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Sweet Baby James

Solot summer 2014-9927

You are only one, but there is so much to say about you.

We contemplated whether or not to have a third baby. Did we have room for one more? Did we have the patience, the stamina, and the mental reserve to have three kids under five-years-old? We didn’t know if we did, but when I looked at family photographs, a part of me knew that someone was missing.

You were missing.


In April 2013, my dad died and one month later I discovered I was pregnant with you. It was a hard pregnancy. There was my grief. Then your dad tore his achilles tendon and could not drive or walk for two months. That fall, your dad lost his cousin and a childhood friend.  The doctor told me that each subsequent pregnancy feels harder on a woman’s body. My body hurt. Pregnant with two preschoolers and an injured husband, I was exhausted.

People often said, “Don’t worry third babies just go with the flow.” Pregnant with my third, I clung to this adage wholeheartedly.

In my head, I thought you would just roll with the punches. Your dad hoped you would be a garden gnome baby who would sit and sleep in your baby carrier and be toted to all of your sisters’ activities. We did not think to contemplate the alternative, which was the ultimate jinx.


You screamed. You cried like a screeching car alarm, hardly breathing. You turned purple screaming. The color vanished from your lips.

The definition of colic is constant and inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week, for at least three months. The definition sounds nice compared to your screaming. You screamed all day every day for months. I dreamed of only three hours of crying.

You screamed at home. You screamed in the car. You screamed in the stroller when I walked your sisters into preschool. You screamed at the supermarket.

“Is he tired?”

”Is he hungry?”

“Does he need to be changed?”

“Is he cold?”

A chorus of suggestions from well meaning strangers followed me wherever I went.

When my four-year-old daughter’s teachers asked about her baby brother, she responded, “He cries a lot,” which may have been the understatement of the year.

Initially, I marveled at the patience of your two big sisters since your scream became the soundtrack of our lives.  We couldn’t hear ourselves think. I marveled at my husband’s patience. He would never have maintained his cool so well with our first baby.

We were all so patient, but then …

Your two-year-old sister lost her cool. As you screamed in your car seat, she put her hands over her ears and started crying and yelling at the top of her lungs, “BABY, STOP SCREAMING,” repeatedly on every drive.

The sheer noise level of our drives was mind altering.  This may have been the point where the rest of us lost our minds.  My hearing permanently diminished.

Was it reflux? We tried gripe water, Zantac, Prevacid, and Chamomile tea. I eliminated everything from my diet.

You cried. You screamed. You didn’t sleep. You were up every hour for months on end.

I worried that you would never smile. I prayed there was nothing wrong with you. Were you in physical pain? Was there something wrong with your brain or your nervous system?  Your screams pierced our psyches.

My spirit wilted. Were we going to be okay? Denial, I kept smiling.

At this point, there were a handful of people that were my saviors, your grandmothers, who were the only people I trusted to watch you as you screamed inconsolably, a couple of friends who listened empathetically, but most of all there was my twin sister.  She maintained my sanity.  I have never been so grateful for our relationship. She had a newborn as well, a daughter two months older than you. Every day I dropped my big girl at preschool and endured the stares as you shrieked in the stroller. I drove around in my minivan, talking to my sister on Bluetooth, as you endlessly shrieked in the back seat. She spent countless morning hours on the phone with me as I drove my screaming baby. She never told me she couldn’t hear me. She never complained. She never told me to call her back. She talked to me about life as you screeched inconsolably in our ears. This is love.

One conversation stands out.

“Having a third baby is not so bad.” I commented as I pulled out of my alley. “You should definitely have a third baby.”

“Justine, are you crazy?” she said. “I talk to you every day.  You may be the reason I never have a third child.  You can’t tell me what your doing is easy. I can’t stand it when my baby screams like that for five minutes. What you’re experiencing is so hard!” She acknowledged what I couldn’t say out loud.  Silly, but her words meant everything.

At two months, you smiled and the family breathed a collective sigh of relief. You laughed. Milestones came and time passed. The colic vanished with the size 2 baby diapers.  Colic became a distant memory.


Your beginning makes me think of an Edward Abbey quotation, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

You are the most amazing view.

You are joy, love, and enthusiasm. You stretch your arms and reach for everyone in the family – an equal opportunity spreader of love.

When I cradle you, you wrap your arms around my neck, pulling my face close to your soft cheek.

You give giant open mouth kisses to everyone in the family, sucking on our noses, cheeks, and mouths.

“This is hilarious,” your big sister giggles as you dive mouth first for her nose. (These kisses may have something to do with this being the worst cold season we have ever experienced).

Adored. We swoon in your presence.

You love your big sisters, but they may love you more. This Thanksgiving, the curmudgeony three-year-old proudly told her teachers that she was thankful for her baby brother.

We are all thankful for you.

You have zero personal space. Your two big sisters smother you with hugs whether you want them or not. They grab you, and you either laugh or you scream.

You don’t talk yet, but your desires are known. You watch me fix a snack for your sisters and you shriek loudly until the same snack is placed on your tray. I fill a glass of water and you scream because you are thirsty too.

You scream until your needs are met.

Meals are loud.

Life is loud.

You already know you must fight for what you want. Your three-year-old sister steals your toy and a guttural howl escapes your mouth. Your arm stretches to grab it back. This may be her favorite game, anything you like she takes instantly.

At six-months-old, you saw soccer balls in the grass and kicked your feet wildly with excitement. You chase balls around the house, pushing and throwing them and then crawling after them at rocket speed.


Much to your dad’s joy, you sit in front of the basketball hoop outside and reach up with your arms to try to place the ball in the hoop.

