written by Jen #supermom
Three and a half years ago I gave birth to a dream baby. My baby rarely cried unless briefly prior to sleep, needing a diaper change or when she was hungry. You know – the typical baby needs! But these periods of crying were short and “fixable”, meaning that once I figured out why she was crying I was usually able to help soothe her by giving her whatever that was. With that being said, I’m not saying it was not stressful. It was our first child, so everything was new and different and it definitely felt like “a lot”. But one thing I heard from all of my other mommy friends and what I came to learn quickly is that she was an easy baby. My husband and I would often go out to dinner with her at our side, smiling at us, playing with her little fingers or more often than not, sleeping! I drove with her alone at 6 weeks all the way up to Maine to visit my family. I never cringed at the thought of making plans at 5pm. Just writing this makes me feel like I’m exaggerating things, but I promise I am not! She was amazing and easy, my little best buddy. I dubbed us “Thelma & Louise” as I was always taking her with me on road trips and adventures.
Fast forward three years and we have our second child, a beautiful baby boy who resembles our daughter so much in the looks department, but not one iota in temperament! If there is such a thing as having the two most extreme opposite babies, we had them (I truly identify with the recent NY Times blog about some babies being different than others). This little guy was relatively chill the first few weeks…lots of sleep, lots of cuddling. It was around three weeks that BAM, the colic hit us, and with a vengeance. I remember the first night we experienced it – “it” being 5 hours straight of inconsolable hysterics. Our friend Brian was visiting us, and we had to keep taking turns bringing our baby into our bedroom, trying to hush him while the other played host to our guest. I kept trying to nurse him again and again, change his diaper, rock him…and nothing was alleviating his very loud complaints. And that was the beginning of a daily experience for the next (GULP) 3 months.
On a good night it would only last 3 hours, on a bad night it was closer to 5. Can you even imagine listening to your little baby cry so intensely that his teeny lips are quivering, he’s arching his back and nothing you can do as a mommy or daddy will help? To say this is stressful is an understatement. I felt inadequate. What am I doing wrong? Why is my love and nurturing not enough? And to make everything 100 million times more difficult, our poor sweet 3 year old also had to suffer through – every night during dinner, bath time, reading time (which was a challenge over the screams). My patience was worn thin and I would find myself snapping at her when it wasn’t deserved (in my defense she was also 3 and entered a very defiant stage – believe it was a mix of that and dealing with a new baby brother), but under more normal circumstances I would have absolutely reacted more calmly and rationally. Listening to that nonstop wailing does a number on your patience, your stress level and your overall happiness. I think it affected my daughter in the same way. I ended most nights crying myself to sleep at 10pm. And to add yet another challenging piece into this already very kookoo situation, my husband is a freelancer and was never home before 8pm.
Colic is more common than we think, affecting about 3 in 10 babies. Friends would share their colic stories with me, and what helped them – although the big takeaway was that there really wasn’t much you can do to soothe a colic child. He will continue doing this until it eventually passes. Typically caused by some gastrointestinal issue, I would SOMETIMES find that it helped if I raised his knees into his chest for a couple minutes so he could pass gas, which it seems he was having difficulty doing on his own. Other advice which would help on occasion (and typically for only 5-10 minutes of relief) was putting him in my carrier and wearing him while I cooked, took care of my daughter, whatever. But for the most part, there was really nothing I could do…except trying to remember, “this is temporary and you will get through this”! Although at week 6 thinking there might be another 2 months more… that only went so far.
I received unwarranted advice and thoughts. “Put the baby in the bedroom, close the door and go into your living room and enjoy a glass of wine”. This was said in jest, light heartedly telling me “there is nothing you can do”…but I found this kind of talk so unhelpful. Hearing your child’s wailing hours on end just pulled at my heartstrings in the most forceful way, and it deeply saddened me. I just wanted to hold and keep trying to soothe him, albeit understanding this wouldn’t do much. But it helped me feel a tiny bit better just trying to help my baby. The last thing I could think of was tossing him into another room and enjoying a glass of wine. I wanted to save that glass for when he STOPPED crying and I could actually relax and wind down!
As with our first night of experiencing colic, I distinctly remember the last. It had subsided quite a bit at almost 3 months old, in fact we had a few nights of no crying! Things were looking up, and I was emerging from this horrible storm cloud….the sun was in sight! Then, as if to give us one last nasty goodbye, it came back of course for the last time while my friend was in town for the night…from Hong Kong! Perfect timing! But then, like a flash… it was gone. We were in the clear.
He is now a 4 and a half month old smiling, happy, chubby baby. He whimpers and cries when he needs me. I’m enjoying his company so much, especially when he’s eating my nose or giggling when I kiss his chubby belly. The colic feels like ages ago, although not even 2 months have passed. I feel human again. My daughter and I are reconnecting, having lots of fun…laughing at her baby brother’s funny faces and how he likes to pull her hair. For those of you in this extremely challenging phase, all I can say is THIS WILL PASS. You are doing your best. All the love in the world will not help your baby, but time will. Ask for help. Rest when you can. Get out…go for a walk, a run…try to clear your head. The good times are just around the corner, I promise!!!