Colic wil bring a parent to her knees. There is nothing a parent can do, but wait, hope, breathe, and survive it.
Health Parenting Special Needs

My Daughter is Recovering From Colic, and I Am, Too

Colic wil bring a parent to her knees. There is nothing a parent can do, but wait, hope, breathe, and survive it.

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By Sarah Caughron of Sisterhood of the Training Pants 

MY DAUGHTER IS A RECOVERING COLIC (whatever the hell that means). Recovery is a multi-step process, right?

If you, too, have a child and family in the throes of colic, let me start by saying what I kept hearing … it gets better. Time seems to be the only prescription for this misunderstood and maddening phenomenon. One day you have a vile dragon baby, and then next day you have the happiest baby in the world. It’s a real head fake.

Dragon Baby was full-term and born close to midnight in early February. After discharge, I expected to go home and put my newborn in her swing or her bed or any other seat for hours, staring lovingly at her as she slipped off into blissful newborn sleep between feedings every 2-3 hours.

This is not what happened.

I feel, like, from minute one of life, Dragon Baby was unsettled and just seemed out-of-sorts. There was no sleeping for what seemed like days at a time.  She would nap, but not like I knew was typical of newborn behavior (i.e. what I had observed with my son.  So, an N of 1 is scientific, right?).  I could sense the storm on the horizon, but I was hopeful that once she got her days and nights straightened out we would get our cherub baby.

From days 1 to 14, her discomfort grew. At the first few doctor’s appointments, I expressed some of my concerns with her restless personality I was observing. Was she gassy? Was she intolerant to my milk? Was she overtired? Was she undertired? At day 14, shit got real.  This unsettledness that I speak of escalated into all-out distress on Dragon Baby’s part.

What followed were about 120 days of crazy.  At the 2-week check-up, I described to my doctor the sorts of things I was experiencing.  He listened to me detail my woes, and then he casually provided his diagnosis: “She’s got colic. We don’t know much about it.  It probably has something to do with her GI tract being immature or maybe she has a low pain tolerance. Either way, HANG IN THERE.  She’ll grow out of it.”

Feeling defeated and as though he hadn’t heard one word of what I was saying, I replied a broken, “Okay.” But I really wanted to shout, “That’s it, Doc? That’s all you have for me?  You learned doctors have separated Siamese twins and performed face transplants, but you can’t get a handle on what colic is? Give me my co-pay back.”  

Some of her “symptoms” included sneezing after eating, congestion, a nose full of boogers, wet sounding burps that didn’t produce spit up, hiccupping after eating (but mostly only at night), night waking suddenly in tears, arching her back, gas?, clawing at me or her face, crying (always crying), being absolutely uncomfortable in any position or seat or bed (including on me), taking cat naps and waking in discomfort, stinky breath, tongue thrusting, making icky faces when swallowing while flailing her arms and legs, and seeming truly miserable and unsettled 95% of the time.

Essentially, she was Britney Spears circa 2007.  She was unstable, volatile, and hairless. But if Britney could survive 2007, then I knew I could make it through this (or hoped, anyway)!

I tried the chamomile tea. And the gripe water. And the gas drops. And the motion of the swing/walking/car/stroller. And the tummy time. And the probiotics. And the elimination diet. And the Google searches. And the swaddling. And the sleep sack. And the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. And the windi. And the Happiest Baby on the Block techniques. And the Facebook support groups. And the advice from seasoned moms/friends. And the inclined sleep positions. And the silent prayers to any god in the universe that would listen. And the baby-wearing. And the Maalox. And the Zantac.

Some of these efforts would quell the crying and unsettled discomfort, but nothing really cured our woes or even provided long-term relief. This poor baby seemed to be in misery, and she was taking me down with the ship.

