My baby wouldn't stop screaming - What it's like to have a baby with colic
"There’s no other way to explain it. He was just crying. Hysterically. Kicking and screaming."
JACQUELINE'S MOTHERHOOD STORY
When my son offered his first smile, it was to his father, not me. It hit me in that moment that he had never really seen me smile. In his short life he had often seen my anguished face close to his and he felt my tears on his cheeks. This realisation sucked the life out of me.
He was born mid-July, and it was sometime in early August that the Colic started. Colic is basically described as prolonged crying and fussing – possibly due to belly pain and discomfort in babies. Our baby would not sleep during the day, maybe a fifteen minute nap here and there. Around the not sleeping though, he was crying. There’s no other way to explain it. He was just crying. Hysterically. Kicking and screaming. I spent August and September visiting doctors, pharmacists and maternal health nurses and being told the same thing: there’s nothing you can do.
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We had some respite with Colic medicine, but it’s all reactive, and temporary. Essentially, you have to ride it out. Some nights I would pace the carpark near our house with him on my front, shuffling my exhausted legs along "shh shh shhhing" until he would nod his little head into my chest.
I would try to transfer him. No luck there. I would repeat the process, doing circles of our house, negotiating toys and the coffee table in the dark, bob-bob-bobbing and "shh shh shhhing" around and around until I could lean back onto the pillows on my bed, carefully unclicking the baby carrier off me and fall asleep with him on my chest.
In the early days I called my husband at work. I was more than exhausted. I was weak, drained, crying. “Do you need me to come home?” I couldn’t answer because I would never ask him to come home unless it was really bad. Inside me a voice screamed “THIS IS BAD. Say it! Say it! SAY I NEED YOU TO COME HOME.” But I said nothing, baby on the change table in front of me, screaming, tears rolling silently down my cheeks. “It’s ok.” I said and hung up. He called back in ten minutes. He had moved his meetings, organised someone to cover for him and was on his way.
I got better at asking for help. My parents began visiting each week, bringing meals and picking up the toddler from childcare. They chatted to me and played with my daughter while I rocked and bobbed the screaming baby. I am so grateful for their help. They still tell people how they would open their car doors after parking near my house, and immediately hear the baby’s screams.
I developed a real ‘woe is me’ complex; stewing away in my own little world where I was convinced no one else really knew what we were going through. “Oh yeah, my little one never slept during the day either,” people would say. I would inwardly roll my eyes at this – they had no idea, I would tell myself. I felt very alone.
The only reason he ever stopped crying wasn’t because he was getting better, it was that we were getting better at holding/rocking/baby wearing/listening to him. And of course – of course – if a friend ever visited, did he cry then? No, he was silent. SILENT. The minute they would leave, he was up and at it and I would have hours and hours of standing and holding a screaming baby until my husband came home.
October saw the return of my anxiety, which had first appeared in my life after my daughter was born. It took a hold of me, and for the first time ever, I felt that it was beating me. I told my husband in bed one night, “It’s getting on top of me. I need help. I mean, I can’t even get in the car.” I dreaded going anywhere. Even the 10 minute car trip to drop my daughter off at childcare was a vexing thought. The sound of crying – my baby’s, someone else’s baby, a baby on TV – still turns my chest to lead. I would tune out and become zombie mummy – blank faced and desensitised, I mean, how else can you cope? A car obviously puts that crying through an amplifier.
Anxiety affected my milk supply, so for much of October, my baby was crying possibly not only because of the colic, but because he was starving. He barely put on weight over two months. I had stubbornly ignored signs that my milk was not up to scratch and I still wear the guilt of this. I know I shouldn’t but hey, I do.
When I miscarried, I was often disappointed with people’s reactions, but at the same time, wasn't sure what I wanted them to say. Now I feel like the best thing people could say to me was “I’m sorry this is happening to you.”
I appreciated people sharing their colic stories – and sometimes I felt less alone when people just said, “Colic is the worst, we know what you are going through.” But, saying all this, before we endured the Colic beast, did I have any idea of what others were going through? No way! I’ve thought about those who had difficult children; babies that didn’t sleep, had reflux, or of course those with very ill kids, or who had lost their babies, and realised that I did not sympathise with their experience at the time, as I really lacked understanding of what they were going through.
Now 5 months old, the colic is still hanging around. Much like a personal trainer my son still has his episodes where he yells at me and forces me – usually at 3am – to walk the hallway fifty times doing squats. But, he is happy most of the time, and as hard as these months have been, we do not need reminding of how lucky we are to have two healthy children. Colic will go away, it’s not terminal.
Importantly, to all parents out there riding a similar tumultuous boat: you are not alone. Someone said to me “Just when you think it will break you, you’ll get through it.” Whilst my body is pretty broken from these months of strain, the smiles that are now delightfully regular are good soul food to keep me mentally strong, and content.
Hood: Recently made the seachange to Ocean Grove
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The information in this story is a unique and personal reflection of the writer's experience. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.