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When There's a Doctor In the House

Coping With Crybabies

After being blessed with an undemanding first baby, Dr. Greene was surprised to find himself with a very fussy second child on his hands. "After Garrett, I thought, 'This is easy,'" he says. "But with Kevin, it took a lot of effort to soothe him." After much trial and error, Dr. Greene and his wife discovered the magic solution: Kevin needed to be upright and swaddled as he was held and rocked.

Dr. Mikelait's son suffered from colic and was inconsolable every night for more than an hour. "I thought, 'I know about this, I should be able to fix it,' but no, I couldn't do anything. I tried the things I tell everybody to do -- swaddling and shushing -- but it's hard to follow my own advice." When nothing would stop the tears, Dr. Mikelait handed over her baby to someone else or let him cry in his crib for a few minutes to give herself a break.

Perri Klass, M.D., a pediatrician in Boston, a mother of three, and the author of Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In, struggled with her oldest son, who protested vocally every time he was laid down. Luckily, he also had good taste in music. "He definitely had a preference for the Beach Boys," she says of Orlando, who was calmed by the tunes. Dr. Klass found the experience just as tough as any other novice mother. "A lot of things surprised me about having kids: the intensity of sleep deprivation, how hard the work is, the anxiety when it hits, and even the pleasure and joy. It's a very hard thing to imagine before you have a child."

Dr. Brown also expected a smoother ride. "That first night home is the worst. In the hospital, the baby is exhausted and perfect," she says. "Forty-eight hours later, he wakes up. You start thinking, "The nurses did so well with him. I'm a failure as a parent.'"

Even a few months on, parenting still didn't feel like second nature to her. "I knew the textbooks, and I felt fairly confident going in, but my two children tortured me," Dr. Brown says. "My oldest son was really high-maintenance; it took a lot of work to get him to relax. I thought I'd get a break with my second, but she was just as difficult. It never bothered me to hear kids crying in my office, but my own kids' crying just drives me nuts."

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