The term multiple-alarm fire is a quick way to convey a fire is uncontained and requires concerted and immediate response. One, two or three alarm fires designate the level of force required to adaquately meet the needs of the emergency. Along a similar vein, my husband has come up with a grading system for Lake’s level of distress.

Stage I: Actively engaged in efforts to self-soothe, but encountering difficulty. May be tired or have non-self-limiting conditions such as lying in a fresh pool of spit ups. Requires non-urgent attention.

Stage II: Unable to self-soothe. Requires intervention. Change of environment, picking up, swinging, singing ABBA or Ween are all good options.

[unconscionable to picture]

Stage III: severe. Efforts of parental soothing are ineffective or otherwise necessarily delayed (eg occupied with driving). Requires breastfeeding or cry-it-out parental endurance until off-switch is eventually reached and sleep engulfs.

The other night my hair was greasy and I’m sure I was covered with all possible forms of breast milk. My husband had Lake gently jostling in his lap while reading. I thought it might be my chance to bathe.

I check in:

Is Lake okay, or is he about to decompensate?

He answers:

It’s always just a matter of time…

That didn’t seem severe enough to break my uninterrupted streak of daily bathing since arriving home from the hospital (including the two days our hot water was off), so I took that as a green light. When I came out of the shower, where I blissfully  can’t hear a thing, Lake was sounding off. Of course he presents as grave and alarmingly urgent, per his modus operandi. I quickly asked my husband in order to triage if I have time to continue with post-bathing rituals of potions and lotions,

What level is he escalated to?

He is holding Lake and engaging him with some, admittedly not all, of the 5 S’s. He gives me the update:

Stage II

I’m able to continue drying off, brushing hair, and applying face serum, deodorant, etc before taking him in my arms and feeding him. Now we both smell sweet!


(I’ve been asked to give my criteria for the Baby Cry Staging Tool (BCST):

Stage 1: Moderate fussing, wants something but not asking too hard. Gives way to concerned moaning up to grunting, hyperventilating, squawking and starfishing. Generally tolerable to the parental psyche but foreboding. Comes and goes as he builds up a good head.

Stage 2: Cries and howls, classic baby. Conveys impression that caregivers are monstrous to not respond immediately. Occasionally reforms to Stage 1, but oh only momentarily. 

Stage 3: Final form where all physical and mental effort going into making a steady AAAAAA AAAAAA AAAAAA. Lays rigid and still, face symmetrical and red, mouth in a pulsing round yell. Not compatible with human life. -ed)

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