The most significant thing for me about the crying periods of the first week was the lack of tears. Once I realised what was going on, it broke my heart.
Although hearing her cry has been a real challenge for me, and something that still alternates between - 'I'm used to it', and, 'I can't let my baby girl cry any more' - I was crestfallen to see no tears.
I realised that she needed to learn to cry. I had stopped her so completely the first 9 months of her life that she didn't really know how to cry. She yelled a lot and made crying noises, but there were very little tears.
However, I think that some of that had to do with raging. I think she needed to scream and thrash about, as much as release tears. It was like she was exorcising something from within her. Once she did that a few times, she hasn't seem to need it any more.
So, the decrease in aggression has continued. A fabulous result of this.
Is she sleeping better? The million dollar question. Yes and no. Well, you see, she still goes to bed between 11:15-midnight and finally wakes at 8-8:30am. And she wakes up about 4-6 times during the night. I know, tell me about it.
However, the significant change is that we go to bed together with her awake. I let her fall asleep when she's ready. She's been fantastic at realising it's bed time, and I don't go until I know she's ready, so it doesn't take her long. Also, I don't sing, rock her, give her her soft toy, or give her more milk/water. Things I used to do.
Sometimes she needs a little cry before falling asleep, but mostly now she doesn't, and is asleep within 15 minutes. (we bedshare in case I hadn't made that clear).
Also, although she still wakes loads, when she sleeps it seems deeper to me. There is a significant reduction in restlessness.
Her irritability is greatly reduced. Where she went in-and-out of irritability throughtout an entire day, now it's perhaps a portion of the day. I mean, she still isn't a great sleeper, so tiredness remains an issue. Overall, a big improvement.
So they're the big behavioural changes.
Let me make a couple of things clear, because I received a few messages that made me think that there was some confusion with this whole letting cry theory.
Firstly, although it's just semantics, I use two phrases differently to to indicate the difference in approach - letting cry and allowing to cry.
Letting a baby cry is when you do not respond. Either you don't approach them, acknowledge them, hold them, or when you let them cry themselves to sleep alone.
Allowing a baby to cry is a WHOLE different thing. It's giving your baby the right to release emotions in a safe and loving environment. You definitely always respond. You almost always hold them. You just don't try to stop the crying.
Think of it like this. A friend starts to cry. You either ignore it, head on over and try to distract her or do anything to stop her crying, or you say nothing but hug her and allow her to release her emotions. The first two approaches are for YOUR benefit, the latter is for your friend.
Cheering up, changing the mood, and so on, ought to come after a good cry.
Likewise with our children.
The second thing is that this isn't an exact science. I mean, we're talking about human nuances, playing it by ear, intuition, emotions, courage, etc.
I read a few anecdotes on Solter-focused sites, and they often say, 'he had a good cry and then was happy and relaxed'. Well, that's all well and good, but I don't believe it's always so nice and tidy. There's nothing less tidy than emotions!
For me, I don't always have the courage to let it go on for as long as it might need to go on. But I don't put pressure on either one of us to 'finish the cry'. I stop when I feel it's okay to do so. I think Solter says that sometimes they could cry for an hour, but I'm not comfortable with that. Also, when sobbing can give a person a headache, then I don't think it's achieved a healing purpose. Or at least, not properly.
Also, she has been teething and going through development changes. She isn't crawling (10mths old) but wants instead to walk. Of course, it's too early so there is tons of frustration this week. A bigger need to cry for sure. But it has meant that a good cry hasn't made as dramatic an impact afterwards. The frustrations soon appear.
I have found the best time to allow her to cry is before a nap or bedtime. That's when I am most confident that she needs to just cry. I think we've all experienced the weepy whining child just before sleep. I've always dealt with this as poor baby is tired and needs me to make it better. Rather than realising that those tears were the tangible stress that needs releasing before they can settle down to sleep, and before they can have a truly rested sleep.
So....... for me, here is my big moment.
This happened just a couple of days ago. She had had her big cry lying on the bed and was now in my arms lying on my chest having little weeps. It was so amazing. I could sense how much she needed this. How she was okay, that she just needed to release. She lay there, relaxed, knowing that she was safe to cry.
That's when I felt the warmest connection. I knew that I was laying the foundation for her to really trust me. Possibly more with this than with everything else I did for her. I was letting her know that I accepted all her emotions. That I didn't judge her for her tears or rage. That letting emotions out was good and natural. That her mama will always be there ready to hear her, unconditionally.
That's when I knew that this was the most powerful thing I could do to foster a connected relationship. I have always hoped that we would be a close mother and daughter pair. That she would come to me with hurts and fears and just thoughts as she matured.
This is it. This is what I am to do to help shape that relationship.
If as a baby she can cry and rage with nothing from mama but love and acceptance, then as a toddler she can cry and scream and know that I accept that as her truth. As a pre-teen, she can have meltdowns as often as she needs them knowing I'll be there if she needs to talk about it afterwards or just to take her to the ice-cream shop. And then, as a teenager, she'll have the trust to come to me when she is troubled and confused.
Growing up, I had a mother who was very uncomfortable with displays of negative emotions. She was impatient and dismissive of me when I was upset. Not an ideal situation for a sensitive child like me.
Unlike her, I accept my own baby's emotions. I just believed that a good parent soothed away the tears. Perhaps subconsciously I was trying to do everything for my baby that my mother hadn't done for me.
Now I'm learning what precious gifts are those tears.
Me and the Wildflower, we are connecting by them.
image: google search