Our 2nd born.
Fletcher has taught me so much about life in his 22 months on this earth. He has taught me how to truly love someone unconditionally. He has taught me a level of patience that I never knew existed. Fletcher has brought me closer to God than I've ever been before... I hate to say it but Fletcher also taught me why people shake babies. Trust me, that last one was harder for me to type than it was for you to read...
A few weeks ago my good friend Mike Smith (Sunshine Dad) wrote a blog post about how crazy and difficult his second child can be. Why is the 2nd child crazy? While reading Mike's post my wheels just started turning and I was reminded that I really have a great story to tell. A story that can help expectant parents who may one day find themselves where we were in the months following the birth of our second child. A story that can also help parents who have been where we were but may still be facing challenges as a result of their own personal Fletcher.
Ahhh, the first cries of a new born baby. Such a welcome sound to the ears of a parent in the delivery room. You cannot wait to hear that cry. For the most part, it means that everything is okay. You can relax. Your new baby is breathing and really taking those lungs on their very first test drive. Give it all you've got, son. Let her rip! In a few moments we'll begin learning how to soothe you. We'll get you fed and swaddled... but for now, just stretch those lungs.
Then we never want to hear you cry again... Ever! Ha! That first cry is the only one we'll ever look forward to. We'd rather just sit back and reap the rewards of being "amazing" parents, just like we did with our first born. I remember being convinced that our second son would be just like our first. Why wouldn't he be? We're not going to do anything different. We've got this. We've been here before. We know how this is done.
You have other plans?
Unfortunately, Fletcher spent most of his first 5 months doing just what he's doing in the picture above.
Look at me. I had no idea that the wrath of Fletcher was on it's way.
Poor guy... (that goes for both of us)
Now, before you read any further please keep in mind that Fletcher is perfectly healthy. So many parents are unexpectedly hit with a diagnosis that has life changing implications just after the birth of a child. I'm grateful that was not the case with us. I want to be sensitive to that. The last thing I want to do is come off as a parent who is complaining about simply being a parent when there are so many others out there wishing all they had to do was deal with a whiny baby. Babies cry. I get that. Sometimes they are really hard to soothe. However, It can wear you out, frustrate you and beat you down mentally.
According to our pediatrician, he may have been born with a somewhat premature digestive system. According to a million other genius armchair doctors he had Colic.
Colic? What is that?
I mean, I know the definition of the word but
am I the only parent who thinks it's kind of strange?
When I first heard someone say he had Colic my initial thoughts were:
How do we get rid of it? What's the cure? What type of medicine do we need? Let's get him all better.
"Oh, no no no. Colic is not a sickness or a disease. There is no medicine. There is no cure. Your baby is gassy and discontent which causes him to scream in pain at the top of his lungs for hours. We're going to call that Colic so we can technically have a diagnosis and hopefully that will make you feel better even though there is nothing you can do about it but try a few home remedies and give him gas drops."
Maybe it's just me but I would prefer you just tell me I have a gassy discontent baby and to buckle up for a wild ride because only God knows how long it is going to last... Yeah, that's probably just me.
There were many times that I thought he had cried so hard for so long that he might literally explode before my eyes. This was the most heart breaking thing I have ever experienced, while simultaneously being the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced. How is it possible for a baby to cry this much? He's clearly not satisfied with the parents the doctor sent him home with. Why was this so easy the first time around and so difficult this time? Did we forget what to do? Why is burping this baby like solving a rubix cube?
Daphne and I used to joke that in his first five months he cried more than our 2 and 1/2 year old had in his entire life. It was true. We would get him to sleep at night and 30 minutes later he would wake up screaming. He would continue to scream for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour until we finally found the secret position that got him back to sleep. He kept us guessing. There was never any rhyme or reason to this:
Who could forget the old upside down crotch grab? One of our most successful positions.
When that didn't work I would resort to the two armed baby holster. I would hold him like this, bend over at the waste and swing him back and forth. Yes, we had a swing but he didn't care for it most of the time. He would prefer his Daddy get a little work out.
One night I played him to sleep with the Bubble Guppies guitar. My real guitar came in handy on multiple occasions as well.
Here we are under a dock on a beach on the North Carolina shore after a good 2 a.m. screaming sesh.
Thank God for the ocean waves.
Ah yes, the night he wanted to prop his face in my hand and sleep sitting up.
Give us a break. Please, just one break? Fletcher could turn a 30 minute drive into a 2 hour adventure in which the only time he wasn't crying was when I stood in the Burger King parking lot in the glow of the drive thru menu imagining myself trying to disguise him as the kids meal toy and handing him over to the cute little girl in the backseat of the approaching Chrysler Town & Country and running for the hills. Oh, Fletcher!
What made trips like this even more enjoyable was the fact that his older brother was a "Team Crier." Oh boy, if Fletcher was upset Cooper was not about to let his poor little "bruhder" cry this out alone. Thanks Coop. We appreciate your concern. Really, we do.
