Babies. So many people just “oooh” and “ahhh” and fawn over infants whenever they see one. Babies, you know those sweet little bundles of joy.
But not me. I am a self-proclaimed “not-a-baby-person”. My worst nightmare, other than the obvious fear of losing a child somehow, was having a colicky baby.
Meet my worst nightmare.
Kreade Aksel. The one who was supposed to be peaceful. The one who was supposed to be the content little cherub who sat around in his bouncer while his sister and I enjoyed the opportunities of summer. The little side-kick who would “watch” me do my homework, and sit with me peacefully while I read my textbooks.
And that picture isn’t even his full-blown cry face.
Things never started out easily with Kreade. Even in the hospital the problems began. He began spitting up volumes in that tiny plastic bassinet the hospital provides. We had to tip up the side his head was on to try and get him to keep things down. And unlike his sister he really didn’t sleep much in that tiny plastic space. I ended up taking him in my bed, right there in the hospital just so that I could sleep. Otherwise he squeaked and sputtered… We should have known then. But we hoped for the best and took him home.
Home to where he continued to projectile vomit LOADS of unidentified liquid matter. He lost a considerable amount of weight. He had trouble latching and nursing. He loved and hated his pacifier. He always wanted to be held. And he cried.
A lot. A lot. A lot.
Honestly, after having such a perfect angel baby as Ellie was I kind of thought that he was simply a normal baby. But when he would fall asleep and then wake up wailing after 5 minutes I began to wonder. Truly though, it wan’t until I was bouncing him on my hip standing in our camper when my mother-in-law suggested that he might be colicky that it all came together…
Now other people were beginning to notice that he was not a normal baby. And around the time he was five months old I began to piece the events of the previous five months together. I know, I know…how could you live five months and not know your baby is colicky?
You have a colicky baby. That’s exactly how. You don’t have time to think about anything else except “the baby is crying, I need to do something” or “the baby is about to cry, quick do something”.
Kreade was the baby that lived in my worst dreams, and soon became my reality.
He was clingy. He refused to let anyone by me hold him – and if they did it was quickly followed by ear-piercing screams. He needed to constantly be on the move…in the swing on the highest setting, in the stroller careening down the road, in the car – but you better pray and hope you don’t get a red light, in your arms – but don’t you dare stop moving or God forbid have to sit down and pee (because yes, when you have a colicky baby you hold them while you pee).
And the crying…the crying that doesn’t stop. Sometimes even when you’re holding them. But at least when you’re holding them they only cry instead of scream…that ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping scream.
According to leading health professionals colic affects 40% of infants. It usually starts between 3 and 6 weeks and improves around 4 and 5 months of age. There is no obvious cause for an infant’s colicky behavior…but lot’s of people want to offer their advice. And I spent loads of time walking around with a crying baby on my hip and a frustrated two year old dragging her blanket and following us while reading about the possible causes and suggested solutions that people freely offer via the internet.
Your baby is probably allergic to dairy…you’re spoiling your baby…they’re gassy…they just need a diaper change…change your diet, feed them laying down, swaddle them, burp them more, play music, don’t overstimulate them…bla bla bla.
But colicky babies…real colicky babies cry a lot. And they can’t be settled. This is the foremost symptom of this mysterious infant problem that affects breast and bottle fed infants equally. Some babies may cry for predictable periods of time at predictable periods of time. Their crying is generally intense and inconsolable and appears to be for no apparent reason. And colicky babies tend to have tense bodies, curled fists, and curled up legs when they’re crying.
Ah yes…the inconsolable crying…it seriously doesn’t stop. And you wonder if there will ever be a day when he just. stops. crying. Even when he is not crying, you hear crying. You might begin to resent your baby and the fact that he cries all of the time.
Because a baby that cries all of the time puts load of indescribable stress on everyone in the family. Your own mental health. Your marriage. Your children and their well-being.
I was depressed. We talked over screams. Ellie began singing to herself in an attempt to drown out the sound of his cries.
