If You Don’t Cry
by Karissa Stein
My daughter had a difficult infancy. Ear-piercing shrieks. Diapers filled with green goo. Gnashing of teeth, mostly mine.
She might have been cute if she weren’t twisted up into a shriveled, wiry, sallow thing all the time. She was like a jaundiced Slim Jim in a pink onesie.
The Doctors said, “There’s nothing wrong with her. Just a little colic.”
The Parents said, “You were the same way when you were a baby.”
The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy that night. Can you get AWAY for a drink?”
Meaning, nobody wanted to come over to my house. And my husband was traveling for work.
I don’t blame my husband. He hated his job. He’s recently moved on to a better one. But I did think a number of times that no job could possibly be worse than the 24-hour a day one which shackled me to a screaming, writhing meat stick.
It’s safe to say I had post-partum depression.
The Doctors said, “It’s normal to feel this way when you’re not getting enough sleep.”
The Parents said, “We were the same way when you were a baby.”
The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy tonight.”
When I was able to convince a friend to come over (and I understand that I have a couple of very good friends, ones who were able to recognize that this child which interrupted our conversations in the most violent manner possible and yet were able to pick up the thread of what we were talking about twenty-five minutes later as if nothing had happened) I could see the energy draining from their faces. Three glasses of wine was not enough.
I began to wonder if I would ever love my child.
At some point one of these friends brought me these CDS, and I put them on the divider. That’s where all the things went, when I was too tired or frazzled to put them in proper places. Our divider looked like it belonged in the basement of an old hoarder. I remember three solid months where I watched an orange first grow mold, and then shrivel up into something hard and waxen, because I only had enough brain power to carry me from one task to the next, and anything else which got in the way was a distraction. And moving an orange, no matter how shriveled, from the divider, was not as a task very high on my list.
But there was a point, a very dark point, where she just kept crying and crying and I just couldn’t listen to her anymore. I needed something to drown her out, even though I was holding her in my arms.
The song which I put on repeat was “If You Don’t Cry.”
If you don’t cry
It isn’t love
If you don’t cry
Then you just don’t feel it deep enough.
And for a moment everything fell into place. Here was my justified. It was love, because I cried. I cried and cried and cried.
We cried together.
Things did not get easier immediately. It was a full six weeks before she began to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. But every time I cried, I reminded myself: If you don’t cry, it isn’t love.
My daughter is now four years old. She’s not easy. I doubt if she ever will be. But now that I’ve been able to get something resembling a full night’s sleep from time to time, I’ve realized just how strong she is.
I still wonder what she was experiencing during that time. Was it pain? Was it astonishment? Was it just a reflex? Whatever it was, it came from a little person who came out a warrior. To be able to cry that much, that consistently, takes a lot of strength.
I should know. I did it too.