Welcome mom and colic survivor Jessica Code as this week’s guest blogger
All babies cry. Some cry a little, some cry a lot. And some cry so much, so intensely, and for so long that it is hard to believe that there’s really nothing wrong with them; it’s just (HA!) that mysterious but harmless (double HA!) condition known as colic.
Both my daughters were colicky infants. I don’t mean they had spells of crying in the evening, or that they were occasionally hard to soothe; they were both completely insane. Even their own grandmother admitted that she found it hard not to spin her tires on her way out after coming over to help for the day. If I had to guess, I would say they spent 98.3% of their awake time screaming their brains out, and since they only slept 15-30 minutes at a time, it was a lot of f**king crying.
Somehow, my husband and I survived. We partly did this by banding together like a couple of battle weary soldiers, and spent many sleepless nights evaluating this horrific turn that our lives had taken. Often during these chats, one of us was in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, unable to stop rocking.
Thankfully, those dark, dark days are over, but I still often think about all the moms and dads out there who are currently destroying their knees from non-stop bouncing and going deaf from the vacuum running 20 hours a day, and I want to give them all a big hug and a shot of vodka. Since that’s logistically impossible, I’ve compiled some of the conclusions that hubs and I came to regarding the state of our pathetic lives, how we coped, and the surprising benefits to coming this close to being institutionalized.
Sad Fact #1: You will hate your friends for a while.
Dealing with a colic baby is an entirely different experience from the one your friends are having with their more typical, or “easy” babies (henceforth referred to as the Sack of Potatoes baby, or SOP). You really, really try not to resent their smooth transition to parenthood, but come on- they’re celebrating sleeping through the night at 6 weeks while you’re grateful to finally pass out in a pool of baby vomit at 6am. This is likely to cause feelings of isolation, alienation, and homicidal rage.
How to cope: Find fellow hostages. They’re out there. Join one of the bajillion mommy sites and search for other colic moms to commiserate with people on the same planet as you. It will do amazing things for your sanity, and you will likely find friends for years to come (shout out to my Rock Star Mamas!)
Silver Lining: Not only will you eventually stop hating your friends, but as the months and years pass, NOTHING in the normal course of child development will be as difficult as what you did the first few months. When your friends, whom you love again, are pulling their hair out and whining because their SOP is teething, throwing tantrums, and not sleeping well anymore, you’ll chuckle to yourself at how easy all that stuff is and feel some of that confidence that was absent the first few months.
Sad Fact #2: Everyone but you knows how to soothe your baby.
Not really, but they all think they do. And their suggestions just further enrage you because they are so telling of just how flipping easy their SOP’s must have been. Things like:
Will she take a soother?
Do you have a swing?
Gripe water works great!
Rub her back/pat her bum
Just put her in the car
These are the most common asinine suggestions that you’ll hear that pretty much NEVER work for colic babies. If it were that easy, do you really think we’d still have an inconsolable baby on our hands? Do you think we’ve just been sitting here staring at her while she cries on the floor? Of course everyone means well with their suggestions, but at the time you’re in no state to suffer foolishness and it is just further proof that everyone you will ever meet has had an easier baby than you.
How to cope: Conserve your energy. “Doesn’t work” is probably the most succinct response. “Nothing does” is an optional follow-up if they persist with the magic of strollers to put a baby to sleep. If they continue, simply stop listening. It’s not worth your mental health.
Silver Lining: You will know how to soothe pretty much every baby you encounter after your “baptism by fire” welcome to motherhood. It’s a great party trick- grab that fussy infant, swaddle him with one hand without spilling the wine in your other, and do the shush and bounce until you’re both in a trance. You will be known as the baby whisperer in your network of friends and family.
Sad Fact #3: Your neighbours will think you’ve either moved or died.
There will be days, probably weeks, possibly months on end where you do not leave the house for more than an hour, or two if you’re feeling sassy, because honestly, what’s the point. It requires changing out of your pyjamas, and while you’re out you’re still in that colic bubble- your baby’s phantom cries still ring in your ears, and the whole outing is marred by the knowledge that eventually you have to return to hell, I mean home.
How to cope: As hard as it is, you need to get out without baby whenever possible. Hopefully you have support from your partner, parents, siblings, the homeless guy down the street; whoever offers to watch the baby so you can have some ‘me’ time should be immediately taken up on the offer. You won’t want to at the time, but you’ll be glad you did. In retrospect, I really wish I would have done it more often. The world will not spin off its axis if your angel screams in someone else’s arms for a while.
Silver lining: You will eventually get to experience a rare phenomena: the euphoric buzz of freedom reclaimed. I imagine it’s similar to what a butterfly must feel after emerging from its chrysalis, or how a prisoner reacts the first time they exit into the sunlight after 20 hard years. Seriously, when the crying is over and everyone is sleeping again, you’ll feel a cool kind of culture shock as you reintegrate into society. Colours seem brighter; food is savoured now that it can be eaten at a pace that allows for you to actually taste your meal; everything is awesome because your days and nights no longer play out to the soundtrack of a relentlessly screaming infant.
Sad Fact #4: Your baby will be normal long before you are.
Some colic babies are “cured” after a short time (meaning the source of their crying is discovered, usually reflux or a food allergy), some just magically stop crying one day between 3 and 5 months, and others just get gradually less fussy over a period of time. Whichever the case, once the smoke clears and the dust settles, you will probably be a little shell-shocked for a while. I still have to occasionally fight the urge to sucker punch rested-looking new moms pushing sleeping SOP’s in their strollers at the mall. After being in survival mode for so long, it’s like your mind and body kind of forgot what it’s like to live a normal life.
How to cope: Those moms you found when you were hating your friends? Talk with them. Talk with your partner, your extended family, your friends, random strangers. I still drive everyone nuts with references to how horrible my babies’ colic was, but it’s great when it results in a connection with another mom or dad who’s been there. Also helpful, but probably not healthy: visit some mom friends who have had a colic baby after their SOP and try not to be too smug.
Silver Lining: Normal is overrated. In all seriousness, being the primary caregiver to a colic baby can push a person beyond desperate and into dangerous territory, and I’m a firm believer in anything being manageable if its confronted head on. Despite my attempts to put a humourous spin on a miserable experience, the fact is that colic babies are at higher risk of being victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and for obvious reasons. I like to think that my self-indulgent chatter about colic at the grocery store check-out might just once be overheard by a mom or dad that needed to hear it that day and know that they’re not the only one who’s ever google-mapped local churches to see which has the most welcoming-looking doorstep.
You can follow her on twitter @ColicSucks