the case against the cry room.

I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about this or not, but Dax had a pretty gnarly case of colic when he was born and so for the first several months of his life, if he was awake, he was screaming. Not crying, screaming. And as a relatively young first time mom, this was not only exhausting and frustrating, but also embarrassing and demoralizing.

One time while I was still on maternity leave and absolutely dying from cabin fever, I remember I mustered up the courage to take Sir ScreamyPants out into the open. For once. We went to a local park to take a walk and get some fresh air.

About halfway into it, as I knew would happen, Dax woke up in the stroller and started to scream. I did my best to get him over to a bench as quickly as possible, put on my nursing cover, and wrestle this wriggling, screaming, angry little human into submission for nursing. A lady came up to me while all of this was happening and, instead of offering to help me, just spat out, “GOD are you going to DO something about that baby or WHAT?”

My cheeks burned.

For the majority of the first year of Dax’s life I didn’t think I could leave my house and go anywhere without feeling like my baby and I were just one big inconvenience.

Including church.

During my motherhood hazing period, I didn’t sit through a single sermon, despite being married to a youth pastor and, therefore, going to church (dare I say it) religiously. I spent the time I should have been in worship huddled in the church coffee shop, rocking and shushing my baby, trying so desperately to be seen and not heard. My loneliness was palpable, only exacerbated by the fact that my husband and I were one of the first couples of our friend group to have babies. I obviously didn’t know what I was doing, and it seemed my baby was shouting that fact out to the world, and I felt like he and I were broken, alone, and a nuisance to everyone around us.

When we moved to Naples two and a half years ago for my husband’s (and, at the time, my) ministry career, we discovered that our new church has a room attached to the sanctuary dubbed the “Mommy and Me” room, where moms can take their fussy babies during church services so as not to disturb the other worshippers. It houses a changing table, rocking chairs, and lots of toys, and is pretty sound proof. The audio from inside the sanctuary broadcasts in that room, and upon discovering it I thought, “Oh man, if I would have had this when Dax was born, I would have actually been able to enjoy church!”

Even though there is a sign on the door that clearly reads, “Mommy and Me Room”, I’ve never heard it referred to as such by anyone at our church. Anyone I’ve heard talk about this room refers to it as “The Cry Room”, which has always bothered me for (until recently) an unknown reason.

Why did this room’s nickname tick me off? Was it because I have always been a staunch rule follower, and people are clearly not following the rules by referring to this room by a name it was not originally given? That seems a bit unreasonable, even for me.

It wasn’t until I had my second son that I figured out why I hated “The Cry Room”; this room, as its name suggests, is not just a place where babies go to cry. It is designed to be the place babies go to cry.

After having two of them, I now know one true thing about babies: they cry. A lot. Sometimes, if they have colic like my oldest son did, they cry almost incessantly. Sometimes they only cry if something is obviously wrong, like my second son does. But regardless, they cry. It’s how they communicate. And it’s not wrong or bad or inconvenient.

It just is.

By encouraging moms to separate their babies (and in tandem, themselves) from the rest of the body of Christ — to send them from the living room to the garage of God’s house, essentially — simply because they are crying, we are cultivating a culture in which we can only approach the foot of the cross if we

are silent

are compliant

are orderly

aren’t annoying anyone

are clean

are perfect.

If we only allow babies (and children, for that matter) among the Body when they’re in good spirits, we’re telling them that God only wants part of their whole selves. We’re communicating that since we can’t be bothered with their noise or their innate baby-ness, God can’t be, either.

And that’s extremely frustrating to me as a mother.

After having Dax, I hated feeling like I was an outsider even in my own church just because my baby acted like a baby.

So when Case was first born, I unapologetically brought him everywhere with me, even into the pews with me on Sunday morning. A lot of the time he’d sleep right through the entire service, but if he woke up and started to fuss because he was hungry, I wouldn’t gather him up into a heap and hurry off to “The Cry Room”, frantically shushing him along the way, before annoying anyone in the Sanctuary. Instead, I just snuggled him and nursed him right in the pews.

Sometimes he’d quiet down after he ate. Other times he would start loudly squawking, adding his own baby-commentary to the sermon. Other times he’d continue to wimper and I’d jiggle him and attempt to make him a bit happier.

But unless he needed a diaper change, I didn’t want to take him to “The Cry Room.”

The thing is, Jesus died for that little squirmy, hungry, squawky baby, in all his glorious baby-ness. Just like he died for my colicky first born (who has grown into a way-smarter-than-average three-year-old). I never want either of them to feel like they can’t bring their whole selves to the altar.

Because if my children can’t be welcomed to cry in the House of God, then none of us should be.