My poor wife. When I was at work she was at home with the two boys all day. I don't know how she made it through this five month stretch. She deserves some kind of medal. No, she deserves more than that. She deserves a lifetime supply of Ice cream. Daphne, if you're reading this, I appreciate you and I will make you Ice cream 'til death do us part. I promise.
I remember taking a few days off of work just so she could have a "mental health day." I knew how helpful that extra set of hands was. There were nights when she needed to go out with the girls. Make no mistake, it was a NEED, not a WANT. I acted like it was no big deal but as soon as that door shut behind her I just prayed. There was also a two week stretch when I basically locked myself in the guest bedroom with Fletcher so Daphne could get some good rest at night. This involved a lot more prayer.
Let me be clear that Fletcher's discomfort was more heart breaking than anything else but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced. Some nights nothing worked. NOTHING! I'll never forget in my most desperate moments thinking, "So, this is why people shake babies." I'm sure that multiple times in your life you've seen the mug shot of some loser on the news who just went to jail for shaking a baby. Well, I've always been the type of person who immediately passed judgement on that guy and said a few choice words about him. I also made my thoughts clear on what they ought to do to him in jail, but I didn't know it could get this bad. I didn't know babies were capable of this kind of misery.
Don't get me wrong. I've never had sympathy for someone who has made such a detestable decision. It's completely unacceptable. Empathy, however? Yes. Now that I understand how it happens, I completely understand how someone who is sleep deprived, frustrated and perhaps lacking the proper mental tools to have a child to begin with, can make such a horrible decision. After all, we literally tried everything besides shaking him and most times, none of it worked. The thought of it makes me sick. What if my mother hadn't put in overtime to teach me how to control my temper? What if God had decided to give my sweet little Fletcher to someone incapable of learning this unconditional love and special level of patience? I cringe at the thought as the tears well up in my eyes. Sometimes you just have to love someone through a situation and rely on faith that the reward is there even though you may not be able to see it. Thankfully, God gave Fletcher to Daphne and Me and we made it through that chapter of our lives together.
I'll never forget a conversation we had with an older woman when Daphne was pregnant with Fletcher. She had two children. Two sons who were in their late teens/early twenties at the time of the conversation. They were close in age like Cooper and Fletcher would be. She told me that from the day her second son was born she could tell he was just difficult. She said he was just different and he's been that way his entire life. Then she kind of rolled her eyes.
Today her oldest son is very successful. He's confident and thriving at life. He's a contributing member to society and in good standing with mom and dad. Her youngest son continues to make poor decisions and seems to be the black sheep of the family. I've often found myself thinking back to this conversation, especially during Fletcher's "dark days." I bet she would tell you that she was given a "bad egg." She would say that she did the best she could with him but he just always made things hard on himself. I just can't help but think that she may have expected her second son to be just like her first son and because of this expectation she never let him just be himself. Maybe she always held him to a standard set by the temperament of her first son and because he came nowhere near fitting into that mold she just wrote him off as a bad egg and therefore parented him in a completely different manner than she parented her oldest son.
I remember those thoughts creeping into my head:
"He's just so difficult."
"We're fighting a losing battle. Things will never change"
"What's wrong with this child?"
When they did I would think back to that conversation and how I felt like her second son just got the raw end of the deal. It just wasn't fair for him. He didn't get the same encouragement and praise because he was difficult from day one. When you really think about it, he probably deserved more encouragement. He definitely deserved more patience. He needed more patience and I couldn't help but feel like she gave him less. I made a deal with myself that I would NOT under any circumstance short change my Fletcher. I promised myself to always let my sympathy for his discomfort win the battle with my frustration for my own discomfort. His first few months were hard enough. The last thing he needs is a hardened and impatient heart from someone who should be opening his heart even wider for him. I was not going to let that happen.
They say that parenting is a "labor of love" and they are right. I can honestly say, now that we have passed this phase, that I wouldn't change a thing. I've grown so much through these trials and I feel like Daphne and I have won a battle. We used to ask ourselves questions like, "How is it possible for a baby to cry this much?" Today we ask ourselves questions like, "How is it possible for a toddler to find so much joy in so many things?" He gets so excited about so many small things in life and brings so much joy to us on an every day basis. He's definitely still a handful. He's just a much more manageable handful.
Today, Fletcher is almost two years old. He's the kind of kid who will walk into the kitchen, see his high chair and think, "Man, I'm hungry. I've got to find a way to get up there." Sure enough, if I turn my back on him for one minute he'll find a way into that high chair. Its incredible. I need to hide a camera in the kitchen to figure out how he does it.
What makes it exceptionally mind blowing is the fact that once he gets up there and tells me how hungry he is, he simply refuses to eat anything...besides maybe the marshmallows out of Lucky Charms cereal.
We find Fletcher shut in a dark closet, shut in the pantry or stuck somewhere in the house once or twice a week minimum.
Oh, Fletcher! You've really made your mark on us. You've redefined the way we approach parenting and life in general. You've taught us so many lessons. I'm still trying to grasp the one where you potty while standing on your head.