It was awful. So awful. You feel as if you’re trapped in a snow-globe…and the cries and screams echo back off the walls of your glass-encased existence…and you can’t get out. There is no end in sight…because you’re not in a tunnel. You’re in the globe of colic, where your entire world is that inconsolable crying baby.
The baby that you feel unattached to…but who needs you so much. And you can’t get out.
So you cling to the hope that age will improve your reality…and four months, five months, six months pass…and still he cries.
And cries and cries and cries.
You have re-designed, and re-defined yourself and your life. While the first child was never held, this one is never put down – and that’s okay, because I just can’t take the crying anymore.
While the first child sat contentedly on the couch while you watched TV on volume 10, this one is bounced furiously in his bouncer with your foot with the volume on 40 because he is still making noise. And if you get up off the couch you do this perfectly-timed switcheroo where you husband starts bouncing the bouncer exactly as you stop.
Where the first child experienced the front-pack maybe once or twice, the second child practically lives in it.
The first child drifted off to sleep peacefully in her crib, while the second has to be nursed to sleep, rocked for a while, and gingerly placed on the mattress while you tip-toe out praying that his pacifier doesn’t fall out of his mouth. And while the first one slept for eight hour stretches, you know this second one will but up in an hour again (two if you’re lucky). And you had better be prepared to repeat this ritual all night long.
You spend all day on your feet simultaneously walking and bouncing, or on the front porch rocking at the speed of light. You learn how to cook supper one-handed, and use the bathroom while holding a child. You become “fine” with nursing all of the time…because it’s probably the only time that the crying ever truly stops. You learn how to time grocery shopping with the thirty minute naps he takes. You look forward to bedtime, and the hour or so of actual quiet that you might get.
You learn to let go of perfection and all of the expectations you had of yourself and your children.
And you survive.
My favorite part of the day was the nighttime, when I could finally be unattached from my baby while he slept in his crib and I slept in my bed. This was my sanity – my baby and kid free sanity. I would spend all day trying to console the crying-one and entertain the frustrated-one…ending it with an easy to make while one-handed supper…then to the front porch to pass the time until bed-time, after which I would run around cleaning my entire house because I just. can’t. function. in a mess.
And you survive.
You begin to seriously believe that the crying will never end. That he literally will just keep on crying forever. That you will have to hold him forever. That you will feel depressed forever. That you will never feel attached to this crying little face. That your life will never be the same again.
And you’re right. Your life never will be the same again.
I remember a play-date at the playground with a close friend who has experienced colic first hand. She told me that eventually, the bond you have with your colicky baby will be so much stronger than with an “average” baby.
It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.
Somehow, that crying, tense little body that has basically welded himself to your own body also practically cements his heart in yours. Maybe it’s the fact that he just needs you so much. Or that you feel like you’re his one-and-only (which sometimes is overwhelming and frustrating, but eventually becomes precious). Maybe it’s the fact that you have spent every waking moment trying to love and care for this tiny little being…and eventually the time develops into a bond.
A bond that really is stronger than anything you can imagine.
And while the crying may never stop…eventually it will. For us it wasn’t until Kreade was about seven months old.
Yep, seven months. Two months past the far end of the ‘span of colic’.
And slowly, life begins to fade into something that seems more normal.
Instead of holding the crying baby while you pee, you can actually set him down on the floor to watch you and HE DOESN”T CRY!!!!
You might still be cooking supper one-handed, but at least he isn’t fussing the whole time.
And slowly…slowly…the crying fades even more. And you can eventually walk out of the room and he will continue to play with his toys while you cook dinner.
Until finally, you have a recovered-from-colic baby.
And your world feels right again. Finally, your body begins to relax. And you feel like a real person.
A real person, with a baby you love, who loves you back.
And when he starts crying you know you can get him to stop. Usually with a hug and a kiss, and a snuggle from the one person who has loved him through…well, through everything.