Learning the cry

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

By Megan Cardwell


Do you remember reading books or talking to other moms and having them tell you that you would learn your baby’s cries? That magically, their cry would change, and you would just know what they needed depending on the pitch or frequency? I remember being about three months into being a mom, and I felt like that was a hock of shit. I still couldn’t distinguish between any of Addison’s cries and was convinced that she didn’t actually have a different cry to give me any indication as to what she needed in that moment.


I spent her infant days cycling through things that I thought it could be until we hit the nail on the head. Was she hungry? Did she need a diaper change? Was she tired? Was she bored? Did she have gas? Did she need a change of scenery? If none of the above, I would start the list all over again. I never felt like I had her “figured out.” I just felt like I was lucky when I would (eventually) figure out what it was, but it wasn’t because of her cry.


Until today.


This morning, Addison popped awake about an hour before she normally does, screaming crying. She sounded scared, honestly. So, I ripped the covers away from my body, threw my bathrobe on real quick and rushed into her room. I knew she needed me, and before I even let my brain think it, my body was moving toward her room.


Despite the room being dark, I could see her lift her little arms up, as if to say “mama, please hold me.” And I did. I scooped her up and I snuggled her into me. I knew that’s what she needed. She needed to be reassured. To know that someone was there to make her feel safe. I love that I have the ability to do that for her. That my presence, my arms, make her feel protected.


Because it was earlier than our normal awake time by kind of a lot, I decided I would sit in the rocking chair with her and see if I could get her to fall back asleep. Now let me tell y’all…. My girl does not cuddle. If she cuddles, it’s because she REALLY needs it. Otherwise, she just wants to be left to fall asleep on her own (she is definitely mine!). So, when I sat down and started rocking with her, I thought, “fat chance that she will, but I’ll try. And if she does, I am going to soak every flipping bit of it in”.


And guess what? She immediately laid her head on my shoulder and tucked her arm under mine. She calmed right down. Snuggled right in. And she slept for another 45 minutes.


I sat in the chair, arm falling asleep from the weight of her head, thinking about just how much I love every second of being her mom. I don’t know how I lucked into having HER as my daughter, but I am SO happy those stars aligned.


And then I thought, “this is it.” THIS was the exact moment that I knew I could distinguish her cries.


Before I even realized I knew what she needed, my heart knew that she needed me, and I was there in a nanosecond. There are other times that she will cry out and I know it’s not a cry that means “mama come hold me.” I don’t really know when it switched for us. But somehow, over time, I have learned what her cries and her whines mean, even though she still doesn’t have the ability to tell me exactly what she needs just yet.


I remember in the beginning of becoming a mother, feeling like I wasn’t cut out for it and that I would never be one of those moms who just knows what their children need without having to go through a laundry list of guesses.


So, if you feel that way, I see you. And I know it’s going to change for you the way it did for me. It took me a year to realize that it did. Somewhere along the way, without even realizing it, it just became second nature.


You may not know instantly what it is that your baby needs in the beginning. You are both learning how to communicate with each other and that takes time. Hang in there mama. I promise, you are cut out for this. You were perfectly made for this and perfectly made for that little bean.

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