Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I did a fellowship in child abuse, and until I had my own child I never understood why people might shake their babies. There was a moment when my first newborn was clean, fed, and dry, yet he was screaming for no discernible reason. Like all new moms, I was terribly sleep deprived, and all the sudden I got it. ”Oh! If I had no resources, no back-up help, and I didn’t understand the permanent damage it could cause I could totally understand the urge.”
Just realizing how the impulse could arise calmed me down a little, and of course having a husband to tag and say “You’re ‘it’” meant Max was never in danger. But it gave me a lot of empathy for new moms in less than ideal situations. Even in ideal ones, until you’ve lived it you don’t appreciate how stressful that little bundle can be. I think this may cause a lot of guilt; first time moms have been glorifying and idealizing the dewy gushing sweetness of holding their own precious baby. When the inevitable moment of irritation first comes, and despite your best efforts you can’t make that sweet bundle quit crying, it’s a big psychological disconnect. ”Oh, no, I’m going to be a bad Mommy!”
One critical thing I learned is that if you’re overwhelmed, it’s ok to put your baby down in a safe place and let him cry. A crib is a very safe place for a newborn. If you don’t have anyone to hand the baby off to, it’s even okay to put your baby on his back in his crib and walk outside the house for 10 minutes. This gives you some time and space to calm down. Humor also helps. I repeat to myself the line Holly Hunter says in the movie Raising Arizona: “Of course they cry! Babies cry!” And sometimes in those 10 minutes, babies fall asleep!
—Amy Baxter, MD, a mom of two sons ages 13 and 10 and an 8-year-old daughter; the CEO MMJ Labs; the inventor of Buzzy 4 Shots; and the Director of Emergency Research, Scottish Rite, of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta