Motherhood: Hearing his cries

There’s one question that haunts me every single day.

Am I hearing, really hearing, my son’s cries?

I guess there’s no way of hiding it. I was a psychology student, in a primarily psychodynamic program (think along the lines of Freud, but modernized). As such, I ended up taking some psychodynamically focused classes, one of which focused on children.

There are these case studies that revolve around in my mind all the time. They haunted me while I took the class this past spring. I kept trying to focus on what I would do with a child client, but, as an expecting mother the whole semester, I always found myself wondering if I would be a “good enough mother.”

Anyways, these case studies had to do with mothers who, for some reason, couldn’t hear their child’s cries. What does that mean? They couldn’t really understand what their child was asking for, what their child was crying for. The reason? As children, their own cries were left unheard. Their cries and needs were unmet, so they were unable to understand and truly hear their own child’s cries.

Whenever my son cries and cries and cries and everything I do doesn’t seem to work, I always wonder if I’m hearing his cries. Am I responding to him as he needs me to? Am I going to be able to give him what he needs? Those case studies circle in my head and I panic, wondering if I’m hearing him. And then I wonder if my cries as a baby had been left unheard. But I’m not going to go asking my mom.

Instead, I take a deep breath, try everything I know he likes. If the crying doesn’t stop, I know he’s just wetting his diaper or needs to pass gas. Usually, that’s what he does. If that doesn’t happen, I try some empathy (oh, how being a psych student pays off in odd ways…). I put myself in his place, explore what he might be feeling and experiencing. And then I use that knowledge to guide my behaviors. Usually, I’m right.

And then I forget my question: Am I hearing his cries?

4 Comments

  • Molly Mortensen

    I read somewhere that babies cry so much because every discomfort is literally the worst thing they’ve ever felt. I thought it was a good theory for why sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

    I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last week with my mom and the one doctor wanted to hear her son cry so she’d know what was wrong and my mom said ‘hungry’ before the character did. I never realized there were different kinds of cries before.

    I imagine it would be so stressful hearing him cry and not being able to do anything. You shouldn’t worry though, I’m sure you’re a great mother. The most important thing is that you care. 🙂

    • katpersephone

      Thanks! Over a month later, the crying isn’t as bad, but I still can’t wait until he can talk and tell me what’s wrong. Yeah, I never really knew either that there are different cries. My only problem with my son is that the reasons for each cry seems to change almost daily, so it’s still a guessing game. But he’s 6 months now, so just a few more months until that first word!

  • jennifermzeiger

    What a class to have right before having you child! It’d make me over analyze everything. I’m sure you’re hearing him just fine. From what I understand, it’s the body language you give him that speaks the most.

    • katpersephone

      Thanks! It was an enjoyable, yet stressful class to have to go through, but it also taught me a lot. And it helps that he knows I will respond to him and try to make it better, but sometimes babies just need to cry.

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