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Thursday, March 5, 2015

FLETCH: So this is why people shake babies.

Meet Fletcher.
 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.

Wait! What?

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.
Seriously Fletch!?!

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." 

"Typical Fletcher."

"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.

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  1. What an amazing post Casey! Truly.

    For me it was our first that suffered with Colic, he was uncomfortable a lot of the time and we struggled through our first few months. First time parenting is hard enough but when you couple that with a baby who has Colic, ouch! Now my eldest is 10 years old, that screaming, unconsolable baby is in the distant past. These days he's grumpy lots and likes to stomp around the house - I think it's the pre-teen stage. But I agree with you, those days when you think the screaming will never end soon disappear and your days are filled with joy once more. Thank you for sharing such a brilliant post Casey. xx

    1. Thank you Morgan. We all prefer the joy to the screaming, that's for sure. Good luck with that pre teen!!!

  2. Fletcher did cry for about the first five months of his life, no exaggeration. I lived through some of it but I could just go home
    when I had enough. Casey and Daphne couldn't. They are wonderful parents and I think Fletcher and Cooper will one day feel the same.
    Maybe this post will help some young couple with similar problems.

  3. Oh how parenting can change when they get older. My eldest was a pretty laid back easy going baby. Although he did have colic which caused problems. My youngest was a nightmare so hard to cope with. Mikes right second child is tough. But the strange thing is 6 years on or 3 in the case of my youngest it's all changed in how they behave now compared to the hard baby times.

    I think that it's good though they do, as you said, teach us how to approach parenting. If I had another though I still don't think I'd know what I am doing lol thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky

    1. It's an ever evolving battle my friend, as you know. Keep up the hard work Martyn!!

  4. Oh man. Those first few months with Greyson crying were like the twighlight zone. The crying was maddening. I can remember putting him down in his bassinet screaming and walking outside to get away from it before I hurt him or myself. It seemed like he was never going to stop. Sleep, cry or eat that was all he did for months. It was tough. (As you well know) But now that our kids are older what amazing personalities they have. So entertaining and full of life. Great post man.

    1. Thanks Mike!! Sometimes walking away and re grouping is the best thing to do.Thank God we're past those tough months

  5. Such a great post! Thank you for sharing this! So many moments hubby and I have identified with...our 6 month old has had numerous issues (colic, reflux, eczema) - totally empathise :)

    1. Ahhh, Fletch had reflux and still has bouts with eczema. We got brand new carpet right before he was born and I thought that reflux was going to ruin it Single handedly. Sounds like we were in the same boat. Good luck fighting the good fight. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  6. It strikes me how the second baby can be so different from the first one. That has been our experience too. You would imagine that with the same genetics, same parents, same upbringing the end result should be so similar but no! There are always these things you cannot factor in and you never saw coming..

    1. I was absolutely convinced that our second would be just like our first. I looked at it the very same way you explained. Boy was I wrong.

    2. I was absolutely convinced that our second would be just like our first. I looked at it the very same way you explained. Boy was I wrong.

  7. I think I would go insane. Probably start crying with him.
    Thank you for tossing your hat into the ring at the Party Under The Big Top! I hope to see you again next week!

  8. I really loved this post!!! I've had friends whose babies had colic and that was one of my worst fears when I was pregnant! Mine didn't have it but I can certainly empathize with you...I know how difficult it can be.

    I also agree that the second can be so different from the first. My oldest is shy, quiet and careful about everything but my 3 year old climbs on everything she possibly can and is a little chatterbox (and that's an understatement). Funny how two children with the same parents and upbringing can turn out so different! I guess that's to keep it interesting :-)

    Lisa @ Fun Money Finds

    1. You are so right Lisa. Mind boggling how they end up so different. Thanks for giving it a read

  9. What a fabulous post Casey! I know all too well the wrath of the second child with colic to top it all off! I'm really not sure why these second children are the way they are but ever since Mike, Sunshine Dad, wrote that post I have been thinking about it just as you have! With my girls now being almost 14, March 24th, and 15 years old I have on MANY occasions asked God, my friends, ANYONE who will listen, "How in the world do two children that are raised EXACTLY the same way turn out soooo very different?" The answer for me is a complex one that I won't go into here as it is a post in itself.

