By Ashleigh Wilkening of Bless this Beautiful Mess
Oh, witching hour, how I loathe you. If you were a person, I’d punch you right in the face. What did I ever do to deserve this?
What’s the witching hour, you ask? It’s this unbelievably miserable period of time during the late afternoon/early evening when your otherwise adorable, pleasant, happy baby cries endlessly without relief. Every day, you’re forced to suffer through this nightmare until your tiny cherub outgrows this terrible phase.
This endless crying is beyond deafening – piercing both your ears and your soul. It’s brutal. It’s intense. It’s excruciating. Every night, all you can do is grab your earplugs and get ready for battle.
The name itself is grievously misleading, implying that this torturous experience only lasts an hour. Ha! Maybe we should rename it to whatever-length-of-time-your-child-decides-to-use-all-of-their-energy-to-cry-inconsolably-for-the-sole-purpose-of-driving-you-crazy. I guess for simplicity sake, we’ll leave the name as is for the time being.
In our house, this painful time commences promptly at 5:30 p.m. and lasts anywhere from 7:30-9 p.m. Sometimes, I get lucky and she finally settles for bed around 7 p.m. I don’t get lucky very often. You can usually tell how long that night’s wailing session lasted by how generously I pour the glass of wine I reward myself with after it’s finally over.
Coincidentally, this time frame aligns perfectly with our family’s most demanding and tiring moment of the day. Dinner has to be prepped and made. My husband is coming home after a long day of work. My boys are restless, hungry and dissatisfied with tonight’s menu. I’m exhausted after chasing around two toddlers and taking care of a newborn all day. My boys need baths, teeth brushed and put to bed. My body aches to just curl up on the couch and spend some much-needed quality time with my husband. I’m depleted of all energy and feel like I have nothing left to give.
None of this matters. My little one has no mercy or compassion for how tired I am or what kind of day I’ve had – there’s no stopping the shit show from happening.
This is my third child and although I’ve been down this road twice before, it doesn’t make enduring this daily nightmare any easier. The only thing I’ve learned from my previous experience is how utterly helpless you are to what’s happening and completely powerless to prevent it from occurring. It’s inevitable.
After a great day with your little cutie, you might even try to convince yourself today is the day it won’t happen. Although it’s easy to fall into this trap, it’s probably the worst thing you can do. Living in denial will only make the experience that much worse. Yes, it’s still going to happen and you better believe it’s going to be horrible. It’s best for everyone if you just accept it.
Hearing the nonstop crying is enough to make any parent go crazy. How could something so tiny and cute turn into such an irritable, inconsolable force to be reckoned with? You’ll think, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why does my baby hate me so much? Is this payback for dressing her in tutus and taking a ridiculous amount of photos?
With my previous children, I spent countless hours googling the shit out of this topic. I read every article I could find trying to gain insight into causes, remedies and a potential cure – anything to escape the torment. Many theories exist as to why babies get extremely fussy during this time of day: overtired, overstimulated, gassy, need to cluster feed. Whatever the reason, you’re still left with a pissed off baby whose never-ending crying and screaming will leave you thinking, for the love of God, go to sleep already!
Along with different theories as to why, you’ll also come across various opinions and techniques of how to best manage. The most common suggested interventions include: gas drops, singing, pacifiers, white noise, bath, swing, bouncer. Some people have luck going for walks outside. Personally, I couldn’t imagine anything worse that trying to soothe my inconsolable, crying baby out in public outside the comfort zone of my house. Some people recommend taking your little darling for a car ride or running the vacuum nonstop in the house. I’ve even heard of people strapping their child into their car seat carrier and setting it on top of a running clothes dryer. Apparently, the vibration and sound provide some relief. This all may sound ridiculous, but come your turn, you’ll be desperate enough to do whatever you need to do to survive.
You’ll try anything and everything to make it stop or be less painful of an experience. With my first, I was certain standing in a specific area between my dining room and living room made him cry less. Maybe it was the lighting or the way the wood floors creaked. Every night, when the witching hour fell upon us, for hours, I would hold him upright and pat him on his back in that exact same spot. With my second, I would rock him in my arms in the pitch dark of his room in complete silence. I was convinced by removing any distracting noise or stimulus helped to settle him. Currently, with my three-week-old, you can find me constantly nursing her while rocking on a wooden chair with a fan oscillating a few feet in front of us. Hey, whatever works!
It’s truly misery at its finest.
I wish I had good advice to offer assistance or some insider perspective that’ll help make it less painful. I’m sorry, but I don’t. Nothing can save you. All you can do is watch the clock, wait for it to begin and hope it ends sooner rather than later. Buckle up and get ready for the bumpy ride ahead. If it gives you solace, remember you aren’t alone and this too shall pass.
About the Author
Ashleigh Wilkening is a SAHM of three children under the age of four who spends most of her days on a never-ending quest for a lost toy. She is a lover of caffeine, naps and a generously poured glass of cabernet. On the rare occasion she gets free time, she contemplates taking a nap in the family van, but finds herself exercising as it’s a more legitimate excuse to escape the house. She writes at Bless This Beautiful Mess and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.