Crying is an inevitable part of having a baby. It is loud, attention grabbing and makes you sad. Hearing it from your own child is a motivating force: one cannot escape doing something about it, and it is upsetting when nothing is successful. It just is not possible to walk away from it. 
It has not always been so. When I was a child, I am not sure I was really aware of it from other children. As I grew older, I started to notice it, and found it diverted my attention. By my mid-teens, it started to be annoying. Although that feeling petered out in my 20s, I have never been able to disregard crying completely. Now, when I hear a child I do not know crying, I am just glad I am not the one who has to deal with it. 

Seeing that written down, I feel a bit heartless. Perhaps I am—I was practically making a joke about it at the end of the last paragraph—but hearing more crying, and from someone I am legally, morally and genetically obliged to care for, has changed my perception of it.

It becomes less dramatic, less shocking. It loses some of its incisive effect. I think I even begin to regard it as a form of communication. This may seem unsophisticated, but it is quite sufficient for his needs for the time being. There are really only five things it can be: a need for feeding, sleep, entertainment, or because he is in physical or emotional pain. The latter is the rarest, in fact it has been restricted only to ‘crying hours’ thus far. These happened most days for a fortnight or so, and were his system’s way of dealing with the information overload of his growing sentience.

The crying of physical pain is easy to spot because it comes with shock. Also, the stimulus, like his toddler cousin making a loud crashing noise next to him or clonking him on the head, is a strong clue as to what is about to happen. Tiredness comes gradually, and is the easiest to subvert in the short term. Entertainment is also a bit whiney and requires a calculation of when he last slept and ate. That just leaves hunger. That is a crying that is the loudest and the most relentless—probably because he knows what is happening and he knows it is only going to get worse unless he goes on the boob straight away.

This Rogue’s Gallery of emotional expression makes me reflect on previous statements/opinions I have heard about baby crying. In the first week after my son was born, our kraamzorg (a sort of dutch state nanny) told us that she could tell the crying of boys and girls apart. Politically correct and childless people have said to me that this was surely impossible. After hearing five different types of crying from one (admittedly remarkably sophisticated) boy, and hearing cries he does not do from babies dressed in pink, I confess I am not so sure.