I’m not sure if I can express just how shitty teething is, for all parties involved, but I’m going to try.
Teething isn’t the worst thing about having a baby. It’s not as brutal as the birth, nor is it as exhausting as teaching her how to go to sleep. No, the worst thing about teething is its sudden and complete disregard for the status quo.
It happens like this — your baby finally starts sleeping through the night. You begin to enjoy your extra hour of nightly free time, using it to read or Facebook stalk or check out the latest album releases. You could even afford to stay up late on occasion, and why not if she was going to give you that luxury? Against ypr better judgment, you begin to establish a routine.
Then it all comes crashing down. You hit the hay after a late night video game session, knowing full well you’ll be zombie-ing your way through work tomorrow on five hours of sleep, when a scream that could make Glenn Benton envious pierces the early AM hours. But your kid isn’t spinning Dechristianize on the home stereo; she’s awake, and she’s teething.
I’m not sure if you knew or not — you may have been like me, and had never gotten close enough to a baby to know until you had one — but babies don’t start out with any teeth. Not at first. They pop out as little gummed horrors, looking for all the world like wrinkly old people who’ve misplaced their dentures. And when the teeth finally arrive, they don’t get dropped off via stork or mail or anything; they don’t just appear overnight in a visit from some bizarro, reverse tooth fairy, who implants them in your child’s mouth, one gleaming bicuspid at a time. Instead, being robbed of any kind of magical, more convenient means, babies have to get their teeth the normal way.
The normal way being their teeth erupting out of their gums like fucking volcanic fissures.
It must hurt about as much as chewing molten lava. Why else would Baby awake at one, two, even three in the morning, screaming bloody gore? Screams, tears, fever, and our good old friend diarrhea — these are all symptoms that your baby is getting some new chompers.
The real kick in the teeth is it doesn’t just happen all at once. Oh no, that’d be far too merciful. Instead, it’s going to happen like seven or eight more times. Whenever you start thinking you’ve got a good handle on things, that’s when teething barges back into your life. You’ll have forgotten what it was like; time has healed those wounds with the balm of forgetfulness. But then Baby will be cranky and needy for no apparent reason at all. Normal occurrences like slipping and falling on her butt will seem catastrophic, a tragedy worthy of the most funereal wailing. Teething will seem like an unstoppable force of nature, like a hurricane or tornado, a thing you have to prepare and brace yourself for.
You can make things easier for her, though. Not by much; there’s only so much a few slats of wood nailed over a window can do to save a house against a tropical storm. There are baby pain relievers you can feed her, and plastic teethers you can keep in the fridge or freezer. I’ve even read advice online about parents holding a cough drop in a pincer grip, letting their child lick it like the nub of a succubus’s teat. Seems like there’s nothing parents won’t try to help the kiddo. But the only thing you can do is be patient and have a little fucking sympathy.
Oh, make no mistake — you’ll be mad. You probably had a good thing going, didn’t you? But remember: all things will pass. Teething won’t be the worst of it, no way, even if it super sucks now.
So go ahead. Pray to whatever gods of infant growth you have that your child’s teething is a swift, painless affair. Or better yet, be prepared, know what to watch for, and act accordingly and patiently. Because you can’t stop it. One way or another, your baby will get her teeth. And you will rue it.