Monday, November 23, 2009

Cutting Through the Gums

I pace the floor, leaving tracks like tire treads in the thick carpet.  Singing doesn't help, nor does humming, but this whooshing - yes, whooshing - seems to.  The song inside of an abandoned shell.  The sound of the womb.  The sound that is not sound.  So I whoosh away, over and over, around and around our track, into his ear.  I cradle his head in one hand and his diapered bottom in the other.  I whoosh.  I feel his body relax as the weight of him sinks into me, his head on my shoulder, the grip of his fists relenting.  The tears seem to wane, replaced by an uneasy peace - the occasional shivering intake of air that is part protest and part resignation.

Why does this hurt so much?  He wants an answer.  I feel the question in his cries.  I ask it too.  Why does he have to hurt?  Why does this hurt me?

I keep whooshing and walking, staying true to my elliptical course, contemplating the meaning of this challenge. 

A first tooth cutting through the gums.

And maybe it's a good lesson to learn, at six months, that life is like this.  Not just the hard part - the dull ache punctuated by sharp pain.  But also the comfort.  The balm on the wound.  The relief that comes in the anesthetic that is love - represented here by a frozen teething ring, a mother's touch, and the ocean's waves in a tiny ear.

The lesson that many questions do have answers, many problems do have solutions, much pain comes to an end.  That help will usually be on the way.

The lesson that, while you're figuring out the answer, it's best to keep walking, to keep holding on to each other, to keep on whooshing.  Yes, whooshing.

What lessons does suffering teach us?  

And, more importantly, how do you help a teething baby get some sleep?  (Tiny Baby thanks you in advance for your suggestions.)


  1. Oh, poor tiny baby! And poor tiny baby's sleepless mama...

    But you do have a point. Pain does teach us. I think I have learned more from my pains than I have from my triumphs. I learned that I CAN endure. That I'm stronger than I think. That it's okay to need help sometimes.

    Aside from baby Orajel, I have an old home remedy from my Gramma...but I don't recommend it! She would boil a coin with ridges on the end (like a quarter), cool it off and then rub it over the raw spot to cut the gum open and get it over with! And then rub whiskey on the wound! Geez, it's a wonder my mother turned out even halfway normal...

  2. Alas, there is something instructive about suffering. Horace said, "Suffering is but another name for the teaching of experience, which is the parent of instruction and the schoolmaster of life." Your poor little guy is learning already. That life isn't always pleasurable, or comfortable even. That with growth, and evolution, and change, comes that universal of (physical and emotional) pain.

    As for the teething bit, I think Motrin helped a bit. Also, my girls slept with (and chewed on) little blanket thingies. Wish I could be more helpful on this front!

  3. This is so beautifully written. And the ideal metaphor for everything new. "Cutting teeth" - there is a reason for that is expression.

    Our fingers in tiny mouths. We take their pain, and we ease their pain.

  4. Oh, the teeth. The teeth. I have a whole category of posts about my babies' teeth. And my big kids' teeth. I have shed more tears over teeth than I ever imagined possible.

    And the suffering part? Yes, that too. And what I have learned is that even with pain, life can be beautiful. Maybe someday my babies will understand that also.

  5. Oh the poor thing (and poor mama!!). My youngest is getting her first year molars, and they are a process. This post really bring beauty to the suffering that is teething.
    (have you tried Hyland's teething tablets? they're homeopathic, over the counter, and have worked wonders for both of my kids)

  6. The day my daughter began "cutting" her first tooth, she slept next to me all day. She ran a 103 degree temperature, that Tylenol was not easing, and wanted mommy to snuggle, comfort, and ease her pain. I could not ease her pain, but I did offer her my shoulder. I offered her my endless love. As you did for your youngest.

    This post captures the simple lessons learned because of pain.

    Remedies? We alternated Tylenol and Motrin (every 4 hours or as directed). This, at least, brought her fever down. I am not sure if it alleviated her pain, though. Have you tried Percocet? ; )

  7. Your writing is awesome! I don't have kids but if you are as comforting in real life as you are when you write then your baby will be just fine.

    You wrote just what I needed to hear so I wouldn't forget what I need to remember.

    Hope sleep finds both of you soon!

  8. Ah.This killed me (in a beautiful way). Loved this paragraph - "And maybe it's a good lesson to learn...." Really, really beautiful. Your imagery stirred up all of my experiences of walking the floors with my babies.

    Cold teethers, nursing if you breastfeed, lots of love, even some tylenol or motrin if the teether doesn't help?? Good luck...

  9. I love this post. So touching, so beautifully written (as are all of your posts). I felt my heart ache a little as I read it.

    Maybe Tylenol to help when it's really bad or when he can't sleep. Poor little guy.


  10. Oh pain. I tend to think of it as much different from suffering, though. They CAN be the same, but don't HAVE to be the same. And for explanation I probably need more time than I've got.

    Teething. Hmm. I think I'm a tough Mama. Or my boys are tough boys. The teeth tended to just pop on through. A sleepless night would warrant a bit more nursing or another bottle, and a good does of Motrin.

    The best part of it is knowing that it's not forever. Now if only I could remember that on a daily basis about MOST things.

  11. Oh and I just loved that your word verification asked me to put in "wootters."

    It gave me a giggle.



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