We're driving from The Villages, FL where my Dad and Kay live, back to Ft. Myers Beach, FL for our last night of vacation here. I hope we make good time because I want to see Bart & Cinda, because Bart & Cinda can only visit if we arrive early in the afternoon, as they have plans for the evening. They were out of town until yesterday.
I was thinking of how much I want to see them while my Dad was leaving them a voicemail message this morning in the car, saying "we hope we'll be able to see you" and I started crying. I started crying because I envisioned Cinda hugging me. It made me start thinking of those who give me comfort, and the fact that I didn't utilize these people, these creatures of comfort, when I should have.
I would assume that everyone has these people in their lives. The people who stand out as comforting to you - the ones who can reel you back in to your magnetic "place" just by hearing their voice or receiving their hug. I can't put a finger on why my creatures are mine - be it their voice or style or touch - I just know that I need them, probably more than they ever knew.
My Uncle Tim called from his cell while driving a couple months ago. He was calling because he and Julie were coming to visit us soon, and he had a few questions. I almost started crying because I was talking To Uncle Tim, but he was driving and couldn't really talk. By the time Tim & Julie were here in person I got my shit together and played the Nothing to Worry About card. I now wish I would have fallen to my knees sobbing.

I have a difficult baby.

Hello my name is Stace and I have a tough baby.

Nina is over six months old now - an age that I have LITERALLY DREAMED ABOUT for about five and a half months. Six months couldn't, and didn't, come soon enough. I made it through alive (and Nina is alive too!) but it was probably the darkest time of my life, and by that I mean inside of me - my body and soul, was horribly, horribly dark, and it took five whole months of crying for help for me to finally get that help.

We took Nina to the ER, the pediatrician at a hospital (three times), a chiropractor (eight times), our family doctor a few times, and would have tried the witch doctor if they had been listed on the internet and accepted Visa. If you would have told me to shake chicken eggs around her head while singing "It's A Small World" backwards, I would have tried it. Starting solids at four months helped - she was hungry! Supplementing bottles of formula along with breastfeeding helped - I was surviving on adrenaline alone. But there was more to Nina - and there is still more to Nina. We may figure it out later on our own (I'll try giving her a Mensa test starting at about 18 months and we'll see how she performs), or it could be like what so many Moms in the Tough Baby Club say - something Just Wasn't Right, and We'll Never Know What It Was.

We checked and ruled out pyloric whatever and kidney/urinary whatever (what with the abdominal and kidney ULTRASOUNDS), and changing my diet, and soy formula, the cheapest formula, the most expensive formula, powdered formula, special bottles, special nipples, cup feeding, cereals, solid food (this one helped), ear infections, no it's not reflux, no really it's not reflux, teething, special sounds, songs, white noise, sleeping with me, not with me, in a cradle swing, in a swing swing, hot, cold, socks, no socks, herbs, greens, probiotics (I think those actually helped - Bio-K), but please don't tell me any more because she's six months old now and she's survived the worst of it, whatever it was. What she needs is a lot of stimulation and swinging and her Mama. The other twenty-seven things she needs we never figured out, but there's still time I guess.

I've considered writing a book about my ordeal for those six months, and whatever is ahead as well. Some say to watch what I write, because someday Nina may read it. But I need to be honest about this - I'm not writing a book for Nina to read a story about her babyhood, instead I need to talk to other Moms out there who Thought They Had Their Shit Together but then Had Another Baby. I have a lot to get off my chest (and whoa, you should see my chest). If at any point any human would have just walked up to me and given me a hug and said "Babies can be tough" I'm sure I would have bawled, groceries in hand, wearing Nina in her front pack, in my stretched-out yoga pants and maternity coat.

I once complained to Sean about my day - how we dropped Ever off at her pre-school (it was a two hour class once a week - something we can't afford anymore) and Nina and I walked to the grocery store and then the dollar store and then it was 2:00 and I had forgotten to eat lunch, so I went to "Jason's House" (Take Sushi) and the entire restaurant, and yes it was busy, proceeded to watch me try to eat a lunch special bento box while holding Nina. One man came over and chuckled that he remembered how hard his now-grown son was, seeing us. Another woman sitting near me talked about having two kids, both Ever and Nina's ages, and how nice it was to go back to work early and her husband stayed home with them. Others in the restaurant looked and watched and offered me sympathetic grins. This was during the HOUR that I was STANDING UP AND EATING MY FOOD WITH MY HANDS.
And every bite I took Nina reached out and grabbed it, and smooshed it in her fingers, and then tried to pull everything she could reach on the table off of the table and then she stuck her sushi-ricey hands in my hair and then she arched her back so I almost dropped her then she grabbed a menu and threw it on the floor and then and then and then SOMEBODY HOLD THIS BABY. SOMEBODY. COME OVER TO ME AND SAY "CAN I HOLD HER?" STOP STARING AT ME AND HELP ME.

