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The Onion Days of Parenting

by Andrea Updyke

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This is a repost from the archives when I was a brand new mom (June 2009). Do you remember obsessing over everything like this? Sleep deprivation is real, y’all. Read more Parenting posts here. 

Have you ever had an onion day? I have. Onion days are crazy. They go up and down and back up and then WAY down. One minute I’m saying, this is the greatest, I love my life! And the next I am crying and counting to myself before trying to console my baby at 10:30pm.

I’ll go on. 

The day started out innocently enough. Oscar woke a couple times overnight but it wasn’t too bad. So when he decided he wanted to start the day at 6:30 I rolled with it.

I try to get up at 7am but if he wakes 30 minutes early or late it’s all good. We had a nice morning. Jerry and I joked around before he left for work, Oscar had an excellent nap and I got to planning our day.

This was the up. 

After Oscar got up and was fed, we went to the Library and Fresh Market for lunch. It was a good day! We came home and it was time for another nap so I decided it would be a good time to sew. I made a couple things that I am really happy with; a block for Oscar and a headband for me. There are a bunch of really simple sewing tutorials through The Long Thread to keep me busy.

Oscar loves his new block!

This headband is a little snug for me…more to come!

Since Oscar’s first nap was so long (2.5 hours) the last two were only about an hour each. Normally his big nap is around lunchtime. So by about 6pm he was fading fast. We usually have him to bed between 7:30 and 8pm. I knew he would need to go down sooner than that, so I fed him at about 6:40.

That’s when the screaming began.

For the second time this week, we’re dealing with newborn/colic-like behavior and it doesn’t take very much to send my nerves to the shredder. Jerry and I tried everything we could think of. Oh this 4 month battle is ugly. It’s so very very ugly.

I looked back at my log (yes I keep a log) and I see that we’ve have been having problems for 5 straight weeks. At first it was naps and night-wakings. Then it was just night wakings. Now it is DON’TEVENTHINKOFMAKINGMEGOTOBED for 2. hours. straight.

The child will not sleep or calm down. Not in our arms, not in the crib, not nursing, not cuddling. That is, unless we leave the nursery. Step into the hallway and it’s magic. The crying ceased. Back into the nursery, mayhem.

I know what you might be thinking, OH he doesn’t like his room, he’s afraid of the crib, etc. And I might agree if he hadn’t taken 3 perfect naps in that very crib that day and is currently sleeping there now!

So we thought pain? Gas? Reflux? Interesting that he only cried in his room. If it were pain wouldn’t it be pain in the kitchen as well? I think we have a strong-willed baby on our hands. A little before 9pm I finally decided he was fine and by this time, so overtired that he was just bonkers so I put him in the swing and started the white noise that used to calm him as a newborn. He was asleep in about 90 seconds.

So what’s a mother to do? When it was time for me to go to bed, I moved him to the crib while I brought the swing into his bedroom and after feeding him again, plopped him right back in that bad boy for the duration. And guess what? He slept FOR 7 HOURS.

Happy ending right?

Well, maybe if it were the end. I am starting to get used to the crying and a lot of the time I think I can help him through it. But it’s those moments when you know he is ok and he still won’t stop that really make you sit on your hands and cry. At least I did.

[tweetherder]Love is like an onion, and you peel away layer after stinky layer until you’re just… weeping over the sink – Pete from 30 Rock.[/tweetherder]

This is the part that I think moms aren’t good at talking about. I mean we say, “oh yeah it’s hard sometimes”. But the word hard doesn’t even cut it. It didn’t matter that we had a great day. In those moments, when he was shrieking and I couldn’t fix it, I was a failure.

I was neck deep in screaming, agonizing, mysterious hopelessness. There was no tomorrow. No yesterday. Only screaming. It’s actually paralyzing.

Once Oscar finally relented to the swing, I was almost shaking as if I had just been in a car accident. sitting on the couch in a post tantrum haze and hardly seeing in my wakefulness. When I moved him to his room and the crying started again, I just sat on the floor in tears. Jerry was not home at this point because he had a show. It was only me. I don’t know how single mothers do it. I really don’t. Thankfully this time he ate well and went right back to sleep in the swing and I went to bed.

Jerry got home at about 2am and we both slept peacefully until 3am when his pager went off and off and off about 10 times. He had to get up and work the rest of the night. I woke up a few more times after that listening to Jerry’s clack clack clack on the keyboard and wondering if Oscar would wake up soon. Today we started the day at 6am. Oscar and I got up and Jerry went to bed at 7am. I’m starting to wonder what day it really is. 

I know the temptation is to tell new moms that it will get better, or just look at how cute he is! It’s all worth it right? Or, suck it up I have it WAY worse than you. Or just wait til your kid is doing ___________ (insert whatever your kid is doing right now).

But really, it’s not a competition. Sometimes being a mom is awesome and sometimes it sucks and rips you apart. I don’t really believe people anymore when they say it will get better. I don’t think it will. I think this problem will go away to be replaced by a new problem. I think I will hate that one too.

I also think that Oscar will soar to uncharted heights of cuteness and genius and I will bask in the glow of my love for him. But it won’t mean the bad stuff isn’t bad. It’s bad. We’ll get through it and hopefully be stronger on the other side.

New moms, single ladies, wives, friends, this is real. It’s scary and it’s ugly. I love being a mom, but at times it is open heart surgery with no anesthesia. So prepare yourself for the journey. I’m only just getting started.

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From one new mom to another. Sometimes parenting is just hard. I call those hard days, onion days because they are full of layers. Encouragement for your onion days. You've got this.

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8 comments

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8 comments

Jessica June 12, 2009 - 8:54 am

Yup.

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Emily June 12, 2009 - 9:21 am

Amazing post….amazing! I am right there with you…and my little one is one and a half. She went through exactly what Oscar is going through…and I cried just like you did! I love how you put your heart on your sleve! It is so endearing!

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Amy June 12, 2009 - 12:08 pm

I find myself really appreciating the moms who talk about the [crap] because I like to feel like I'm not in this alone. Those days when I literally do nothing but feed the kid and sit on the couch because I can not function anymore… that was yesterday.

I never knew such a tiny person could make me clench my fists and let out a primal yell of anger, frustration, anxiety and empathy! How do they do this?

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Holly June 12, 2009 - 11:49 pm

um, BIG FAT YES.

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Kim June 13, 2009 - 7:40 am

The only thing I can say is in 5 years when you look back it will all be a blur. Also I want a cute headband!

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did you hear what she June 15, 2009 - 10:28 pm

i heart you, andrea.

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Jenn June 9, 2010 - 1:57 am

AMEN! I have never heard anyone speak about all the horrendous things that happen when you become a mother. I have a twin sister she has two children and was a single mother for both of them since birth. We were out the other day and I was telling a few girls who didn't have kids yet to wait because it's hard. My sister cuts in and says, "It is not hard." I immediately felt like a failure and knew she was lying to herself.

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