If you are the parent of a crying baby, it may help to remind yourself that perhaps the stares your baby’s crying elicits from perfect strangers aren’t always glares of disapproval or judgement: it is natural to feel sensitive when your best efforts to protect and nurture your child seem less than perfect, but could it be possible that many of the stares and whispers that surround you and your crying baby are really voices of concern or even deeply felt empathy? After all, empathy (along with humility) can be one of the greatest lessons learned by parents who have a crying baby.
You have two choices when your baby cries: to respond, or to ignore the cries. By responding, you are not only teaching your to love, you too are learning about the greatest love of all -unconditional love: you are accepting the child in your arms just the way he is. There are many points along the continuum of parenthood when it is easy to wish our child was just a little (or a lot) more ‘this’ or ‘that’ (easier in some way, depending on our definition of ‘easy’ or our child’s fit with our own personality and expectations. If you have a high-needs baby, the struggle to accept your child might be great initially, but overall, loving your baby through his tears can teach you much sooner that all the wishing in the world will not give you a different child. This is unconditional love.
You will also learn compassion, tolerance and flexibility as you meet your baby’s needs. These too are strengths to draw on as your child grows. As you attend to his cries, you will discover resources you may never have believed possible: even as you reach the pits of exhaustion, you will gather new reserves of energy. You will learn to recognise when your own reserves are low and when you need nurturing yourself – you will learn to take care of yourself as you take care of your child, because you will be forced to.
A crying baby will teach you to prioritise: you will learn that people matter much more than ‘things’. As you sit and rock your baby, instead of becoming restless about that unfinished ‘work’, look deeply into those trusting navy-blue eyes and ask yourself how much these things would matter if your child were taken from you tomorrow.
Mostly, by responding to your crying baby you will have an opportunity to heal yourself: to overcome your own feelings that crying is unhealthy, and perhaps to make a connection with your child that you may have missed out on yourself if your own parents were discouraged from holding you close as you cried. And as you hold your baby close in the dark of night, remember too you are not alone: out there, in another home, in another street, across the world even, another mother will also be holding her own baby close. Through your baby’s cries, you are connected through time and space to mothers everywhere.