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Published January 06, 2014, 11:39 AM

Parenting Perspectives: Styx saves new parents

My experience as a parent so far can be pretty well summed up in our first family portrait.

By: Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft, INFORUM

My experience as a parent so far can be pretty well summed up in our first family portrait.

It was taken less than an hour after my daughter was born. She’s screaming while my husband gazes at her adoringly.

And I am out of it.

After a trying pregnancy and a quick labor, I am exhausted, bewildered and confused, unable to even open my eyes.

It wasn’t the picture I planned, and it wasn’t really the one I wanted, but it’s the one I got.

The rest of parenting up to this point has been the same way.

I’d hoped for one of those easy pregnancies where people tell you you’re glowing. I ended up with multiple hospitalizations and a quarter of a million dollars in medical bills.

I’d hoped for a natural home birth. I got an emergency induction before full term because my baby had stopped growing.

And then there’s the baby.

I blame my Facebook friends for posting pictures of their smiling infants captioned “Emma’s such a wonderful baby! I’m so blessed to be her mother!” “Liam cut three teeth last night and we didn’t realize until we saw them – what a good baby!”

My baby started out like that. She slept most of the time, breastfed like a champ and only cried to let us know she’d filled her diaper.

Then, after about a week, she turned on us.

Instead of being the adorable infant everyone else seemed to have, we had a tiny screaming ball of fury. She seemed to hate me and my husband. The only thing she hated more than us was if one of us tried to put her down.

It seemed the only thing she did love was screaming.

She’d scream to be fed, then push me away as I tried to nurse so she could scream more.

She’d scream because she was wet, then scream at us for changing her diaper because she hated the momentary nudity.

A lot of the time she’d scream for no reason, and nothing we did could make her stop. She was fed and dry, by all accounts a healthy, well-cared-for baby.

And yet, she screamed.

We talked to her pediatrician, read books on high-needs babies, and asked for advice. We did everything we were supposed to.

And yet, she screamed.

In those early days, we discovered the only thing that would calm her down was classic rock or ’90s rap.

We’d sit in the living room at 3 a.m. and play “Renegade” by Styx, singing along to soothe her.

During diaper changes, we’d croon Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind,” and she’d stare at us, mesmerized.

When she wouldn’t sleep, she and I sat in the recliner while I performed “Nosferatu” by Blue Oyster Cult.

Once I’d finished almost an entire Target trip with her before I realized why people were staring at us – I’d carried her throughout the entire store reciting “Ice Ice Baby” over and over.

And as the days went by, she gradually became less filled with rage and showed us occasional glimpses of those happy, smiling infants everyone else seemed to have. And we became better at dealing with her cries when they did pop up – quickly pulling out our smartphones to bring up Neil Young or The Moody Blues as soon as she started whimpering.

At 5 months old, she still has occasional screeching fits – especially now that she’s working on teeth – but parenting has become easier.

I can’t shake the feeling, though, that no matter what, a part of me will still feel like I did in the moment of our first family portrait – confused, bewildered and awestruck at the journey behind and ahead of me.

Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft is a news page designer for The Forum. She lives in Moorhead with her daughter, Calliope, and her husband. She can be reached at astrnad@forumcomm.com.

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