Dr. Harvey Karp, thank you for saving us

Tonight all of us ChicagoNow bloggers were given the challenge to answer this question: Name a time when you helped someone, or a time that you received help. We got the question at 9:00 p.m. and no matter what, we have to hit “publish” at 10:00 p.m. Here goes!

I can’t help but give thanks to Dr. Harvey Karp who helped me tremendously. No, not personally, but from reading his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block.

The year: 2006. The place: San Diego, California. Fran and I were living in a condo when I gave birth to our first child, Lilia.

We purchased our condo during the housing boom and once we decided to move back to Illinois, we came to the sad realization that selling our condo after the bubble burst was going to be near impossible.

We had been trying to sell for quite some time. I was there with a newborn baby, trying to keep the condo clean at all times in case prospective buyers came. We would get a call from a realtor at the last minute and I would gather my newborn and our dog, head out and try to find a place to waste time while we had people in the condo.

We were already beyond stressed with our real estate situation, but we also had a new baby who cried. A lot. We loved our little girl to death, but to say she was a crier would be an understatement.

She hated the car and the stroller. If one more person told me to try taking her for a drive in the car, I was going to start screaming myself. We tried everything. I felt helpless.

On top of our nagging real estate situation, we had the downstairs neighbor from hell. He stayed home all day, brought “girlfriends” in and out at all hours, wrote crazy letters documenting our every move (in his words, we were “throwing bricks on the floor”) and would pound on our floor should we dare walk across it.

After Lilia was born, we would be up with her all night trying to calm her down. Then we would hear banging on the floor. Our neighbor and his girlfriend would be yelling, “Shut up!” at our baby.

One day I was desperately researching what to do online for the millionth time. I found a book that seemed to be popular called The Happiest Baby on the Block.

I drove Lilia (who screamed the whole way) to the nearest Babies R Us and picked up a copy. I got home, and read it in an hour. In this book, Dr. Karp gives you the 5 S’s which are swaddle, side/stomach, shushing, sucking and swinging. Here’s the breakdown:

Swaddling: tightly swaddling with a blanket (this turned out to be key with Lilia)

Side/stomach: hold the baby on their side or stomach (when they are sleeping, you can gently put them onto their back)

Shushing: white noise or literally saying “shhh, shhh” and louder than you’d think

Sucking: through a pacifier, finger, bottle or nursing

Swinging: Side to side swinging, rocking, walking across the room

You can do some of the 5 S’s, but doing them all at the same time is like a powerhouse. I gave it a try and it worked. I couldn’t believe it. Now I wanted to start crying. Fran came home from work and I gave him a quick, excited synopsis and produced our comfortable, calm daughter.

I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. A dark cloud of uneasiness about our ability to parent had suddenly been lifted.

When Lilia was close to her first birthday we finally sold our condo (and learned all about what a short sale is) and left our evil neighbor for good.

We did the 5 S’s and swaddled Lilia for a long time, especially in her favorite pink, green and white striped blanket. The other night, she asked me what her favorite blanket was as a baby and if we still had it.

“Oh yes, we are keeping that one,” I told her. She smiled and snuggled down into her current big kid covers. That blanket was not only her favorite, it saved us.

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