The world to an Aspie is TOO much of a lot of things. Too much noise, light, texture, scent. A new baby will bring with him or her a whole onslaught of new and overwhelming triggers to your senses, from the overpowering odor of a full diaper to the intimate skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding. So I’m starting a series on dealing with sensory triggers. Learning to cope with these both wonderful and unpleasant sensations will make us better parents–better able to focus on our kid’s needs while struggling less with our own anxiety and discomforts. And a happy, relaxed mom makes for a happier, more relaxed baby!
Today’s topic: Dealing with noise issues.
A major contributor to my postpartum anxiety was the sound of my baby’s crying. My husband simply couldn’t understand why I would run from the room with my hands over my ears when she started bawling. This was a trigger for me that caused a horrifying, almost electric jolt of adrenaline and instant heart pounding, akin to the feeling of falling when going down stairs and missing a step. According to the Sight And Hearing Association, the sound of an infant’s cry can damage hearing in a matter of minutes. And that’s even if your hearing isn’t super-sensitive! My little one pretty much used the same frustrated, eardrum-piercing five-alarm scream the instant she woke up or any time she was uncomfortable, or hungry, or bored, or tired, with little or no warning. I’m sure this is normal for a lot of infants. But I just could. Not. Stand it. Hubby would calmly pick her up and soothe her while I felt tempted to book a flight to Tahiti (not really, but I could dream…). Her “angry” caterwauling would make ME angry, and I didn’t want to feel mad any time my baby needed me. I had to find a way to keep calm so I could help her instead of getting more agitated and feeding HER anxiety. And helping her meant approaching the noise instead of running from it.
• Firstly, I needed to realize my unexplained anxiety was partially due to PPD. (There will be a post on this later, I promise!). When I treated this crippling issue, it noticeably improved my reaction to noise, although it was still difficult.
• Realizing that all babies must communicate this way also helped. It must be really frustrating to be born with one sole means of communication for a wide variety of problems. Hungry? Waaahhh! Tired? Wahhhhh! Tag making my neck itchy? Wahhhhh! Imagine if adults did this! Think about if you had a specific problem that you were incapable of fixing by yourself, or had a very rough day, and you could only ask for help or talk about it with one sound–and that happened to be an annoying sound that most people didn’t like. Just like Aspies can find the world to be overwhelming and stressful, baby does too because they’re simply too young to have developed coping skills, and every sensation is startling and new and sometimes scary. It’s not baby’s fault, and you’re not a bad parent if your child cries despite your best interventions. They’re not crying AT you– they’re crying FOR you because they need you.
Also consider if you were so stressed or depressed you needed the release of a good cry, and then someone kept trying to shut you up like that was a bad thing? It would be very frustrating and you would never get that relief. Sometimes even if you’ve done everything in your power to help your baby (and you’ve made sure they are not in need of medical attention), he or she may just need to cry.
• Of course it’s nice to understand baby better, but it doesn’t solve the issue with noise! So, for the next tactic: EARPLUGS. Whenever my wee one would start building up to her famous screech, I would pop in a pair of soft foam earplugs and dial everything down about 30 decibels. Then I could more calmly tend to her needs. Please note: You need to be able to hear your baby to know when there is a problem–don’t wear them all the time!!
• And finally, when I got particularly bothered by the sound, it helped to make sure baby was in a safe place and then step outside for a few minutes, take some deep breaths and go back in with a slightly calmer outlook. I found nature to be especially calming, not to mention actually removing myself from the noise.
What strategies have you used to handle crying or other noises as aparent? Let us know with a comment below!