I recently received a phone call from a friend who was calling on behalf of their family member who has a newborn with colic. Why did they call me you might ask? Well, my bundle of love screamed at us for four months straight…so I have earned my colic survivor purple heart. Most might think, seriously, how much can a baby cry or say it’s all in how you handle it. And to you I say….well, I can’t say what I would like to say to you. But the answer is a baby can cry for 12+ hours a day! If you have never experienced it, take the worst moment you have had with a crying baby and multiply it by 1000000000000000 x nearly 120 days. I haven’t blogged about this topic, because I seriously think I might have some lingering post traumatic stress from this experience. A colicky baby could be used by the government in lieu of water-boarding. I recently showed my toddler a video of him screaming his head off when he was about 6 weeks old. He said “mad baby.” Yes dear, you were the mad baby. So badly mad, that our cat lived in the basement for four months. I was so jealous of her being able to escape.
So this blog post is for any new momma dealing with a colicky baby and for anyone else who might need a good laugh at my expense. Colic entered our house like a thief in the night about two weeks after we got home from the hospital with our 9.5 pound buddle of cuteness. Conveniently, my husband and daunting family members had all gone back to work at this point. So there I was with my beautiful, screaming demon and the cat, stuck in the house in the middle of July; which is pretty hot in Kentucky. And that is when I begin asking myself; did I really mean to take 3 months maternity leave, maybe the standard 6 weeks would suffice?
As a new mother your first instinct is to assume there must be something wrong…so there ensued our weekly visit to our jovial, pediatrician who shoots straight from the hip. Although it was the first week of August 2010, I remember his words like it was yesterday, “it’s probably colic, he will be a new baby by Thanksgiving.” What?? Thanksgiving is like four months away. I stared calculating the months, weeks, and hours until turkey day. And, there is no remedy? We don’t know what causes this? Why have mothers who have experienced colic around the globe not banded together to find a cure? So off I went with my screaming demon to survive the next four months. I have very few pictures documenting his first weeks, mainly because he was screaming and glowing with a bright red face the entire time.
Once you figure out there is nothing wrong with him, you assume there is something wrong with you. For example, how did I jump through all the hoops of a Ph.D., yet can’t handle a screaming baby? Throw in the changing hormones that are swiftly kicking you throughout the day with the questions of…maybe I shouldn’t have been a mom starts ringing in your brain? Maybe he hates me? Did the hospital give us the wrong baby?
Looking back there are some funny moments along the four month journey.
- My dad would spend his days off with us trying to keep me sane. He spent one afternoon wheeling my son back and forth in his bassinet with wheels because when we stopped moving he would start crying again. That bassinet acquired some mileage around our house that day.
- I would load my baby up in a stroller and go on walks with my iPod. He screamed while I blissfully listened to my favorite tunes and those that passed us by glared with a judging look for letting a baby scream like that.
- Upon returning home from work one day (really, I am surprised he kept coming home), my husband said, “just get out of the house and do something for yourself. I got this.” I told him if I walked out the door, it was very likely I was never coming back. So I stayed…and I am grateful I did.
- My mother would sing religious songs to my baby and rock him. Her music either soothed him or startled him enough that he was quite for a bit. My dad would fall asleep like a baby listening to her, long before the baby ever did.
- One day, I didn’t get a bath until after my husband got home from work (what am I saying, heck most days I didn’t). He had some work due for his graduate program, so I decided to jump in the shower and afterwards take our screaming child for a drive. His screaming got so bad, I ended up leaving the house with wet hair, no shoes, and no bra (if that picture doesn’t put the stereotypical image of Kentucky in your head, I don’t know what will!). I just wanted the crying to stop, it was worth the sacrifices of clothes and looks. Since I also hadn’t eaten all day, I thought I would drive one hour round trip to the closest McDonalds for some fries. He would sleep and I would drive. Who would see me, right? On my way to McDonalds, I came upon my dad in a car wreck. He had hit a giant cow on the road. You can’t make this stuff up! Nothing like talking to a police officer, waiting for a wrecker, and helping your dad (who was thankfully unharmed) while barefoot, braless, wet dripping hair and wearing a Metallica t-shirt all while your newborn screams in the car. No peace and quiet that night. And no French fries.
- My aunt’s frantic search for the perfect formula brings a smile to my face. She found one that we called liquid gold, it was pricey but it helped. She brought various brands by our house and we would compare ingredients and call the hotline on the can looking for answers. I was hoping the 1-800 number directly led to God.
- My poor sister-in-law was six months pregnant during this time and I think this whole ordeal caused her to live in fear of meeting her baby. Luckily, she had a nice quite one!
When a mother who believes her baby has colic asks me what “did you do”, I always hate to answer. Honestly, I want to start crying, curl up a fetal position, and rock back and forth while singing a mixed genre of Amazing Grace, Baby’s Got Back, and Friends in Low Places. The truth is, we did everything and nothing worked. Sure some wives tales or concoction bought us few minutes, but there is no fix all answer. Slowly, week by week, the crying doesn’t last as long, and then around four months it just disappears.
So what did I try? Let’s see… sitting my child by a running facet, sitting my child on the dryer (it was so tempting to put him in on the delicate cycle), singing, dancing, watching TV, playing EVERY genre of music, making up our own songs, long rides in the car, long walks, bouncing up and down, massage, gripe water, herbal remedies, sugar water, acid reflux medicine, sitting outside, swaddling in warm blankets, strapping and wrapping the kid on me in various contraptions, various formulas, various bottle styles, pacifiers, ear plugs, calming lotion, prayers, crying (me, not the baby), wine (again, me, not the baby), and on and on.
Honestly, the two best things that worked were (1) giving him baths-he loved bath time and (2) keeping socks on his feet (that was advice from my grandmother). In reality, the only thing that TRULY works is taking care of yourself. That requires taking time to yourself, making time as a couple to escape, creating a routine that works for you, trusting and allowing others to help. I can’t say I did all of these things, but hindsight is 20/20.
So our household did survive colic. So did our marriage. So did my cat-luckily they have nine lives. Our hearing was probably damaged, but prepared us well for the other joys of parenting such as ear infections and terrible twos. And every year when the leaves start changing colors and falling off the tree and people start talking about getting their families together for turkey time, I count my blessings that colic is over!
Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet memories of my newborn that I hope will help another parent.