Every month, I take stock of the milestones and changes I have seen in Edie over the previous 30 days or so. I always marvel at how much more grown up she is, the new things she can do and what she’s trying to master. Marking each month’s “birthday” is a way for me to keep track of time and celebrate her accomplishments.
Edie will be six months old in a few days. I’m excited, in awe (how is she almost a half a year already?) and ready to try new things, like feeding her solid food. But I’m also feeling down because of the approaching landmark.
I thought things would be easier by this point.
When I first started going to a weekly moms’ group, I looked around at the mamas with the older babies. They seemed to have their lives held together much more securely than the messy, confusing, painful jumble of my first weeks with Edie. They seemed confident. They smiled when checking in each week.
When Edie wasn’t gaining weight, they assured me. When I cried each time I nursed, they nodded: They’d been there too, and they made it through. When I couldn’t get Edie to nap, they offered suggestions of what worked for them.
Through the rough times, especially, I looked to them as proof that motherhood gets easier.
The last few weeks have not been easy, though. Edie’s first tooth was followed five days later by a second one. Evenings, when her gums are most sore, become nonstop marathons in which we bounce from activity to activity to distract her from the pain. I hold her in front of the mirror for a few seconds until that grows old; then we bop to the shower curtain, which she swats at for a few seconds; then I dangle a scarf in front of her face for a bit. It’s exhausting, heartbreaking and frustrating to not be able to soothe my crying baby.
Recently, too, Edith has been sleeping poorly. I thought her disrupted sleep schedule could be blamed on her teeth, but—weeks after the first tooth popped through—she’s still waking every few hours. Last night I snagged a three-hour stretch for the first time in, well… my brain is too mushy to remember when the last time I got a decent night’s rest. Some nights she wakes every hour. Sometimes her little eyes snap open and she decides 4am is a perfectly wonderful time to stay awake.
Then there’s the biting. Oh, the biting.
Before her teeth came she would clamp down on my nipples every so often. Sometimes the door wouldn’t slam shut for a day or two and I’d think we moved past that phase, then she’d bite me a half-dozen times in a day.
The first few days she had teeth I feared them every time she ate. I was relieved to find she saved her gnawing for toys or our hands. My fingers and knuckles are nicked, but I didn’t mind.
That period has passed. She has been biting me out of the blue—at the beginning, middle or end of a feeding; in the morning, afternoon, middle of the night; when she’s rested, when she’s tired: I haven’t been able to decipher a pattern or predict when her jaws will clamp shut. Those teeth draw blood on my hands, so you can imagine how they feel on one of the most sensitive parts of my anatomy.
I’ll save the litany of everything we’ve tried to break her habit for another post. Suffice to say I’m running out of possible solutions.
I’ve held off on writing this post for a while. Firstly, I hoped that she would grow out of these challenges. Secondly, I hate to complain. I hesitate to whine about being tired because I can think of a half-dozen other mothers who survive on less sleep. I know plenty of other babies who have a worse time with teething. And at least I have milk and have been able to feed my daughter the way I want.
But on a day like today, when I feel like I should be writing about how wonderful Christmas was, I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Sure, it’s partly the lack of sleep. But I’m discouraged because I imagined the six month mark as being more manageable.
I have to trust that things will get better. Everyone says so, and I don’t think moms tend to lie to each other. In the meantime—before the better—I have to hang in there.