Colic – Less Fun Than A John Tesh Concert, More Fun Than A Lobotomy

Pretty soon after bringing little Baby 1.0 home from the hospital, it was clear she was what these days is tastefully called, a “spirited child.” She was incredibly alert, with a light in her eyes that conveyed an intensity we weren’t expecting. An intensity that, unfortunately, was expressed by shrill crying for seemingly no reason, for several hours a day, every single day, for three months. After ruling out there was a physical cause for this crying, it was determined she had colic, which is essentially a catch-all term to describe cruel and unusual punishment of caregivers through the art of inconsolable, unrelenting crying spells.

Before having her, we had been lulled into a false sense of security by other people’s newborns who spent most of their days sleeping, and who, when they cried, sounded like kittens mewwing. Baby 1.0 barely slept, comparatively, and spent many of her awake hours announcing her displeasure with us in a volume that would put a flock of 747s to shame. So we did what any set of new parents would do: We totally panicked.

This kitten is totally panicking, but in a really quiet, cute way.

This panic turned into a game show called “What If?” where we made up reasons for why she was crying, then used the internet to support our reasoning. It went a little like this: What if the reason she is crying is because she is hungry, even though I just fed her for 45 minutes? Internet survey says you have clearly overfed her, and she is crying because she has horrible stomach pains. Or she is still hungry, in which case you should feed her again, because a baby should never be denied the breast. Unless of course she is full, in which case by offering her another meal where she will only eat for a few minutes, you will be giving her too much foremilk which will make her gassy, and will destroy your foremilk/hindmilk ratio. So you should not feed her. But if you deny her request for food, you will damage the fragile mother/daughter bond irreparably. But if you give in, and feed her again, she will never get on a good schedule, and everybody knows a happy baby is a baby on a good schedule!

This is nothing but lies. Lies, I tell you!

We played this awful game everyday, for every round of crying that started up, and never got anywhere. In hindsight, this seems like grounds for admitting both my husband and I into an institution, but extreme sleep deprivation, coupled with living with an unpredictable tornado siren in our house drove us absolutely mad. And in our defense, at least playing the “google and panic game,” made us feel like we were doing something. Because otherwise, after trying the antacids and gas drops per our pediatrician’s recommendations, our only option was to wait it out, which felt about as helpful as telling someone dying of dehydration to try drinking their tears.

So we continued googling, and changing things here and there. I cut certain things out of my diet, we swaddled and shushed our way through most summer sunsets well into the night. My bedtime routine looked like a combination of Tae Bo and somebody being electrocuted, as I swayed, jiggled and bounced Baby 1.0 until she would finally peter out hours later. Then, I would carefully, oh so carefully, creep over to her bassinet, and then slowly, oh so slowly, lay her down on her back. Half the time she would wake up immediately, and the cycle would start over. The other half of the time, I would make it into bed myself, lay my weary head on my pillow, whisper “see you in 10 minutes to my husband,” and then she would wake up and we would start the whole cycle over again. It was hell.

Billy Blanks. Putting babies to sleep and toning your thighs since 1976.

And her crying wasn’t just at night. It would start-up at unpredictable times, or if I did something she didn’t approve of. Like, for example, put her in her car seat or stroller to leave the house (gasp!). So I didn’t. I locked myself up in our apartment, sat down on my couch, and nursed her for hours on end because it was the only way to keep her quiet. But in the process, it absolutely destroyed me. Mentally I was a wreck, living in fear of upsetting her, scared it was something I was doing that was causing this, afraid I was already a failure of a mother, depressed without knowing to call it that. Physically, I was in so much pain I would cry every time she latched on. We finally broke down and got a lactation consultant who at least helped the physical aspects of our problematic relationship. And I connected with a fellow colic sufferer who could at least offer a shoulder to cry on via a series of very thoughtful emails (thoughtful on her behalf, as my emails pretty just consisted of “but whyyyyyyy?”).

Those three months were the longest three months of my life. I came out on the other side with some buff buns, and a new appreciation for the saying “It takes a village.” I am so thankful for the friend who opened up and shared with me how hard it was for her too, and I can only hope that I can repay the favor by reaching out and making a difference in the same way. I guess my only piece of advice would be if you are struggling, say something. It doesn’t have to be so hard.

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5 comments

  1. My 2nd and 3rd had colic. I read so much online trying to find out why… just like you. I learned about “the purple crying period” during the last bout….I learned about “the wonder weeks”… very interesting, but not really much help when you are thick in the middle of a screaming nightmare. Thank god colic isn’t forever!! 🙂

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    1. Oh man! I can’t imagine having two kids with colic. It is reason enough for me to strongly consider just having one! Yes, nothing helps in the thick of it, but it is interesting looking back. I find myself thinking “I wonder if I had just ___” but I stop myself there because I really think there is nothing that actually makes it better besides time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “…telling someone dying of dehydration to try drinking their own tears.” – That, madam, was solid gold! I’m sorry you had such a rough start to motherhood. While we have been lucky enough to avoid colic here, my first was also ‘very alert’ according to the hospital midwife. Which is to say, he had no apparent desire for sleep as a baby and this created tension in our house, to put it mildly. In hindsight, I realise I was probably suffering PND as well as (or because of?) outrageous sleep deprivation. The good news is that, even though our 5yo is still ‘vivacious’ – to put it politely – our second kid has been an absolute cakewalk so far. No idea whether she’s just a calmer soul or we simply have less unrealistic expectations of her and ourselves this time around. Either way, it’s a joy!
    Thanks for another fabulous post. I look forward to the next installment!

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    1. Ah yes, you have one of those too! It amazes me how much energy our 1 year old has for not sleeping for the majority of her time here on earth so far. I think that creates the same kind of tension as a colicky baby… oh the things I’ve said to my husband late at night (without meaning a word of it)! I’m glad to hear your second was a cake walk. I can only hope if we decide to have a second that they will cut us some slack and be more of the sleeping/drooling type, as we already have someone who has a keen interest in reorganizing our sock drawers. I’m so glad you are enjoying my posts. A true compliment coming from a veteran like yourself. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think in order for there to be balance in the universe, you have to be given a drooler if you’ve already had a livewire (and vice versa, so I’m glad we had our livewire first – it would have been a rude shock if he’d come second after a cruisy firstborn!). And there’s a decent age gap between our kids, because it took us three years to start forgetting just how awful it was in the beginning!

        Ahh, the blogging world. The only place where three months’ experience gets you called a ‘veteran’! 😉

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