Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 22, 2017

Baby B’s angel, Day 20

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 7:42 pm

24 September

My new semester began just days after we brought home baby B. I wished we had picked him up a few weeks earlier when I was in the midst of my nice long, five-week break. Then there would have been lots of time for holding him, rocking him, observing his every move, without the crunch of students and instructors likewise needing my attention. But there also would have been no Jennifer.

I currently teach only 1 out of every 6 students that take our course, but it just so happened that Jennifer was in my section. On our introductory discussion board, she mentioned that she was a certified newborn care specialist and ran a consultancy company and that if I ever needed advice on the little guy, I should ask. Although I registered the offer appreciatively, we were still in such a whirlwind of adjustment that I didn’t even know the questions to ask yet.

We had picked baby B up from the children’s center on a Monday night. As we strapped him into the car seat he came with, we tried to keep him calm with a fresh bottle, but he wasn’t having it. He began screaming shrilly, uninterested in even a sip. Addison’s extreme excitement (which just an hour before was so overwhelming that she “could blow up the whole world,” according to her) quickly drained in the face of an inconsolable infant. About 10 minutes into siblinghood she leaned over to me and whispered, “I think I want to go back to being an only child.”

The ear-piercing screams notwithstanding, he actually fell asleep pretty quickly. He slept through the car ride home. He slept through the transfers, from car to house to pack-n-play. He slept for a solid 12 hours, and after being awake for only a short time, he slept again for 3 hours. And then again. And then again. After having a not-so-stellar sleeper in Addison, we were amazed and grateful. It turns out foster parenting is super easy when the baby’s only awake for about 6 hours a day, and even then, just wants to be held! He freaked out and held his breath until he turned blue about diaper or clothing changes, but otherwise he made little noise or movement.

Until the third day, when apparently the trauma wore off enough that he came out of his catatonic state . . . and we realized he had punked us. He would wake at all hours of the night. It didn’t matter if you were patting, rocking, swinging, singing; if he could tell you were trying to get him to sleep, he was mad. He always wanted a bottle, but he could easily down 8 ounces in just a couple of minutes and start screaming for more. We were trying to pull out all our rusty baby skills, but as the sleep deprivation mounted, we weren’t sure what to try. Things that we might have done with Addison didn’t seem right in light of a traumatized, neglected baby that we still knew almost nothing about. And in our 900-square-foot house, we couldn’t really isolate the impact so it wasn’t uncommon for the three of us to be huddled around him, trying to get his diaper changed at 4:00 a.m.

Finally, I remembered Jennifer’s kind offer and emailed, “Could we talk?” We chatted for about 45 minutes on a Saturday night and I took copious notes on her tips for sleepwear, diet, sound, lighting, schedules, etc. Besides his usual skepticism, Neal was even a little miffed because I holed myself up right during the witching hour before bed when baby B was most upset. While none of Jennifer’s ideas were magic, the combination of them and how quickly baby B adjusted felt at least magical, if not miraculous. After just a day and a half of following her suggestions, he started sleeping again. He stopped breath-holding so frequently. He was playful, active, joyful even. He was a different kid.

Having Jennifer in my class this semester was a tender mercy for us to be able to get through those draining early weeks. But for baby B, she was his angel.

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1 Comment »

  1. That you identify Jenifer as a tender mercy for you but an angel to baby B speaks to your lack of ego and capacity for empathy. Of course you could not ignore your own challenges, but if there ever was a person capable of setting their issues aside and focusing on another, it is you. I’m humbled by your goodness.

    Comment by Victoria — January 31, 2017 @ 2:08 am


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