Imagine for a moment that you can’t talk, feed yourself, dress or undress yourself. You’re roasting and want to change into something cooler, but you can’t. Instead, someone comes along and tries to shove food in your face. Or, imagine that you’re starving, and someone comes along, thinks you’re tired and starts to sing to you and try to get you to sleep. Sounds pretty, rough, right?
For the first weeks, months or however long it takes for a parent to learn to read their baby, that’s about how it goes. When Jacob was just a little guy—I mean a newborn of 8 pounds instead of a 4-month-old of 20 pounds—Tom and I hadn’t yet figured out how to “read” our little guy. This led to some frustrating-but-totally-hilarious days and nights for us and for Jacob. (Okay, maybe only hilarious for us, not for Jacob.)
He would cry because he wanted something, we would then decide that he was hungry—because why else would a baby cry and, besides, majority rules!—and try to shove a boob in his face. Of course, when this wasn’t what he wanted, he would cry even louder at the rude intrusion into his personal space. (And who could blame him?) Then, I would dejectedly tuck my girls away where the sun don’t shine and try something else. By the process of elimination, we would eventually figure out what to do. Sometimes it took hours, by which time the boob trick usually worked.
Now, four months in, reading his cries, gurgles, and moods has become like second nature, which makes all five of us happy. But it didn’t happen overnight. I believe it was around month three or so when I was first able to begin beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt pinpointing what cries meant what. Now, I have a whole list. There are the vocal expressions that mean “I’m hungry!” “Burp me!” or “I’m tired!” And, then there are those that that mean “Pick me up!” “Put me down!” “I have gas!” or “Hey, yo, mom, hand me that toy over there!” (In case you didn’t know, babies always punctuate their demands with exclamation points).
Having an open road of communication between the two of us (well, as open as you can get when one of the two people doesn’t know how to talk), has made mamahood infinitely easier and more quiet. When you can give your baby what he needs when he needs it, he won’t feel the need to tell you all about it. And, we all know that when babies “tell you all about it” they only know how to do it one way—loudly.
Being able to understand Jacob has been especially helpful when we’re out around friends and family or in public places. I am able to confidently assess his moods and reactions—“Oh, that’s a hungry cry.” “Oh, he wants to be put down.”—and respond accordingly rather than trying a million different things (999,999 of them including a boob) before hitting on the right one.
Because getting to know the way Jacob expresses himself has meant a lot less stress for me and Tom (and whoever happens to be around us when he starts to fuss), it has made parenting so much more fun. If Jacob happens to be shrieking loudly, we don’t get frantic and panicky, we just start to “Fi-Fi-Fo-Fum” him, which is as weird as it sounds. It’s a little rhyme that Tom started with Jacob a few months back when he was gassy. Now, when he is having tummy trouble, one of us (usually Tom because it’s so ridiculous that I have trouble bringing myself to do it) chants “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the gas of a little one” while bicycling Jacob’s legs. Voila! A happy baby every time.
As a mom, it’s a major relief to know that Tom and I are total pros (*cough*) at knowing what our little guy needs all the time. Okay, so maybe it’s not all the time, but we’re off to a pretty good start. By the time Jacob is a teenager, we should totally have it all down. Of course, by then, he’ll be speaking a completely different language and the learning process will begin all over again.