When I brought my first son home from the hospital, the initial few weeks were relatively calm. He ate, he slept, he burped…just like any other baby. And then one day, completely out of the blue, he started shrieking. It was an ear-piercing, blood-curdling sound that made myself and everyone around me think that the baby must be dying. My husband and I frantically flew through every imaginable scenario. Had he swallowed something sharp? Broken a bone somehow? Cracked an eardrum? An emergency doctor appointment gave us a surprisingly simple answer: our baby was one of the 10% who develop colic during infancy. Doctors don’t know exactly why it occurs, but the babies all display the same symptoms: arching, a distended stomach, and out-of-control crying that can’t be soothed with any manner of food, binkies, diaper changes or rocking.
My son quickly settled into his own little colicky routine. Every day at about 2pm, the hair-raising screams would start and continue for about three hours. If we happened to be in a public place at that time, people would gasp in horror and run to our side to either try to help or to investigate what bizarre torture we were inflicting on our child. We quickly stopped going out in public during the afternoon.
My husband worked most days, so it was up to me to find some way of surviving these episodes without totally losing it. I found that if I held my son facing inward against my stomach and bounced up and down from side to side, the shrieks lessened – at least to a degree that didn’t make me feel like crazed hyenas had taken up residency in my temporal lobe.
No amount of shushing or feeding made my son feel better, and trying to solve or ease his issue was both futile and maddening. So, with his needs met as much as possible, I tried to simply find a happy place and calm myself down. I turned the TV on and scrolled through Netflix to the first thing that looked remotely interesting and tried to become engrossed in it. This is how I got through four season of The Tudors, six seasons of Weeds and nine seasons of Scrubs…missing all of the pertinent details, but at least giving myself something to think about other than my screaming baby. It was much like having a focal point during labor.
There were admittedly times I felt like I just wouldn’t survive and I did occasionally give myself permission to put my son down and leave the room for a moment to regain my composure. For a Type A mom like myself, the biggest hurdle was accepting that I couldn’t control the situation.
This went on for several months until one day, the crying didn’t come. The fits stopped. I had survived. I actually believe I grew in leaps and bounds from the experience. I’ve heard many parents remark, “If my first child had had colic, he’d be an only child.” It’s a common joke among parents of colicky babies, an attempt to commiserate about a terrible situation.
I now have two kids.
Parents, did you or someone you know have children with colic? Do you have any tips to help survive this difficult stage?