Words I would normally use to describe Ebony include smiley, happy, content, easy going and an absolute joy to be around.
Words I would use to describe Ebony with gum pain include the devil, screechy, pouty, angry, hateful and “I don’t know who she belongs to, I’ve never seen her before, Officer.”
Teething, ah how parents moan about it. I wasn’t expecting to become one of those parents for another few months. So naive was I, it turns out many babies start feeling teething pain at around ten weeks old, when the teeth first start working their way up through the gum. This doesn’t mean teeth will be imminent though, it could still take months for them to break through.
One night, during her tenth week of life, I was sat in the living room holding Ebony when she started screaming. Not a tiny scream, an ear-shattering, heart-stopping cry of pain. To those of you without children, it is hard to explain what it feels like when your baby cries. My entire body goes into some kind of seizure - my heart races, I feel sick, I get dry mouth. It is like being really really terrified with comedy breasts thrown in, because if you are a breastfeeding woman and you hear your baby cry, your breasts stand to attention in the hope of soothing baby’s pain (too much information? Undoubtedly). These physiological changes happen every time Ebony cries, even if she only cries momentarily because she is hungry or needs changing. When she gives a full on pained cry, which luckily has only happened twice so far, it is hard to cope with. It is truly the most stress-inducing sound imaginable.
So, on that fateful night in March when Ebony let out her cry of pain (you probably heard it, no matter where in the world you were), I panicked. I had literally no idea what was wrong with her, and since she rarely cries I am clueless about how to soothe a screaming baby. I assumed, like the insane and irrational new mother I am, that I had somehow broken one of her tiny fragile bones by cuddling her too hard. I ran upstairs and undressed her, and checked that each of her fingers and toes was able to move. I then proceeded to prod her all over in the hope of noticing a change in her cry which might reveal what was causing the pain.
[NB: Poor Ebony, here she is suffering toothache and I am forcing her to engage in a game of This Little Piggy so I can make sure all of her toes are in good working order. She must think me completely insane.]
Once I had established none of her bones were broken, I stared down at my bright red screeching devil dumbfounded. What on earth was wrong with her?
It was then I noticed that the soft patch on her head (sickening I know) was throbbing as she cried. Oh my god, I thought, she has meningitis!! Oh my god, oh my god. I took her temperature. Nope, normal. Doesn’t meningitis give you a really high temperature? This calmed me down a bit, but I was still worried that it could be meningitis and so I got a lamp and shone it into Ebony’s eyes. Because meningitis means you don’t like lights, right?
[NB: Now my poor daughter, who is still desperately trying to tell me that it is in fact her gums that hurt, is having a bedside light shone in her eye by her sweaty, manic and quite possibly unsuitable mother.]
She did not shy away from the bedside lamp, so I concluded that this combined with the normal body temperature and complete lack of rash meant she was unlikely to be suffering from meningitis. By this time Ebony had been screaming for about fifteen minutes, and she was bright red because of it. Poor naked little Ebony, with her inept mother considering everything but her teeth.
Then I realised, it was ok, I could ask my parenting guru: Google. Thank Christ for Google. Laurie started checking search results to see what might be hurting our poor little girl, while I held the red ball of anger and meekly shushed into her ear as she perforated my eardrum with her deafening screams.
Finally Laurie had an answer: “She might be teething.”
Oh thank crap, that’s not a broken bone or a life threatening disease. I didn’t break her, oh thank god I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s ok, I am not the world’s worst mother who breaks babies. Teething, everyone gets teeth that’s ok, we can handle that, we just need to...
Oh arse. I have no idea what you do with a teething baby. I wasn’t expecting this for months! I might have known by then, I might have done internet research, or asked friends, or maybe my Mum would have thought to mention it as the time was getting close. But no, Ebony likes to take us by surprise, throwing in an unforeseen problem (surprise!) and expecting us to solve it in the handful of seconds before her pout becomes a full on wail.
Laurie was reading possible solutions out from the website, helpful hints and tips from other mums, but I couldn’t hear a bloody word he was saying because Ebony was still bellowing in my ear. So, there we were, shouting and gesturing wildly across the teeny tiny room we call a nursery. It was not working very well, and in the end Laurie just walked over and put his finger in Ebony’s mouth. She gummed down, hard. I know it was hard because I had tried breastfeeding her a few minutes earlier and she clamped on HARD, so I had abandoned that plan. And I had also added her to my list of people who I will one day take revenge on, when they least expect it.
Ebony soon calmed down, but it took me and Laurie a lot longer. I was completely panicked that we were entering a unforeseen cluster of sleepless nights, screaming babies and squashed nipples.
Seeing Ebony in pain is horrible. Mostly because I love her, I feel so attached to her and never want her to come to any harm, and partly because a teeny tiny bit of me is thinking of taking her outside and putting her in with the rabbits, just for a bit, until she calms down because she’s giving me a headache. And then I feel mean.
[Disclaimer: I have never ever put Ebony in with the rabbits. It’s usually raining when I think of it and I don’t like getting wet.]