The grocery store. The parking lot. The restaurant. Sean has to work during the day, people, and I have a baby and a toddler and I have two arms and two legs and two bags to carry at all times. I have grocery shopping and ballet lessons and that's about it and I CAN'T DO THIS BY MYSELF.

Sean says that people are probably afraid to come up to me and offer to help. Maybe I'd get offended. Maybe I don't speak English. Maybe I'll get angry. Maybe they are embarrassed for me. I told him I want to make a t-shirt that reads "SOMEBODY HOLD MY BABY".

It takes a village to raise a baby. It takes a village to help me with Nina.

I finally went to the doctor and told her I wasn't coping well. She put me on Zoloft. I don't know how to put this nicely, so I won't. I am not the problem. SHE is. I have a tough baby. I am not abnormally weeping or frustrated or exhausted GIVEN MY CIRCUMSTANCES. I am struggling to cope not because I don't have coping mechanisms but because this is a really hard baby.

I am now on 25 mg of Seroquel a night and I can assure you that it's not enough. I am pissed off every single day. I am surviving on adrenaline and I have absolutely zero fuse. Sean has to go to work every day and I can see the concern in his eyes when he kisses me goodbye in the morning. I can tell when he looks at me that he's thinking Please Be Nice To My Children.

Since going on Seroquel I no longer start calling Sean at 4 pm and asking how soon until he gets home. Since calling my Public Health Nurse, since calling my therapist, since receiving a volunteer who comes to my home every few days to hold my baby, since discovering StrongStart schools and going on most mornings, since going to Meetup.com to find other Moms in my neighborhood, since meeting a neighbor who is American with her 5 month old baby who I Totally Dig, since Nina finally turned six months old, since these things have happened I no longer worry. And yes, I do think there was a reason to worry. I don't want to go into the details but let me re-state Dark and Difficult.

And that brings me back to why just thinking of hugging Cinda makes me start crying. It's because I had resources that I was.... afraid? to use. Embarrassed? Too emotional? I mean it's obvious now why I haven't talked to Susan in six months - it's because I would have lost it. But I should have been willing to Go There. I should have talked it out. Sean's cousin Michael is the ONE PERSON who was brave enough to call me and literally say "Should I call CPS? Tell me the truth. Should I be concerned?" and he made this call when Nina was five-and-a-half months old, so I could then clearly say "No - not anymore." But leading up to that moment, as I was spiraling down, I should have reached out to my Comfort Creatures - even if just by phone - even if they didn't even know that they were as important to me as they are (I would guess that some have no idea just how much they comfort me). I should have called Cinda and said "Can you talk to me? It's Stace - Russ's daughter." and she would have totally listened to me. And Susan. And Susan's Mom Lois. And Dan & Maureen and Morrie & Diane in Seattle. I should have stepped over that barrier of.... what? Looking pathetic? Looking like I can't handle life? I should have just called them and said "I need help and I just need to hear your voice today." And then I probably would have let out a big sigh and said "I have a tough baby." And they would have listened. And listened and listened. And their voices would have come through the line like a hug from them. In my darkest times that would have meant the world to me.

I suppose getting all of this out must mean that it's getting better. And it is getting better. She is getting better. And I have to admit that I am getting better too. But it took a few months of feeling like I was screaming I NEED HELP to finally get that help. And there's a fear of Getting Help From Social Services crossing over the fine line of Social Services Taking Your Baby Away.

In the end I know I have a strong bond with This Baby (and her name was This Baby for about five months). It's like we are war buddies, what we've been through together. She looks at me and smiles and I know she's in there. She's happy, she just has this miserable phase to shake out yet. There are a few more seconds of happy each day - and few less seconds of misery (unless she's in the car, but that's another story). Overall, she is more than 50% Not Miserable now. And I've been waiting a LONG TIME to be able to say that.

I only wish that there was a way to figure it out - even in hindsight. I've seeked out the Parents of Tough Babies and the common theme is We'll Never Know What It Was. Nina will not say, at seventeen months, "I WAS LOW ON POTASSIUM MAMA, and I WANTED MY DRIVERS LICENSE. And my CAR SEAT was at a 17 degree ANGLE causing me to feel PUKEY the WHOLE TIME WE EVER DROVE ANYWHERE and I had a SERIOUS CRAVING FOR SUSHI and THAT HAIRCUT looked TERRIBLE on you and I wanted to DANCE DANCE DANCE with Ever as she DANCED CIRCLES AROUND ME."

Instead, Nina won't remember. And if she hears what I went through, if she hears how I felt, if maybe she reads the things I have written, I hope she will understand that I love my baby, but we had a real rough road at the start, but it Got Better From There.

Perhaps she will be my first novel. The title of which will be Somebody Hold This Baby.
(It's a working title.)

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