    On the bright side, my sissy is the infamous SECOND CHILD and was a terror and at times, in my opinion a FREAK! But now that she is 40, well for quite some time now, she is NORMAL and grew out of it all years ago so there is hope for our troubled second children after all. Didn't think about sissy until, like I said, I really thought about Mike's post.

    Back to the post here... Sorry I get distracted easily, like in the movie "Up" when the dog says, "Hi my name is... Squirrel!" Yep, that's me! Hahaha!

    I know exactly what you mean and what you are saying about why people shake babies. Not that I have or ever would but that frustration that comes from being sleep deprived and your nerves completely shot with a newborn with colic has got to be the MOST frustrating thing I have EVER had to deal with. I wouldn't trade that whole period of my life with my worse enemy, seriously!

    Not only are you frustrated because you just want the crying to stop you also just want some sleep. The part that was the hardest for me, and sounds like it was for you as well, was the fact that my child was suffering and I couldn't do a damn thing to make her feel better or to make it go away. Okay, I've rambled on enough... Again, what an excellent post!

    Thank you for linking up to Party Under the Big Top, the #BigTopBlogParty! So happy you were able to join in on the fun this week!

    Wishing you a fabulous week!

    Much love,

    Lysa xx
    Welcome to My Circus

    1. How did I NOT respond to such a fabulous comment? I do believe I did and there must have been a glitch but I'm glad I caught it.

      You are absolutely right. The worst part about it is the fact that you can't do anything about it or maybe you can but it's such a guessing game that even if what you did worked you have no way of knowing if it did or if his tummy just quit hurting?!?! What a drag!!! Anyway, thanks for reading and for the awesome comment... squirell!!!
      UP is a family favorite over here. Plus, the ladies I work with are always saying it because apparently, they are natural blondes like you. Haha. Have a good one Lysa!!!!

  10. Such a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing it. I cannot imagine how difficult that time was but so glad to hear what a great time you are having now. I def agree that it is through getting through the hard times that your relationship with your partner becomes solid as a rock. Thanks for linking this one up buddy #bigfatlinky ps love the photos

    1. Thanks Al. Those tough times have brought us so close together. I'm sure you and your wife can relate with Ted's sleeping issues. #bigfatlinky

  11. This is a brilliantly insightful and honest post. If you have ever had a screamer, plus little sleep, then you can relate to this. It's saying the unsaid but it's ok to have such frustrated thoughts. My first son was a prolific crier so much so that people used to comment how they could hear him down the hallway from the swimming changing rooms, ask if he or I were alright when out shopping (not helpful! I could hear him you know!)...and he was quite unsoothable which made it more frustrating. He was and is also the most happy and laughing child ever at other times, so he the extremes of both ends of the personality spectrum. They were times when I said to my husband in the middle of he night 'he's going the right way to get chucked down the stairs' . But, the distinction is, that I would never of actually of done any thing to him, ever and having the insight about what would happen if you did and the overwhelming love that you have for such a tiny helpless thing would stop most sane people even if they are totally sleep deprived. Before having children I was much the same and would of thought 'how could someone do that' and also being a doctor, I have seen horrific child abuse cases from very callous people. But again, there is a distinction and a barrier to most normal people having normal feelings and thinking things, and then reasoning they would never actually do it and seeing that it's just the tiredness and the frustration of it all to actually doing it and having a malicious intent behind it. If my first child had the temperament of my second (mellow easy to settle and a reprieve from the first), I wouldn't still of understood the true trials of the crier and colic. Also having attended lots of child protection meetings, even the lead child protection nurse said she felt like chucking the baby down the stairs in moments of frustration. Its a thought that crosses the minds of the best of us. It's a taboo subject, for fear of being accused of abuse or at risk of causing it, but I think the thought does easily cross people's minds. But as you so well describe, you would never want to hurt your child and the intent to do it is never there. All part of the trials of being a parent and being human.

    1. agh, should of put #bigfatlinky and #brilliantblogposts on that.

  12. My first son had colic and it's a nightmare, he cried for 6 hours once because of it. Not good. Loved this post, brought back a lot of memories, even if some were tough to recollect. Thanks for linking up