When you hear the words “child abuser,” you tend to get a certain kind of mental image. Perhaps a drunk, violent father, beating his children in a rage. Or a drug addicted mother who’s run out of money for her next fix. She’s desperate, on the verge of hysteria, and then the baby starts crying….. Whatever the visuals are are, they tend to be tragic and terrible. Horrifying visions of parents whose lives are completely out of control.
What you don’t tend to picture is normal, every day moms and dads who love their children with all their hearts. Parents who are trying their very best, and want good things for their kids. People who aren’t “child abusers” at all, but one moment of poor judgement, or sleep-deprived desperation, or lack of a decent support system, can bring it all crashing down.
Raising a baby is a very hard job, and many people struggle
The sound of a baby crying can tug on your heart strings, without a doubt. But at 4 am when you’re exhausted and your hormones are out of whack, and your baby just. Won’t. Stop. Crying! No matter how much you feed and clean and swaddle and bounce and burp… It can be the most grating noise in the universe!
This is what most parents are unprepared for. Those moments when you’re already so worn out, and your brand new bundle of joy cries non stop for hours, pushing you dangerously close to insanity. That place on the mental map where, if there were labels, it would say, “Here there be dragons…”
Parents who would otherwise never DREAM of hurting their child, or any child, find that suddenly they’re walking in that no man’s land between “loving parent” and “crazed child abuser”. It’s terrifying, but it’s unbelievably common. And if you have been there…in that place when you were so tired, so frustrated, so angry, or so utterly desperate,……know that you’re not alone!
Having rough days and challenging moments with your kids is normal!
Statistics show that about 1,000 babies die each year from abusive head trauma, usually at the hands of an exhausted caregiver at their wit’s end. The damage done to the baby is always permanent, and very often fatal. And as for the parent, they’ll be labeled a child abuser and likely sent to prison. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are always options.
The internet is a rich resource for people struggling with adapting to parenthood. Websites like Helpguide.org, where there is a very comprehensive page on dealing with crying babies, and the Erikson Institute’s Fussy Baby Network are full of helpful suggestions and sound advice for those times when you are on the verge of losing your mind.
One of the best pieces of advice that we’ve heard given by nurses to new mothers is this: If you feel that you just can’t handle it anymore, put your baby down somewhere safe and warm, and walk away for a few minutes. There’s no shame in knowing your limits. Crying for a few minutes isn’t going to hurt a baby, but an exhausted and desperate parent might. So be honest with yourself about how much you can handle.
Know your limits. When you need a break, take it!
If nothing else, think about this. A crying baby lasts only a few hours, and at worst a colicky season can last a few months. Yes, we know, at this time of life a few months can seem like an eternity! But they won’t be nearly as long as the possible YEARS spent in prison if you make the wrong choice.
Here are a few National help lines to call if you need immediate advice or someone to talk to:
- 24-Hour Parent Helpline: 1-888-435-7553
- Crying Baby Hotline: 1-866-243-2229
- Fussy Baby Warm line: 1-888-431-BABY