It’s 7:30pm and both babies are down for the night. Or at least, for now. With a 19-month-old transitioning into a twin sized bed (yep, we screwed this one up real good) and a 3 month old who faithfully eats every 3 hours (maaaaaybe 4 hours at night), my night is young. But right now it’s supposed to be that blissfully peaceful time, watching both babies on their respective monitors. Each fast asleep in their starfish positions, pacifiers on the verge of falling out.
Only I am not relishing in the peace.
I am vibrating. My nerves are raw, I can hardly collect my thoughts, yet I wanted to write this immediately while I was fresh in the aftermath. I keep checking the monitor because I swear I hear screaming, but no – there’s my peacefully sleeping starfish. A little angel.
My youngest has colic and this weekend was a bad “colic” weekend.
She was born in January, and around mid-February is when the colic started. At first I thought she was just going through the typical baby “evening witching hours,” but the intensity, frequency, and duration seemed more than that to me. Some quick internet searches confirmed that she’s the textbook definition of a colicky baby. February and March are complete blurs to me. I really don’t remember many details of these two months at all. Thank goodness, she is now 3 and a half months old and she’s starting to turn the corner. She actually had a relaxed couple of weeks, until this past weekend… so it took me back a bit.
We were at a friend’s birthday party on Saturday. I knew my baby had a fussier morning than usual, but I figured the car ride to the party would calm her down. I thought I’d nest her away in a quiet corner in her carrier, and she’d sleep while people ooo’d and aaaahhhh’d over her cherubic sleeping face. As soon as we walked inside, her eyes sprang open. And it didn’t take long for her to start crying. As the cries got louder my heart sank.
Then she was screaming.
I tucked us away upstairs, away from the noise and most of the people, and took over the host’s nursery as I tried to feed, soothe, walk, rock, everything. I left my toddler playing in the playroom, with a good friend watching her, and eventually my husband followed the noise of the screaming baby and diligently took over toddler watching duties. My husband, and friends, came to the door multiple times to ask if I needed anything… but when you’re in the throes of trying to calm a baby in the middle of a colic episode, there’s really not much that can be done and certainly not by anyone other than Mama.
And so with my baby on my shoulder and screaming in my ear, I moved quickly past the pitying eyes of the party guests and took her out for a drive. Usually the motion of the stroller, or the car, puts her to sleep. It worked, but only briefly. Having missed most of the party, we packed up and left.
Sure, I had heard of colic before but like anything else with parenting you just have no freaking clue what it’s about until you’ve gone through it. I thank my lucky stars daily that both of my daughters are healthy overall. But dealing with colic has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Listening to a baby not just cry, but SCREAM, for hours, is simply… maddening. There were times I thought I was losing my damn mind! My husband and I would take turns pacing the floor with her. We bought a sound machine and tried every trick we could think of to keep her from waking her sleeping big sister. We’ve had to let her “cry it out” more times than I care to admit. At those points, we were both just exhausted on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally. I am a very solutions-oriented person. I problem solve for a living. I am resourceful and smart, and know how to fix things – so when I couldn’t/can’t calm my extremely distressed baby, I feel defeated and depleted. We’ve used gas drops and gripe water. I’ve tried cutting dairy from my diet. I ran myself ragged with trying this and that and Google searches. I can’t tell you how many times I called her doctor, asking if “this is normal?” My last phone call to him, at my wits end, I literally said “You HAVE to have some secret trick that I haven’t found on Google for this.” He told me I was already doing everything right, and to keep the gripe water on hand. I wanted to scream right into the phone at that response.
The thing about colic is, in order to get through these episodes you have to dig deep. I mean, REALLY deep. At her worst, I was at my worst. The things I thought, and sometimes even said out loud… were just purely ugly and awful when I gave in to frustration. And when the sleep and calm would suddenly wash over her, aside from relief I was left with ringing ears and an incredible amount of guilt for not being able to keep it together. I was scared to find and confront these really dark corners within myself. In these moments, I understood why they make you watch those “don’t shake your baby” videos at the hospital before you go home.
People who’ve gone through this say that “it will get better.” And while I’m starting to see that, we’re not in the clear yet. I’m impatient. Like any mother, I want my baby to be happy all the time.
I’m writing this for any parent out there who’s in the thick of it. Stay strong. Call your doctor, as many times as you need to. Talk to your partner about anything you were feeling, no matter how bad you think it is. Talking it out really does help you prepare for the next episode. Remember that it’s OK to put your baby down in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes or to let someone else hold/rock/walk your baby so that you can take a few minutes to breathe. Because in these moments (well, more like hours), your baby needs your strength and your patience and you’ve got to try to reserve some of that for yourself as well.
It is true, that it will get better. I am hopeful and anxious to have a glass of victory wine when I know we’re truly on the other side of it!
MOMlife by Courtney Spiak