…because I think I’m about to lose my head. How many times have you said this to yourself from the front seat as your baby screams bloody murder behind you in their car seat?
Trust me, I know the feeling. It’s a cross between extreme sadness from hearing the wails, and a stabby frustration that there’s nothing you can do about it. Half of me wanted to beg and plead for his mercy for having strapped him into such an obvious torture device, and the other half of me wanted to scream, “FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST SLEEP IN THE CAR LIKE EVERY OTHER BABY ON THIS GODFORSAKEN PLANET?????”. Instead I just white-knuckled it every drive and blasted my music while taking deep breaths.
I’m not sure why some babies hate the car. It seemed to me that everyone I knew had babies that slept like angels as soon as the car started moving. Heck, if their kids wouldn’t go to bed, the solution was to pop them in the car and go for a drive. Then there was Liam, who transformed into a diaper wearing, spit up wielding Gremlin who would gladly claw your eyes out if given the chance and had a scream with a pitch that could summon the gods to an otherworldly war.
I’m fairly certain I have 20 years worth of hearing loss that occurred in one trip to Target. Nothing I did helped. Nothing. He literally screamed every car trip from the time he “woke up” from his newborn slumber at around 3 weeks till he was about 18 months old. He did have reflux so that probably contributed. But mostly I think it’s that he hates any form of physical restraint on his body. I’ve never understood people’s insistence on having an infant seat that attaches to a stroller because I’ve never experienced a moment where I wasn’t scrambling to unbuckle them out of their car seat! Even sweet, easy going Declan would never ever be content in a car seat that wasn’t in the car. He wasn’t a car screamer-thank god- but there was no way on this green earth that he was going to lay in his infant seat while we strolled through the store. As soon as the car engine turned off he would fuss until he was unbuckled and freed.
It was truly crippling, life with my car screamer. I plotted my days to exist solely in a 5-mile radius of my house because I couldn’t take anything longer. I declined invitations to family gatherings, birthday parties, etc that were too far. It wasn’t because I thought it was damaging to him; it was because it was damaging to ME. I have an extremely low tolerance for noise and that combined with the traffic in Phoenix just made it impossible for me.
So what can you do? Well, I’m convinced nothing will stop it. But word on the streets from people who don’t have a Gremlin for a child is that there are some things you can try.
Numero Uno: Consider switching to a convertible car seat (rear-facing, of course). Some babies just don’t like the recline angle of the infant seat and feel more comfortable in a convertible. Obviously, you need to consider your baby’s age/fit in a convertible before doing so because there is a reason infant seats are so reclined (hello airways!) but if your baby can tolerate being more upright in a convertible that fits them well, it’s definitely worth trying.
2: Play the most annoying music you can find. Seriously. Liam loved this creepy CD from a cereal box that sounded like farm animals singing kids songs in German after huffing helium. It brought me back to my days of preschool when we all sang our daily songs in circle time. Wie ist das Wetter heute? I DON’T KNOW, I CAN’T SEE OUT MY WINDOW BECAUSE MY EYES ARE CLOUDED FROM THE TEARS OF DEFEAT.
3: Make sure they’re freshly fed and changed. Because who likes to ride in a car while hungry and sitting in pee?
4: Rule out silent reflux. Not all babies with reflux spit up. Liam puked gallons on me on a daily basis but many babies with reflux don’t. Laying back in the infant seat causes the gastric contents to back up and burn. Make sure your baby isn’t crying from gastric discomfort. If this is the case, avoid placing them in the seat immediately after a meal and consider suggestion #1 if possible.
5: Check the sun. Sometimes it’s something as simple as the sun constantly being in their face. Utilize the canopy on the infant seat or invest in a static cling sunshade. The roller shades with a hard metal bar and suction cups are not recommended because they will come off the window in a crash and could hurt your baby. Closing a baby blanket in the window so it acts as a curtain works well too.
Lastly, wine. After bedtime obviously. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do except wait it out. It does come to an end, I promise. Eventually. And then you will evolve from “wahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!” in the back seat to, “Mom! Mom! Are we almost there? I forgot where we are going. Why are you turning this way? Why is the guy in the car next to us wearing that shirt? How come this drive is so long? Are we almost there? MOM. Mom? I’m hot. I don’t like this song. I have to pee. Where are we going? Why are we going there? Mom, why are you crying again?”
Life really is a highway.