The Baby's Cry

A crucial motif in the novel Rufus is the sound of a baby crying. The boogeyman snatches up the child in his sack and totes her off into the mortal unknown, the baby cries, and anyone who hears it feels a sickening, existential dread of a sound that can never be unheard or forgotten.

In real life, to a young mother or father, the crying of an infant can be a dreadful thing. It can go on and on, it can rob you of sleep and strain your patience in a way nothing else in life had ever done. The baby can't tell you where the pain is, or what would make it go away, and so you try and fail at one thing after another as your nerves fray and your heart cracks; you would gladly transfer the pain to yourself if you could, but you can't. You can't fix it; the doctor says there's no indication of a serious problem, but he can't fix it either. It's as if your baby's spirit gets lost in some dark underworld, you can hear her cry and you go into it after her and you fumble through the darkness and call out, but just can't seem to find her. It's a desperate and helpless feeling.

And so you keep on keeping on. You try different feedings, touches, sounds, positions. When I was a young father I would hold the colicky babe and walk for what seemed like hours around the house. I finally came up with a certain carry that seemed to work, and so that became the go-to hold for me. I would drape her belly-down over my left forearm with her head at the crook of my left elbow, and I'd snake my right arm next to my left and bring my fist up to her chin and I'd let her suck my thumb. Sounds weird, I know. But it worked.

To a large extent, you do what works. Having a baby is a crash course in patience and endurance. Just remember that, unlike in the boogeyman story, the baby will come back from that dark place and her smile will light up your world. Persevere.


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