You and Deets (our dog) are equally obsessed with tennis balls.

You started crawling at 7.5 months.

You are a lover of all things dangerous – stairs, toilets, sockets, and electrical chords.

You don’t know how to walk but you climb step stools and stand on your tippy toes to grab anything elicit from the counter.

You stand on your tiptoes and pull colored pencils off the girls’ art table.

You bump your head on the coffee table at least a thousand times a day. You don’t go around tables or chairs instead you go through them and are constantly stuck in chair legs, rungs, and sandwiched in between end tables and couches.

You see an open baby gate and throw your crawl into high gear in hopes that you make it to the stairs before me. We have started constructing giant barriers of beanbag chairs and toy baskets to block you off from dangerous areas of the house. You summit our manmade obstacles and we make them higher. Cru, our old Basset Hound, barks constantly at the barricades . Again, we are so loud.

The girls screamed angrily in their highchairs when the dogs ate crumbs from their laps. You giggle with delight when the dogs lick your feet.

“Hi,” you wave, so pleased with your ability to communicate. Your wave is an exaggerated opening and closing of the fingers. I say hi, and your fingers immediately respond. I tell you to say goodnight to your dad and sisters, and your fingers open and close dramatically.

You laugh hysterically at my jokes and funny sounds.

You have the hazel eyes of your namesake.

You have a one-year-old mullet of thin old man hair that makes us smile.

You are beautiful.

We survived your first year.  My last baby, every moment is nostalgic. Every milestone is as wonderful as those accomplished by your two big sisters. As I felt with them, you truly are the smartest, most coordinated, most loving, and most beautiful baby in the world.

How did we get so lucky three times?

You put giant smiles on all of our faces. Our hearts soar for you.

“My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” (Tom Robbins)

13 thoughts on “Sweet Baby James

  1. We have often had the “Should we have a third?” conversation, and at this point we’ve all but ruled it out except perhaps adoption. But our first child was colicky (2 months to 5 months old, 24/7), so I completely understand your frustration and confusion. I still remember the only helpful comment I ever received from a mother who walked up to me in a store once and said, “Don’t worry, I had a colicky baby, and she became the spirited child that entertains us all. Maybe she’s just anxious to communicate.” Sure enough, our daughter began babbling at five months and like a light switch, the crying went away. She began smiling and talking and never stopped. By 18 months, we counted 100+ words in her vocabulary (in two languages, thanks to our Peruvian nanny!). At six years old, she is our wonderful, spirited child. She still is what I’d call “sensitive,” in that she has some sensory integration issues–after lots of fighting that I now regret, I’ve finally let her guide us in what she wears, and anything that isn’t comfortable (all jeans and “scratchy” clothes) gets donated. I’m glad you’re out of that fog now and can enjoy the smiles. Good luck with three! Life is a gift.

    • Life is such a gift. When you are stuck in the colicky stage, it feels as if it will last forever, but it passes, personalities emerge, and the chronic tears become a distant memory. After reading my post, my husband commented that he almost forgot how hard his beginning was, so much happens the first year.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. I look forward to reading more from you. Happy New Year.

    • Oh Justine, I’m sorry to hear about your first colicky baby! I had one of those, too. My daughter is now a very sensitive and highly spirited six year old. She also has sensory issues, and sadly, quite a bit of anxiety. I wonder if there is a connection between sensory and colic… Hmm, anyway, colic is definitely part of the reason we will never have 3!

  2. Justine…. I just read this post. I am a little behind, but I am also in tears. What a beautiful honest, real post. I also forgot how hard it was for you because it all looked so easy at Thanksgiving. Baby James is soooo beautiful and easy going and you always make parenting look so easy. However, it is the mention of the long discussions with Elizabeth that made me cry. I am so happy you two have that relationship. May you two continue to lean on each other for life. Love you much. Andrea

  3. Oh Justine, this post resonates for me in SO many ways! My daughter, our first child, had colic and it was beyond horrifying. It lasted for 4 months, and having nothing to compare it to, my husband and I were a wreck. Also, my mother died several months before I became pregnant, so during my pregnancy, and colic, I was still in deep mourning.

    But for you, losing your dad – I’m so sorry for your loss – and also having two small children to tend to, is really beyond overwhelming – and then, colic on top of that?! Crazy. What a trying time for you all. I’m so glad you’re out of the woods.

    Your son sounds adorable and I love that he has two big sisters to love him and keep him in love 🙂

    • Colic is beyond hard, amazing to have a happy baby a year later. I’m sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how hard it is to lose a mother and become a mother simultaneously.

      On a happy note, I really enjoy your blog. I would love to get more serious about writing this year. Thank you for visiting, reading, and commenting.

  4. This was so beautiful. I am teary over here. Although everything is making me cry lately. Our baby is 7 months old and she is a horrible sleeper, and I have stopped nursing her at night which is making me crazy hormonal… Sometimes I find myself counting the months until she’s one and when I catch myself I feel horribly guilty for trying to wish away her babyhood. I love the baby snuggles and toothless smiles, I just am exhausted and struggling with trying to get time for myself… It’s just been a lot harder than I imagined it would be… But when I see how much her big sister loves her it fills me with joy. I’m sorry your dad passed away. Sorry this comment is all over the place!

    • It is so hard and so exhausting. I have wished this year by too and felt guilty about it. I write an essay about being tired on Scary Mommy and I think some friends and family literally wanted to check me in to the loony bin. I get it. It’s exhausting and arduous, but then there are these amazing little people. Your baby will sleep some day and we will return to the land of the living. I’m weaning too, so I get the hormonal mess side too. Thanks for reading. 😊

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