March 30, 2007

Witching Hour

In literature the witching hour happens around midnight, but for the infants my wife and I produce, it's 6PM. At that hour Gabriel like his brother before him, regardless of being well fed, held by someone who loves him, and otherwise comfortable, begins to cry. But not just any crying, it's desperate crying, as if all sadness in the world were wrapped up in that little 12 pound bundle. He's inconsolable for about 90 minutes. Then as suddenly as it starts, it ends. The kid sleeps. Our first son outgrew this in a few months and we trust the second will follow. Of course we try all the standard calming techniques, but they have limited effect. [The only things that take a bit of the edge off are a mechanical swing, the one horrible baby device that passed through our 'no plastic baby crap' filter, and a pacifier. We are new to pacifiers (Raul Andres spit them out as if we had put garbage in his mouth), and Jenn doesn't like them either ("Yikes, makes him look like a little Hannibal Lector."), but whatever works, right? ]

Jenn blames the daily crying session on the baby's new and undeveloped digestive system, but my grandmother would have had another explanation were she alive. For her an inconsolable baby was obviously the work of someone who had given the child "mal ojo" (the evil eye). "It happened to you once," she would always tell me with a laugh.

Then she would explain that once she had forgotten to cover my face when we went out and the neighborhood fortune teller peeked and hated my blue gringo eyes. "You started to cry right there," my grandmother would recount, "and you cried through the night and into the next day and we couldn't do anything to help you."

The next day she ran into the fortune teller who asked, "that baby cried all night didn't he?" My grandmother said yes and getting angry told the woman that neither she nor the baby had done the woman wrong and demanded a cure. The woman (my grandmother always called her una brujita feisima) led my grandmother to her garden and pulled 3 fresh brown eggs from a chicken coop. "Rub these gently over the baby's head when the moon is out. Then break the egg carefully. If the yolk is whole and looks like an eye, the spell will be broken. Throw the eggs out into the dirt. If the yolk will not stay together, you might be in for a lifetime of worry." While the eggs were rubbed on my head I am told I screamed bloody murder. Immediately afterwards the eggs were dropped in water, and eye was formed on the first try. "You stopped crying instantly" and if my grandmother is to be believed, "the crying never returned."

Maybe we need to break out some eggs.

posted at 11:31 PM by raul

Filed under: on kids

TAGS: abuelita (10) evil eye (1) grandmother (9) sleep (8) witching hour (1)


03/31/07 03:19 AM

It's called l'heure du loup in French. The time of the wolves.
And yes, I remember it starting somewhere between 5 and 6 pm. I have always been convinced that babies were frightened by the passage from day into night.
As you said, it passes... But it's very difficult to take for parents as they feel there is nothing they can do to help their child. I love the idea of treating something one doesn't understand with something equally mysterious.

04/01/07 05:05 PM

Colic! It's certainly distressing to first time parents. It's a different sort of cry all together. As if they're in intense pain - which they may well be. And yes with our first daughter the crying began about the same time each evening.

Then someone suggested a dietary connection, passed through the breast milk, upsetting the developing digestive system. Cut out dairy products for a while, they said. So my then partner did and within a few days...a great calm befell the land and all was well and cheery!

04/02/07 12:36 AM

It's interesting that "grandmothers" in the various old-world countries all have the same rock-solid conviction in their remedies for an array of ailments. Their confidence certainly rivals that of modern doctors. Almost makes one a believer.

(Plus I would love to see a ICGDRAW - an International Conference of Grandmothers to Discuss Remedies for the Ailing World. I'm sure the ice caps would receive some much needed TLC.)

04/02/07 08:17 AM

My mother (an old worldy sort) ventured that dusk reminded the child of his time in the womb and that the crying and carrying on was mourning for that happy place.

04/03/07 10:13 PM

I don't know what causes it but it happened with all 3 of my sons. It seemed to start at about 2 weeks of age and go away at about 2 to 2-1/2 months. This world is a hard place to live.

04/04/07 01:52 PM

"Pasale el huevo" or better a "Cuy" or something. I was not a believer but my wife is. And, for my great disbelive, it works. Go figure, we latins have a special touch for this things...

Oh, and another thing, it is spelled "Mal de Ojo", the cure is very simple: tie a red string on his right hand. Leave it there until it falls apart, presto!

04/14/07 11:31 PM

Colic - definitely. As a nursing mother I discovered chocolate was the culprit and stopped eating it. Perhaps a warm water bottle will provide some comfort while Jenn figures out what in her diet is upsetting the wee-one.

Add your thoughts: