Phantom Baby Crying Is Real… But You’re Just Imagining It

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Photo by kevin liang on Unsplash.

I grew up in the nineties, so I am going to quote The Cranberries here: “In your head, in your head, they are cryin’. In your head, in your head Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie. What’s in your head? In your head, Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie.”

Every time the baby is napping and you think, “I’ll take a quick shower!” you hear him cry. Or did you? Wait, no he is not crying. You squirt the shampoo in your hand and start washing your hair. Ugh, now he’s really crying. You barely rinse your hair, jump out of the shower, wrap a towel around yourself, and go to check the baby. He is still sleeping?! Maybe he woke up, cried once, and fell back asleep?

Back in the shower, you’ve moved on to washing your face. The baby cries again. You rush to rinse your face and get out. (You can shave another day — or next week, more likely.) Yep, the baby lost his pacifier and was actually crying. You pop the pacifier back in and dry off to get dressed.

Next, you have a great idea! You’ll make lunch and actually eat it without holding or feeding the baby at the same time. Wouldn’t that be delightful! You slap together a whatever-is-in-the-fridge meal and sit down. Cue crying baby on the monitor. You wait a minute to listen to the monitor while staring at the lunch you’re now not sure you’ll be eating anytime soon. Then suddenly, no baby crying. You eat half your lunch, then the baby is really crying. You push your lunch aside and go snuggle that baby. 

Baby crying was constantly in my head when my babies were newborns. My worst times were at night. Like most moms of newborns, I was hardly getting any sleep, and then this — the phantom crying. I would wake up constantly to a baby crying and then be incredibly frustrated when I would realize my own mind was playing a trick on me. My youngest is now 3 years old, and occasionally I will still hear crying and not be sure if it was in my head or real.

Yes, phantom crying is real — you are not alone.

Many new moms suffer with the imaginary baby crying. But guess what? It means you are a good mom! Your mommy instincts are working. When you have a baby who relies on you for everything, your hormonal mommy brain has a hard time turning off the parental instincts. Especially when your hearing may be slightly impaired, like when you’re taking a shower or sleeping. It is really frustrating — I’ve been there. But it will go away! My phantom crying experiences have lessened when my babies started sleeping through the night. Just like pregnancy and motherhood have affected your physical body, they’ve also affected your brain. Your mind goes through postpartum changes just like your body does!  

So hang in there, fellow mama. There is no advice or quick fix for phantom crying. There is no spouse, friend, or grandparent to step in and carry that load. But this, too, will pass. And in the meantime, remember that just because it is in your head does not mean it is not real to you!

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Leah Lynch
Leah is a Massachusetts native who grew up in the MetroWest area. She met her husband in 2006 and they bonded over all things Boston. After moving to North Carolina for 4 years, they realized they had to move back to New England. (love that dirty water!) In 2011 they welcomed a son into their family. Then 2014, 1 week before having their daughter, their son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The last but not least little guy came in 2017. With three kids and special needs in their life, they rely on an amazing support system of friends and family. Leah is a stay at home mom, who is also growing a small business, and enjoying the independence and freedom it has given her. Loves: Great food (mostly made by her talented husband), playing with the kids, the beach, date nights, The Pats, The Sox, The B’s, new socks and bras, and American history, and movies. Can’t stand: Cotton balls, weeds, broken crayons, pollen, and vacuuming up Cheerios every half hour.

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