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She had nights of singing in sheer agony.  It was a cacophony of chaos. A symphony of insanity.  It was an orchestra fueled by reflux and colic (whatever that means). There are only so many emotions that the human brain can process at one time.  Anyone can endure a night/day or two of crying, but colic/reflux is a terrible experience for anyone involved.  Navy seals are played tracks of babies crying during their training, and I can see why. I also understand how people break and crack under this stress. If you couple this with a toddler standing at your feet demanding a toy or the iPad or the channel changed or a snack or “not that sippy cup” or “I didn’t want it cut like that,” it’s a bona fide recipe for a mental breakdown. Lest we forget that all the while you are shooshing and bouncing your screaming newborn thinking, “When did I get tentacles? How am I managing feeding the dog and the toddler and the cats their special prescription wet food and keeping my shit together?”

The answer: You’re not.

My shit was unraveling. My brain was having trouble managing the guilt of not being there 100% for the toddler and the pets and the husband and the newborn. I could not process the anger, rage, resentment, and frustration I was feeling at colic and reflux for doing this to my sweet baby girl.  My brain was irritated at the typical toddler antics of pure fickleness. I was having trouble digesting the mom guilt for feeling angry and feeling like I was neglecting every other aspect of my life to futilely tend to this Dragon Baby whose discomfort and wails were seemingly ceaseless.

One can manage this for a day or two, but when this goes on for hours, days, weeks, and months, it becomes unbearable.  My resources were exhausted. Nothing worked. The. Crying. Persisted. I eventually started seeing sides of my psyche and personality that I care never to see again.

Rationally, I knew that the Dragon Baby could not help this behavior. Thank goodness for the grace-saving voice of reason (although at this point my reason-voice was husky and crass, resembling that of Cathy Moriarty). I was growing angry and resentful toward her, and I was certain that this was all caused by karma and at some point between pregnancies I had royally pissed someone off. The crying was so loud that hearing over it was impossible. I would watch subtitled movies in the evening.

Our house was toxic.

At its peak, the baby cried for a MINIMUM of 8 hours straight (taking few minute breaks to cat nap every hour or 1/2 hour). Even reading this back now I think, “Am I over-sensationalizing this? Is this really how it happened?” No. I am not. Yes. This was life.

At my very lowest point when the baby cried through the night and morning arrived (I didn’t need to wake up. I’d been up pacing the floor most of the night), I had a rock-bottom break down. She was about 6 weeks old. I was feeling low, and I penned a long, pathetic e-mail to my very best girlfriends. I do not admit defeat or willfully accept help, but I need it.

I typed a long, sad e-mail to my 5 best friends with one hand/thumb while mindlessly staring out a window, rocking, and trying to soothe the Dragon. I felt pathetic and ashamed of myself, but I needed someone to know I was broken and human. Until this point, I hadn’t confessed to anyone that there was a struggle, but it might have been obvious in retrospect. I guess I didn’t want to seem weak or out of my league?

I’d cry real, pathetic tears of isolation and desperation.  I wasn’t posting pictures or updates about the baby on social media. I wasn’t giving glowing praise toward her when people asked me about her. My friends rescued me, and I’m grateful.

At 5 months old the Dragon seemed to be becoming a recovering colic and more settled. Fast-forward to 8 months, and my Dragon Baby is happy and a totally transformed little soul. I like to imagine that these early days of anguish will turn her into an empowered Bad Ass Bitch who will rule the world one day. I hope she appreciates my earnest attempts to ease her woes. People ask me, “What was wrong with her?”

I have no answer.  I still can’t explain what colic is. All I know is that we are on the backside of the colic craziness. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.

This post was originally published on Sisterhood of the Training Pants.



About Sarah Caughron

Sarah is an archaeologist/museum minion turned stay-at-home-mom living in Atlanta, Georgia. She loves coffee, bad TV, and gin, but not necessarily in that order. When she isn’t battling a never-ending pile of laundry or wrangling two spirited children, she’s writing about life’s insights and indignities at her website, The Sisterhood of the Training Pants. For something to read, check out the blog. For something to do, check out Camp Mom.