When my first son Joey was born via C-section he opened his slate-gray eyes, yawned and gradually began looking around the room. Even though I was loopy from the drugs, I still was keen enough to realize something was missing, and after a few seconds realized what it was: I heard the beeping of the blood pressure machine, the soft laughter of nurses as they weighed him and the click of our Canon as my husband proudly took photos. Missing? That famous newborn wail, seen in every Hollywood movie from Nine Months to Knocked Up.
It didn't vary when we brought him home. "What a good baby you have," family said. We didn't know what a bad baby was—we just knew we didn't want to find out. Though I had trouble breast-feeding, and Joey had a bad case of reflux which meant changing his outfit more times then Beyoncé while on tour, he so rarely cried that my stress level was low. I felt lucky to have my son, and I honestly enjoyed his company.
Everything changed when Liam was born, 15 months after Joey. He seemed happy only when being carried in a sling, which some moms love but I found cumbersome when trying to push Joey in the stroller or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If I set Liam down for a minute in the bassinet, he'd immediately let out a cry, writhing and flipping his body around like a trout on the end of a fishing line, and it would only escalate from there. Not only did he bawl for long periods of time (hours, sometimes) but his cry was high-pitched (think WW2 air raid siren).
Because Liam demanded my attention so often, I had a hefty scoop of good old-fashioned mom guilt; I felt I was letting down Joey. Whereas we used to enjoy playing blocks or coloring, my time was now directed toward his writhing red brother. Once, while walking around my bedroom bouncing Liam up and down while he wailed like a banshee in my ear, Joey kept tugging on my hand with his small, chubby fist, trying to pull me into his room to read him a story. "I can't freaking read to you right now!" I screamed at him, and immediately regretted my harsh words. It wasn't Joey's fault I was stressed out, after all. Ten minutes later Liam finally cheered up and I walked into Joey's room, where I found him curled up on the floor, fast asleep and clutching The Hungry Caterpillar under one arm.
I needed help, and I needed it fast. That's why I called up Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician helping moms (including Madonna) in situations like mine since he published his bestseller The Happiest Baby on the Block. Already celebrated for his "5 S's" technique (swaddling, side position, shushing, swinging and sucking) these are 10 additional tips, which, he says, accompany the S's. Speaking to Dr. Karp is like talking to a pediatrician Rainman—he can rattle off 10 tips for parents of a crier off the top of his head, each one enormously helpful and unique. I had varying degrees of success with each tip, but found that when I combined several together, Liam calmed down much sooner than before. Time also helped: He turned 4 months old last week and the crying has begun to diminish, allowing our relationship to blossom. And I signed up Joey for storytime at our local library to ensure the poor kid gets read to at least twice a week.