,, similar behavior happened with Jorge and Ana, when we drove at night ,,,, Is New Mexico pretty dark? ,,,,

    About frightening babys ,,,, you can try with a bearded man ,,,,,,

    I never thought about “feel abandonment” in babys ,,,,, mmmmm ,,,,, with exceptions ,,,, probably is one of the million milestones ,,,, so, just seem nothing is happening ,,,, In any case, sssshhhhhh, don’t say anything to Martas’ mom about Nico is a super-talented girl ,,,,, we use that trick already ,,,, she can believe again.

    So, it’s time, guys. We should be getting strict and ask for the “your baby instruction manual” ,,,, and if the baby doesn’t bring her manual ,,, OK, we’ll reject her and ask for another one with the manual. Actually, we can ask for the book and reject the baby in any case.


  5. My friends here had a baby who just needed to cry for about the first 4 months of her life. No reason. Just needed to have a few good cries on a daily basis. She didn’t need for anything. So they would just leave her be to cry it out …and then it passed. Hope it’s the same for Nico. Also, the amber beads for teething (worn not chewed) are really good for helping chill out babes. Oh, and I love Nico’s stern finger in the photo!


    • I am sure we’ll look back on all this with some degree of composure and even humor. But in the middle of a screaming fit it is hard to have perspective, sadly.


  6. I cab relate because, as I have mentioned before, Eleanor cried so much. SO much. It was so hard. Nothing anyone will say can take away how hard it is.
    But now that you know she feels pain, you know that she feels your love, too. For all the bad feelings you can’t control, I’m certain you’re giving her 100 feelings of love and security.
    Trust yourselves. You are doing great.
    We miss you all so much. Yesterday Ellie named her toy puppy Nico.


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