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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

The Screaming is the Hardest Part

by Ken Newquist / April 10, 2003

Jordan’s a little over two weeks old now, and a lot of folks have been asking how we’re doing. The short answer is “good but tired”. Jordan wakes up every few hours, sometimes gretzing, sometimes crying, rarely screaming. Then it’s time to change the diaper, feed her, or just do laps around the downstairs trying to calm her down and get her back to sleep.

Sue’s undoubtedly got it harder than I do right now, since she’s nursing. While we’re bottle feeding for two feedings a day – a task that usually falls to me --,that’s only a slight percentage of Jordan’s overall feedings … and it’s a hell of a easier than nursing. That’s especially true in the wee hours of the morning, when Sue’s exhausted and the baby’s frustrated/hungry.

The hardest part of the whole thing for me hasn’t been the lack of sleep – I’ve made out fairly well on that, since Sue’s been getting up at night, letting me sleep so I don’t crash during my commute to work (figuratively and literally) and I’m able to catch a few naps when I’m at home.

No, the hard part is the screaming. For some reason, Jordan absolutelydespises wet diapers, or more specifically, getting changed after a wet diaper. She’s not thrilled with the poopy one’s either, but she tolerates us change those with little more than some sobbing. With wet diapers though, she works herself up into an absolute emotional frenzy, unleashing ear-shattering, mind-curdling screams? She flails her arms and legs frantically, and her entire body turns fire-engine red as she unloads her giga-decibel assault.

Why is she so pissed? Heck if I know … we can’t figure it out, and she’s not telling. Near as I can figure, I think she’s feeling very exposed and a little chilly, as the wetness meets the surrounding air. A friend suggested covering her with a blanket while we do it, and I’m thinking that’s a damn good idea. Will it work? Not a clue.

I’m finding that Jordan’s screams are my first major test as a parent. When I’m well rested, they’re not that hard to deal with … it’s fairly easy to shrug them off and concentrate on the task at hand. But at 4 a.m., groggy from sleep and off-kilter from being woken from a sound (if short-lived) sleep, it’s much, much harder. It takes pure strength of will to block out the screams, to stay calm, and to stay focused.

After experiencing Jordan’s banshee-like howls, I can understand how “Shaken Baby Syndrome” and related forms of child abuse occur. The screams are so penetrating that you just want them to stop – and I could see how they could push someone over the edge.

Not that this in anyway justifies such an act. As parents, we’re adults, and that means we have to have self-control. In these circumstances, you absolutely, positively must remain rational, keep your cool and get that baby calmed down. If you can’t do any of those things, then you need to put the baby down in his or her crib, step back, get a drink of water and do something to get your focus back. The kid can survive a dirty diaper for a few minutes, and while the screaming might wake up the neighbors, it won’t hurt any one. The same can’t be said of you if you lose your cool.