Coping with Colic
As a little girl I dreamed of becoming a mommy. Like many, I glamorized what motherhood would be like with a baby of my own to hold, love, and teach… a miniature version of both my husband and me displaying our finest features and character traits.
When my first-born child—a son—arrived, my heart swelled with love; he was the most beautiful child I had ever seen! Within 48 hours of his arriving, we were both home. I was thrilled to be starting my journey of motherhood, and my husband and I established a routine as we became acquainted with our son.
If Diane Sawyer had interviewed me then and asked what my greatest parenting fear was, I would have offered, “Raising a poorly adjusted child who becomes a poorly performing adult who doesn’t contribute to his community.”
After all, my baby was beautiful. He was perfect. He slept like an angel. He ate with passion. My delivery was easy. We were, by my accounts, ready to take the place of Ozzy and Harriet as America’s most perfect family.
Five weeks into the fairy tale, I realized that my carefully thought-out response to Diane Sawyer was no longer accurate, for I had been introduced to colic. (It’s one of those things you really have to experience to understand.)
My baby cried.
Everyone said, “Babies fuss and babies cry.”
I understood that, but this was not that kind of cry. My son’s colic cry wasn’t like the cry that woke me up in the night when he wanted to be fed, or changed, or just held. This cry was different, intense. His face turned bright red. His back arched, and his arms and legs flailed. His stomach became rock hard. He appeared to be in such pain. And no matter what I did, his anguish continued.
Looking back, I don’t even know how it all started. All I know for certain is that it seemed like it would never stop. My baby would begin crying after his feeding at 5pm. We held him. We patted his back. We sang him lullabies. We changed him. His suffering went on for hours—most of the time all through the night.
As the days wore on, his crying seemed to gain stamina. What had been three or four hours of crying grew into eight to ten hours. Every day.
When my husband woke up to go to work, I cried too because both the baby and I had passed another sleepless night. I blamed myself, thinking I was somehow failing my child. At one point, I revisited our routine from those first few weeks—when our life together seemed all rainbows and unicorns. What I had done to cause such distress to me and my new family? As sleep deprivation set in, I began to resent the state of motherhood, which I had waited my whole life for.
We reached out to friends and family; they all had some kind of advice. “Walk the baby.” “Take the baby for a drive.” We did it all, over and over again.
And still the crying didn’t stop.
I blamed myself. My husband blamed himself. I blamed my husband. He blamed me. The less sleep we got, the more blame we tossed around. I resented him for having a job because he could escape. He blamed me for keeping him up all night.
My sister-in-law once said, “You make such cute babies! When are you going to have another?” But all I could think was that I was clearly not cut out to be a mother. Then that thought only made me feel guilty; I felt like I didn’t deserve my beautiful baby.
And then, three months later…it was over. The colic was gone. I had my happy baby back!
When I think back on this rocky initiation into motherhood, I know it’s a place I never wanted to visit once, let alone twice. We’ve had four more children since our first. The good news is that when our fourth baby developed colic as well, we knew what to expect. Having been through the process once made it far easier for us to handle colic when it showed up a second time. And I learned a lot from that first experience: a lot about my son, myself, and colic.
Thankfully, there are a lot more smiles and hugs that help to dim the memory of that distress, and now motherhood is much closer to what I’d hoped it would be.
Despite the challenges, our family made it through colic…what has your experience been? How are you getting through this trying time?