Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Little Self-Indulgence

It's every mother's worst fear that she will hurt her child. My baby's pain is my pain; his tears result in my own flowing freely down my cheeks. I can't bear the thought of being the source of that pain, causing him grief through my own carelessness. Imagine, then, my reaction to finding a blotchy purple, quarter-sized bruise on Big Boy's wrist Wednesday morning.

I wracked myself with guilt. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out when I had hurt my poor baby, defenseless in the world and utterly dependent upon me. All day I worried, reexamining his delicate little skin during every feeding, when his limbs are most relaxed.

We had driven for more than 12 hours on Tuesday -- a painfully long roadtrip for a new momma, two-month-old and dog. I wondered if I had clumsily pinched his skin in the clasp of his carseat somehow, or if I had accidentally banged his arm against a doorjamb while struggling to get him and all our paraphenalia out of a restaurant. What had I done and when had it happened? And why wouldn't I have known? Shouldn't I have heard him screaming his head off?

Wednesday night I put Big Boy to bed for the first time without swaddling him. He's become adept at what SuperHusband calls "Hulking out," a process by which he kicks his legs over and over until he loosens the wrappings that keep him otherwise peaceful in his sleep. Without the swaddling, our as-yet uncoordinated babe touches his face, puts his fingers in his mouth, (abruptly pulling them out again), and otherwise "worries" himself until he's wide awake. Previously, a nice tight swaddle prevented this, and our angel had begun to sleep through most nights. About two weeks ago, his size finally allowed him to kick out of even my most artful swaddle. As a result, I began getting up with him more than ever, as he realized more quickly with each passing night that he could escape. By Tuesday night, he was waking himself up nearly every hour.

So Wednesday I resigned myself to a new round of sleep training, in which I would get him to learn to put himself to sleep all over again, without the calming aid of swaddling. Based on our last round of sleep training, in which we took away the middle-of-the-night feeding, it takes about three excruciatingly sleep-deprived nights to get Big Boy on track. Therefore, I put my drowsy, unwrapped son down in his pajamas and prepared myself for a long night.

At about three a.m., I responded to his cries just long enough to make sure he wasn't positioned incorrectly or hurt. I watched him struggle to get a good hold on his thumb, getting mostly a mouthful of fist, and then I went back to bed. Eventually, he must've gotten hold of something, because about twenty minutes later, his crying stopped.

Thursday morning, I looked again at the tiny injured wrist. The bruise looked much better, little more than a dime-sized blotchy red patch now, and then it hit me:

My son had given himself a hickey.

It all made perfect sense. I had seen him sucking on his arm during one of my sleepwalking trips to the nursery on Tuesday night. There are few places on his hands and arms that I have not seen him try to put in his mouth. It explained the size and shape of the bruise, it's uncommon patchiness and the quick fading. Most importantly, it relieved me of my guilt and answered my questions.

I knew he had powerful suction, but I think he could give James Dyson a run for his money.


  1. so that's where boys learn it. You are a wonderful mom! Jen

  2. Sawyer had the same issue of still needing the swaddle to settle down at night, but kicking his way free. He was like Houdini escaping the straightjacket-- you would hear grunting for about five minutes followed by the sounds of him sucking on his left hand (always the left).

    Our solution was a bigger swaddle. I bought some flannel at WalMart for less than $2 for a yard and we swaddled him in "the super swaddle" for a few weeks. Turns out Sawyer's preferred sleep position is on his tummy. And now that I have admitted that in public, Social Services will probably be at our door this morning: "A baby on his belly?? YOU MONSTERS!".

    I sewed a border on the super swaddle and now it is his crib blanket.

  3. Super swaddle is awesome.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I have enabled comment moderation for posts older than 14 days to stop spammers from using my blog to advertise.