Sometimes parents seem to blame teething for every cranky mood their baby is in. “Oh, he’s just teething,” they say. Or — and this one really gets my goat — they blame every runny nose on their baby’s emerging teeth. Except 90% of the time, it was a cold, and now they’ve got a roomful of babies sick.
I have been guilty of both these things — many first-time parents are.
When my first baby was about 2 months old, he started drooling and kvetching non-stop. My first thought was, must be teething, that poor thing, and then I went out and bought every homeopathic teething tablet and gel, and every teether they had in the store. Turns out it was just gas. He didn’t get his first tooth until he was almost 8 months old!
I was also sure a cold of his was simply a drippy nose from teething and brought him to a playgroup, only to get half of the other babies sick. I was a brand new mom, so I forgive myself now, but I sure did feel bad about it.
So yes, sometimes parents use teething as an excuse for everything. But actual teething really is that awful. In fact, for many of us, our worst memories of parenting little ones involve teething.
First of all, imagine this: You’re a happy-go-lucky, squishy little ball of mush. You have no responsibilities, really, besides sleeping, eating, and smiling. Yeah, it pisses you off when your parents leave the room and when they don’t understand what you want because you don’t speak their language yet.
You have also experienced very little in the way of pain besides some gas here and there. Maybe once you had a piece of hair wound tightly around your toe, and it was like the burning pits of hell for a few minutes there, but then your Sherlock Holmes of a mom figured it out, and all was right with the world.
But then something starts happening in your sweet little mouth. Your perfect pink gums become inflamed. These rock-hard white things start pushing and squirming their way down. Some of them are sharp too. The pressure hurts like hell. Sometimes you even feel it in your ears, like an earache.
And then, oh then, those bastards slowly but surely tear their way through your gums, pushing, and punching, and pushing some more. Ouch!
You’re like, “Mom, what the actual fuck? I didn’t sign up for this.”
Apparently, some babies aren’t bothered by teething. It’s a little bit of whining for a half hour, then the tooth pops through, and they’re all good.
But I’m pretty sure those babies are the exceptions. For most babies, teething hurts like a motherfucker, and they have no problem telling us so.
When my first child had his two top teeth coming in, we were on vacation. I mean, vacations aren’t really vacations when you have kids anyway, but those two buggers kept us up all night. He even developed a low-grade fever. Drool like hot lava poured out his mouth while he flailed about screaming. His fingers remained planted right on those two emerging teeth.
And if I tried to nurse him? Let me tell you, I nursed two children for an extended period of time. I was lucky to have very minimal nipple pain with them, even in the beginning. The only time they injured my nipples? When they were teething. Yep. My second kid even bit me a few times. Fucking no.
Anyway, once my first child’s two teeth came through, he was a happy baby again. But then, every other month or so, we’d be back in teething hell.
He didn’t get all 20 of his baby teeth until he was 2 ½ years old, and those asshole teeth bothered him right until the end. At that point, though, he was a chatty, articulate toddler and was able to describe the pain to me.
I remember him talking about his last set of molars (which came in one by one, over a series of six freaking months).
“It feels like someone is sawing into my gums,” he said, through tears.
Yeah, teething truly does hurt that much. I remembering wishing he had been able to tell me all along what was going on. Usually, I kind of had to guess, and then have my assumptions confirmed when I saw the white top of the tooth emerge a few days later.
I don’t know exactly why God planned things this way. I mean, I get why babies can’t be born with a full set of teeth. Their mouths have to grow to accommodate all the teeth, and it would be a disaster for learning how to suck properly.
But I feel like it’s a pretty cruel fate for babies, and for their caretakers especially. In most cases, I’m pretty sure the babies forget the pain and heartache of teething. But we will never forget. Never.
And neither will our boobs.